Palm Springs is extremely fortunate to have an historic resources ordinance that does not require owner support for historic site designation. Nearby, Rancho Mirage has an ordinance that makes historic designation very difficult without owner support. Other cities, like Palm Desert, actually have ordinances that make historic designation impossible without owner support.
While owner support is something that PSPF always strives for, on rare occasions we encounter property owners (usually the owners of commercial properties) that have agendas, like demolition, that are antithetical to the goals of preservation and are bad for the community. These are the buildings most in need of our advocacy.
Because Palm Springs' historic resources ordinance is neutral regarding the issue of owner support, individual citizens have the right to independently submit applications for historic designation for any suitable building or site. Such applications are reviewed by the city's Historic Site Preservation Board and, if the application has merit, that board can initiate the process of historic designation. After some deliberation the HSPB may (or may not) recommend the building or site for approval by the city council.
In recent years, due to staff cutbacks, the city resources dedicated to historic preservation have been significantly reduced. As a result, the city's historic resources program has suffered. Today, our city staff is lucky to be able to generate one historic site nomination per year. Why is this wholly insufficient? Because in 2004 the city's survey of historic resources identified more than 200 buildings worthy of local designation with more than 50 of those potentially eligible for the national register.
Fortunately, through the efforts of a small handful of individuals (most notably PSPF board member Patrick McGrew), the city's HSPB has continued to receive a steady stream of scholarly and well-written applications nominating buildings and sites for historic designation. Writing these nominations is a time-consuming task requiring considerable research. Further, these nominations are almost always pro bono efforts on the part of the individuals submitting them.
In the coming season, as we celebrate our wealth of historic and architecturally significant buildings with visitors from all over the world, we should pause to thank those citizens involved in local preservation who continue to make a difference. Their efforts today will guarantee that our city has something for both visitors and residents to admire for years to come.