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Have you noticed those cream-colored signs that proclaim South Carthay a Historic Preservation Overlay Zone? Although the signs went up only a few years ago, South Carthay has been a specially-designated, and specially-regulated, part of Los Angeles for over 15 years. In 1984, Los Angeles' City Council created the South Carthay HPOZ -- one of the first in the city! -- declaring it "a positive historical asset to the City of Los Angeles" because of its "unique concentration of mid 1930's residential housing, which is both intact and creates a powerful sense of time and place." In deciding to preserve the character of South Carthay, the City praised the neighborhood for the "best concentration of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture in Los Angeles," and cited the quality construction, skilled craftsmanship, and individuality in each of the houses. It also praised South Carthay's harmonious mixture of houses, small duplexes and apartment buildings in other architectural styles.

Living in an HPOZ gives both property owners and tenants certain benefits: enhanced property values; confidence that the area will be able to remain a "neighborhood" and resist the type of neighborhood-destroying development that has afflicted some other areas; and the ability of the neighborhood association to persuade businesses located on the periphery to maintain compatible architectural appearances, to name a few. But it also imposes certain restrictions and additional responsibilities.

The HPOZ ordinance, which regulates construction, alterations, and development in the neighborhood, has as its main purpose the protection, preservation, and enhancement of the structures, features, and environment in the HPOZ. Under the ordinance, all proposed exterior work on property located within the HPOZ boundaries -- Olympic on the north, La Cienega on the west, Pico on the south, and Crescent Heights on the east -- must be submitted to the HPOZ Board (in addition to obtaining the "normal" Zoning and Building & Safety permits) for a special review process. And when the ordinance says "all," it means "all!" The law specifically notes that even projects that don't require a permit, such as changing exterior paint color, removal or changing of significant trees or landscaping, installation or removal of fencing, or window and door replacements, must be pre-approved by the appointed HPOZ Board.

Therefore, before you begin any exterior work to your property, you are required -- by City ordinance -- to seek approval from the South Carthay HPOZ Board. If you want to replace a termite-infested window or garage door (even with the same kind of window or door!), you need to request approval from the HPOZ Board before you begin work. The same applies for additions of new features (e.g., a new flower box, ornamental trim) or changes to exterior features (e.g., changing the style of an exterior door). Although the ordinance provides for significant penalties for unapproved changes to your property, the real goal is voluntary compliance. After all, it was South Carthay's character and "eye appeal" that attracted you to the neighborhood in the first place. So do your part to preserve, protect, and restore the neighborhood.

The HPOZ Board is available at regularly scheduled Board meetings for informal consultations to discuss what you want to do, and how to do it so that it will meet the review standards. Or you can call any Board member, or Bridgette Wooten from the City of Los Angeles Community Planning Bureau (213-978-1178), for background and informal "how-to" information, getting applications and being included on the mailing list. We want to be able to approve, with minimal fuss, projects that are presented to the Board. Help preserve and restore South Carthay by consulting with the Board well ahead of time.

HPOZ: What it Means for Property Owners and Residents

The HPOZ Ordinance (City Ordinance No. 174,422) applies to every property in the South Carthay neighborhood. For purposes of the ordinance, South Carthay includes (1) all of the apartment buildings on the south side of Olympic Boulevard between Crescent Heights and La Cienega Boulevards and (2) all of the apartments , duplexes and homes between the west side of Alfred Street and the east side of Crescent Heights between Olympic and Pico Boulevards.

If you live and / or own property within the HPOZ boundary, there are certain guidelines you must follow when altering, improving, or demolishing any part of your property, including the following:

  • Changes to the exterior architectural design of the building or garage;
  • Changes to the color and texture of the surface materials on the exterior of the building (including the back of the property);
  • Selection of construction materials;
  • Decisions about the height or size of proposed new buildings, walls, fences, or gates and;
  • Changes to landscaping, hardscaping, exterior light fixtures, etc.

The HPOZ ordinance requires that prior to work being commenced, a “Certificate of Approprianess” (COA) from the City Planning Department or an Exception by the HPOZ Board must be obtained. To receive a COA , you must submit plans to the City Planning Department, which then distributes them to the Cultural Heritage Board and to the HPOZ Board for evaluation. It is important to remember that approval of a COA can potentially add 60 days to the time it takes to obtain a permit and begin your project. Planning ahead will help avoid delays. Failure to follow the guidelines set forth by the HPOZ ordinance can result in the work on your property being stopped (temporarily or permanently) by the Department of Building and Safety and potentially resulting in additional expense.

As a practical matter, the HPOZ Board is the most critical body for approval purposes, because it is charged with making recommendations to the Planning Department. The HPOZ Board may also issue an Exception for specific work that does not require a COA. Accordingly, we highly recommend that you discuss all proposed projects with a representative of the HPOZ Board as soon as the project is contemplated. The HPOZ Board will be able to evaluate whether the project is suitable for an exception, or if a COA is required.

Exceptions are most likely to be granted when the work being done is restorative in nature or is for maintenance purposes and is done with the prior written approval of the HPOZ Board. If a COA is required, a fee must be paid to the Planning Department, which is in addition to other permit fees the City may impose.

If you would like further information about the HPOZ ordinance, or if you would like to obtain a copy of the ordinance, you may contact the Chair of the HPOZ Board.

Commonly Asked Questions About the HPOZ

Q. We want to take out the old palm tree in our front yard and re-landscape. Do we need HPOZ Board approval?

A. YES., even though the tree may be unsightly, demolition of existing plant material and alterations to landscape are covered by the HPOZ ordinance. Apply to the HPOZ Board for a written exception.

Q. I’d like to replace my louver windows on the side of the house. Do we need HPOZ Board approval?

A. YES, windows and doors and screen doors and window screens, including security doors and window bars (which also require a separate permit) must be approved by the HPOZ Board. A COA is probably not necessary, but seek a written exception from the HPOZ Board before work is started since there are certain requirements which must be met.

Q. We’d like to remodel and add a room to the back of the house. Do we need HPOZ Board approval?

A. YES., even if the addition cannot be seen from the street, HPOZ Board approval in addition to a COA and building permits, must first be obtained. This may require notification to neighbors before work is started, so please contact the HPOZ Board as soon as your plans are sketched.

Q. The fence along the front and side of the house needs to be replaced. We want to change the fence from wood to stucco. Do we need HPOZ Board approval?

A. YES., fences, gates, steps, and walls all need HPOZ Board approval prior to initiating work.

Q. We are going to remodel our kitchen. Do we need HPOZ Board approval?

A. NO, improvements that entail interior work only do not fall under the HPOZ guidelines. However, if the renovation includes changes to the windows or exterior doors, then HPOZ Board approval must be obtained.

The HPOZ Board

At the heart of our HPOZ are the people who volunteer to serve on the HPOZ Board. The South Carthay HPOZ Board, like other committees created by the HPOZ ordinance, is an administrative body charged with a variety of powers and duties, all of which focus on the promotion of historic preservation of the neighborhood.

The HPOZ ordinance stipulates that each acting HPOZ Board be comprised of five representatives. One member must have a real estate license and is appointed by the Mayor. The second member must be a licensed contractor and is appointed by the Los Angeles City Council. The third member must be a licensed architect.

At least three Board members must reside within the boundary of the HPOZ in which they serve. The Architect and one “member at large” are both appointed by the Cultural Heritage Commission of the City of Los Angeles. The fifth member is selected by a majority vote of the other four members. All Board representatives serve for a term of five years.

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