Design and Historic Landmarks commissions present State of the City Reports to City Council

News Article
This is a drawing of a proposed housing and retail development in the Lents neighborhood called 92H Lents.
On March 15, the Design Commission and the Historic Landmarks Commission presented their annual reports to City Council. Their reports focused on successes and challenges of the past year as well as goals for the coming year.

City Commissioner Dan Ryan remarked, “I kind of wish every City Council meeting had these kinds of conversations.”

Design Commission report

The Design Commission presented an overview of how Design Review has influenced the very fabric of our pedestrian-oriented City for the past 40 years: a walkable, vibrant, diverse and easily accessible Central City that is admired by the world for its planning and design innovation. Members of the Design Commission explained why now, more than ever, the application of Design Review’s three design tenets--Context, Public Realm, and Quality and Permanence--are critical to not losing our city’s livability for all who live, work and play here.

Design Commission Chair Brian McCarter led the presentation and highlighted several projects that received the Commission’s attention, including its project of the year, the 92 H Lents Project, a mixed-use housing and retail project. “It just does so many good things in terms of reinforcing the new emerging Lents Town Center and providing a really friendly pedestrian realm facing the neighborhood,” said McCarter.

In response a question from Mayor Ted Wheeler asking whether more housing in the downtown core is needed, McCarter replied, “Housing should be at the top of the pyramid.” Design Commissioner Sam Rodriguez added, “We need to make sure the ground-level designs are done really well, like in the Pearl, like in Slabtown, and that’s what Design Commission Review does best.”

City Commissioner Carmen Rubio said, “It’s clear that because of your expertise your work makes us better poised to continue our trajectory towards quality urban design . . . our Council is super aligned with you.” City Commissioner Rene Gonzalez noted that, “It was an enriching report.”  Wheeler concluded with, “This is great work, to be continued.  And I agree with what you already said, we still need to think about street-level activation.”

Historic Landmarks Commission report

The Historic Landmarks Commission’s report identified the need to support legislation to facilitate preservation of older buildings with financial incentives and through adaptive reuse, for the City to lead by example by maintaining publicly owned resources, and for the creation of a Cultural Resources Management Plan. The Landmarks Commission highlighted how preservation and adaptive reuse can be used as a tool to address the City’s climate, economic development, and housing goals and how preservation as a practice is focused on being more representative of all histories than it has been historically.

Peggy Moretti, one of the newest members of the Historic Landmarks Commission, noted, “Preservation and repurposing of our existing buildings is one of the key ways that the City will achieve its biggest priorities. We must recognize, respect and use first what we already have,” she said. “Building reuse is key, indeed, to meeting equity, housing, economic and climate goals.”

Moretti emphasized the climate benefits of rehabilitating existing buildings over demolishing and building new structures, as well as the equity benefits of historic preservation. “As we take overdue strides towards equity, how important [it is] to emphasize that everyone’s history matters. Saving and rehabilitating the places that truly embody the diversity of our heritage creates greater social sustainability and community cohesion.”

Following the Landmarks Commission’s presentation, Rubio said, “I want to state my eagerness and my commitment to engage more with you…especially on the Cultural Resources Management Plan and also the Legacy Business Program. Those are very important things and they need that support to get off the that no other pieces of our history are lost.”

Gonzalez noted the need to find a solution for preserving unreinforced masonry buildings, stating, “It’s both a huge opportunity and huge challenge for the City…how we preserve that feel of the City, particularly in certain neighborhoods but also address the real seismic risk we’re facing as a community, and find a way to build more affordable housing, and tying it all together.”

You can learn more about the Design Commission and the Historic Landmarks Commission and upcoming projects they will review by visiting their web pages and clicking on the project links in their meeting agendas.