Posted on 28 September 2009.
On July 17th, Fresno Mayor, Ashley Swearengin proposed changes to the city’s Historic Preservation Ordinance. The changes which City Council approved allowed the mayor to appoint non-city residence to the commission. Before that was not allowed. That applied to residents who lived in county island as well.
That included Joe Moore. If you spend anytime in downtown Fresno and/or listen to 90.7 KFSR, then you know Joe Moore. Currently, he is the president of the Downtown Association and station manager at KFSR.
Last Thursday, City Council approved the Mayor’s appointment of Joe Moore to the Historic Preservation Commission under the amended Historic Preservation Ordinance. He take the place of Kevin Enns-Rempel. Commissioner terms are for 4 years. Kevin had served for 13 years.
I asked both Joe and Kevin to share some thought for this post. Kevin about his experiences and what’s next for him. For Joe, why he had applied for the commission and what is his perspective on Historic Preservation.
I first applied to be a member of the Historic Preservation Commission in 1995 at the encouragement of commissioner Russ Fey, and was appointed in early 1996 by Mayor Jim Patterson. I had precious little idea at first of what I was getting into. I had come to be interested in local historic resources not as an activist, but rather through my training as a historian. I naively imagined that my service on the commission would be mostly an extension of the research and writing that I had done before that time. I quickly learned, however, that the job had far more to do with negotiating the sometimes-competing demands of community good and individual property rights, and advocating whenever possible for the protection of the community’s historic resources. This would be no calm academic exercise!
Now completing thirteen years on the commission, I’m most pleased to see how the climate for historic preservation has improved in Fresno. When I joined the commission, we had very little meaningful voice in city government. Planning decisions were made and building permits issued for historic properties often without the commission being notified. Over the last thirteen years, such situations have largely become a thing of the past. Voices for preservation become part of the conversation much earlier in the planning process now, often resulting in a much more favorable end result. Things still don’t go our way every time, but the climate has greatly improved.
image from http://historicfresno.org
More specifically, I think I’m most pleased to have been part of creating Fresno’s first two (and presumably soon to be three) historic districts. Designating properties one at a time to the Local Register is a good thing too, but providing protection for entire areas is often a much more valuable process. If I had to name one particular building I’m most happy to have been a part of saving, I’d have to say the Santa Fe Railroad Depot
. For many years all signs pointed toward the destruction of that wonderful building, but the efforts of many people led to a very different — and much happier — result.
Back in civilian life, I plan to continue maintaining the website “A Guide to Historic Resources in Fresno, California” (http://historicfresno.org), which I began in 1996 shortly after joining the commission. Perhaps with more time available I can think of new content that might be added to the website to make it an even more valuable resource.
Serving on the Historic Preservation Commission has been an honor and a privilege. It has offered me the chance to become acquainted with some of best people in Fresno, and to do my part in making this community a better place to live. I’m very grateful for that opportunity.
As you know I’ve had a long running interest in historic preservation, specifically in the Downtown area. One of the things that makes a downtown special is the built environment, and in this case, the mix of old and new architecture. I’m going to talk about this in my pecha kucha presentation at the Cultural Arts Conference. The dirt downtown is not special by itself. So why do we care about “downtown” then if it’s not the dirt? It’s because it’s a unique environment, with urban form and an architectural legacy that is the embodied history of the city and its people. Those two things are critical to understand, because they answer two commonly asked questions – 1) why not tear everything down and start from scratch; 2) why not build more suburban type big box stores, with big setbacks, surface parking, etc downtown? If you do either of those things (to a degree) it literally ceases to become a downtown any longer. So historic preservation & good design go hand in hand with urban revitalization.
While we have lost a great deal of our history over the past 50 years, including most of the city’s Victorian era commercial building stock. However, we still have a great collection of historic buildings in the city, especially downtown, and our older neighborhoods are filled with great homes. Once a resource is gone, it’s lost forever, so I think now is really an important time. Today’s generation will leave a lasting impact and will largely make decisions that will determine what our city will look like in another 50 years. Will that include the outstanding and significant resources that have helped define our image as city and link us with past generations? I hope so.
photo from http://www.flickr.com/photos/mcfresno/
As far as goals, I think anything we can do to raise awareness and appreciation for historic resources would be great. I’d like to see some progress on the minimum maintenance standards issue. I also think we need to see more in the way of historic surveys, and hopefully we will with the Fulton Corridor Specific Plan
. Another interesting area is modernism. Fresno has some great mid-century homes
and commercial buildings, and as they turn 50 years old, I think it would be great to see some properties by Robert Stevens, Allen Lew, Walter Wagner, or Gene Zellmer (or others) represented as historic resources. I think the general public is beginning to appreciate mid-century modern architecture and design more now, just look at the wild popularity of the TV series Mad Men. A good deal of that program’s appeal is based on the “jet set modern” look of the show, from the clothes to the cars, buildings and interiors. Everything comes full circle. Modernist resources are a part of our heritage too.
I applied because I was encouraged by the Mayor and her administration to serve, as they were looking for someone with a background in history and an interest in historic preservation to serve on the commission. I got my degree in History from Fresno State in 2000. One of my professors in the History Department was Dr. Ephraim Smith, who was instrumental in leading the fight to save the Old Administration Building at Fresno City College. I’ve had a great interest in Downtown and Fresno’s historic architecture for a very long time. I can remember reading Edwin Eaton’s “Vintage Fresno” and the “As Pop Saw It” books in the school library when I was a child, and was fascinated by the city’s history and those great old buildings. I think that was back in the 5th or 6th grade, and I’ve been interested in it ever since.
Both Kevin and Joe are outstanding citizens. There will be a reception in honor of Kevin Enns-Rempel at 5 pm today September 28th in the 2nd floor lobby of City Hall.