Historic Districts

The Problem with Historic Districts

  • Many communities have neighborhoods or districts that have been zoned as “historic” or some other restricted classification to preserve the neighborhood “charm.”
  • Unfortunately, these are commonly the very areas that have the most URMs.
  • Local politicians and community leaders need to realize that:
    • efforts to preserve these older buildings may literally result in large loss of life.
    • well-intentioned but misguided zoning ordinances that slow retrofitting or replacement will actually result in more of these buildings being destroyed or damaged in the next major earthquake.
    • the best ways to preserve the character of these neighborhoods are ordinances that encourage replacing URMs with houses that mimic the charm of the houses they are replacing—but built to modern earthquake codes, combined with retrofitting some of the most historic buildings (retrofitting is designed to save lives, not buildings, but a retrofitted building has a better chance of being salvageable after an earthquake).
  • We encourage elected officials to remove any zoning or restrictions that prevent or make it more expensive to retrofit or replace URMs; we believe that this can be done without destroying the unique character of these neighborhoods.
  • We recommend passing local zoning ordinances and forming neighborhood committees that encourage retrofitting or replacing URMs.
  • Most URMs will be demolished or damaged by an earthquake some day; the only real question is—will people be inside them when it happens?

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