East Palo Alto's rich history took a first step toward preservation on Jan. 6 after the City Council unanimously voted to adopt an inventory of the city's historic places.
East Palo Alto residents, historians and members of the East Palo Alto Historical and Agricultural Society worked with the San Mateo County Historical Association to identify historic properties within the city and helped create the 1994 Historic Resources Report. The list contains 52 properties as historic resources.
The council adopted the report, renaming it the Local Register of Historic Resources. The register does not include establishing a program to protect or preserve the resources. It merely identifies properties that would be classified as historic.
In the past 20 years, East Palo Alto has lost 29 percent of its potentially historic properties in part due to redevelopment and lack of any program or incentive to encourage preservation. Currently, 37 of the original 52 properties exist, according to a report by Brent A. Butler, city planning and housing manager.
Of the 52 properties, seven are classified as having potential for listing on the National Register of Historic Properties. Eight may become eligible as more research is performed. The other 37 properties were classified as being eligible for listing under a local preservation ordinance. East Palo Alto currently does not have a preservation ordinance, according to Butler's report. Of the 52 listed properties, three were in excellent shape, 20 were in good condition and 13 were in decent condition.
The greatest number of properties lost were in the Weeks neighborhood, with seven lost resources, but in terms of percentage, the Gardens and University Circle neighborhoods lost all of their historic structures, according to the report. The Weeks neighborhood has the largest remaining quantity of historic properties, which is of regional significance. The properties are associated with the Charles Weeks Poultry Colony, a utopian society that existed near the turn of the 19th century, and San Mateo County's first wharf, which was constructed during the height of the gold rush in 1848.
The adoption will have no fiscal impact unless the city participates in the Mills Act Program. In California, the Mills Act is the single most important economic-incentive program for the restoration and preservation of qualified historic buildings by private property owners.
Enacted in 1972, the law grants participating cities and counties the authority to enter into contracts with owners of qualified properties who participate in restoration and maintenance of the property in exchange for property tax relief.