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Historic Preservation Commission

Today on the Fresno City Council agenda is a proposal by Mayor Ashley Swearengin to amending the Fresno Municipal Code relating to the Historic Preservation Commission.

That is not as drastic as it may sound and maybe a good modification. In fact, her bid for election as mayor was supported by several prominent local architects. With that and their continued advisement, Mayor Swearengin is well suited for improving Fresno’s built environment and making changes to City policy to support that.

The proposal by the Mayor is to amend the Historic Preservation Ordinance that governs the Commission to clarify residency requirements.

“The proposed amendment to Fresno Municipal Code Section 12-1605 would require five (5) of the seven (7) members of the Historic Preservation Commission to be a resident of the City of Fresno, but would allow two (2) of the seven (7) commission members, as long as they had the historical background described in Section 12-1605, to reside outside of Fresno but within the State of California.”

The story broke Monday through The Business Journal. This proposal was not a surprise given what I’d heard in the City Hall Lobby after the June meeting of the Commission. I had been there to report about 1, 2 items in front of the commission during that meeting. The commission has all 7 seats currently filled. However, 2 commisioners terms (4 years) are expired. It was a frustration of the preservation community during the Autry administration that there was never a full commission. There has been a change from that with the Swearengin administration, as 3 new members have been appointed since she took office.

Architect and commission co-chair, Chris Johnson AIA stated that:

“My understanding is that filling this commission with the energy and expertise needed to sustain it over a long haul is the issue. Protecting Fresno’s history goes beyond the city ‘boundaries’ and ‘limits’ and currently the Mayor is precluded by the city attorney at having individuals that do not live in the City limits serve on the HPC.” A co-author of the current Ordinance, Johnson continues, “There is no language clarifying this issue in the ordinance so the language proposed will provide clarity and give the Mayor more flexibility to fill the commission with the best possible candidates in and around Fresno.”

If you’re in to this kinda stuff, here is a PDF of the current Historic Preservation Ordinance. And here is a PDF of the Mayor’s proposed amendment to the Ordinance.

The County of Fresno also has a historic preservation counterpart. But I must admit I know little about it. Historical Landmarks & Records Commission

Share your thoughts here:

What are the benefits or pitfalls of allowing county residents on this City Commission?

Could this create more City / County cross pollination?

Could this set precedent for other City of Fresno commissions such as the Planning Commission?

What is needed to spur more civic engagement so that there is actually competition for these commission appointments?

Post updated 7/16/09 with facts from Kevin Enns-Rempel’s comment.

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kiel - who has written 140 posts on archop.

Kiel Schmidt is founder and curator of archop

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3 Responses to “Historic Preservation Commission”

  1. Kevin Enns-Rempel says:

    It’s not true that only 5 of the 7 positions are filled — all 7 are now filled. The terms of two of the positions (mine and that of Molly Smith) have expired (they are four-year appointments), but that doesn’t require the member to leave office. It’s actually quite common for commissioners to serve beyond their appointed term.

    Based on the State Office of Historic Preservation rules for a “Certified Local Government,” both Molly (an architect) and I (a professional historian) qualify as “expert” members of the commission. I have no problem with the Mayor deciding that she would rather have someone else serve on the Commission (if that is her intention), but I’m troubled that these articles would state things that aren’t true.

  2. kiel says:

    Kevin, I made those corrections. I apologies for the inaccuracies. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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  1. [...] July 17th, Fresno Mayor, Ashley Swearengin proposed changes to the city’s Historic Preservation Ordinance. The changes which City Council approved [...]


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