PLEASANT HILL -- The council on Monday ordered a broad review of the city's approach to historic preservation, but stopped short of creating a new body that would have overseen the issue.
"We don't need another commission just because we have an interest in history or cultural resources," Mayor Tim Flaherty said.
Since 1996, the city's zoning ordinance has included policies related to the preservation of historic and cultural resources. But many of the ordinance's provisions have never been implemented, including formation of a cultural resource management commission, which would have had wide-ranging responsibilities, including advising the council on designating historic districts.
After the "dome" movie theater was demolished in May, council members asked the Planning Commission to gather public input about how to address historic preservation, and to provide recommendations to the council by the end of the year.
Planning commissioners suggested the council scrap a list of 17 potentially historic structures included in the city's general plan and to not form the cultural resource management commission.
Denise Koroslev, president of the Pleasant Hill Historical Society, urged the council to appoint members to the commission who would research and evaluate buildings to determine historical significance based on architecture, important events that happened there or ties to noteworthy people.
"History is when someone takes the time to record and save these events for future generations," she said.
The commission, Koroslev added, would "emphasize that the city cares about its history."
Arguing against creating the commission, Councilman Michael Harris said there is no need to add another level of bureaucracy to evaluate the small number of historically significant properties in the city.
All the sites included on the list of potentially historic properties are privately owned, except for Contra Costa County's World War I Monument and Rodgers Ranch and the Old School House, which the Pleasant Hill Recreation and Park District owns. Rodgers Ranch is the only site in Pleasant Hill listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Homeowners strongly opposed their inclusion on the list and decried any city role in determining what they can do with their properties.
Harris agreed with the planning commissioners that the city shouldn't designate private property as historic without the owner's consent. The war monument and Rodgers Ranch deserve recognition from the city, Harris said, but he questioned whether the school house does. However, Harris agreed with the planning commissioners that the city should work with the recreation district to figure out what to do with the building.
The Old School House has been closed to the public since 2008 when inspectors found a host of dangerous flaws in the 88-year-old building, including a cracked foundation, a tangled electrical system, broken stairs and a weak ceiling. At that time, the estimated cost to repair the Old School House was nearly $1 million.
Lisa P. White covers Martinez and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.