Landmark Restrictions

Work Requiring Design Review

Chapter 17.52 of the Pasadena Municipal Code authorizes design review within designated landmark districts. Within the Washington Square Landmark District, design review shall apply as follows:

Future construction or exterior alterations to existing structures, new construction within the areas zoned for single-family and multi-family residential development, and relocations of structures into the district require a Certificate of Appropriateness (“Certificate”) from the City of Pasadena before a building permit is issued.

The review applies only to those portions of a structure that are visible from the public right-of-way. Additions or alterations that may be concealed by temporary features such as landscaping and fences, may be subject to design review. Features of a structure that are not visible from the public right-of-way are exempt from review.

An architectural survey of the Washington Square Landmark District was completed in early 1990s. The purpose of the survey was to identify those structures within the District whose historic character had been essentially maintained (“contributing”) and those structures that, due to alterations or additions, no longer reflected their original historical character or due to a more recent construction date is outside the district’s period of historic significance (“non-contributing”).

City staff shall determine whether a structure is contributing or non-contributing. The staff shall refer to the City’s Historical and Architectural Inventory in these determinations in addition to evaluating the building’s current status of significance.

A. Contributing Structures

1. The following items are not subject to review. If a building permit is required, a Certificate will be issued without review:
a. Exterior alterations not visible from the street.
b. House painting (preparation for; colors; stains).
c. Routine maintenance and minor repairs.
d. Landscaping (including sprinkler system work).
e. All interior alterations.
f. Screens and awnings.
g. Flat concrete work (including driveways and walkways).
h. Rear yard fences.
i. Exterior lighting fixtures.
J. Window grilles.
2. The following items, if visible from the public right-of-way, require review by the staff of the Cultural Heritage Commission (Commission):
a. Rear additions that do not exceed the existing height of the roof ridge.
b. Replacement of; or alterations to, windows and doors; changes to openings for windows and doors.
c. Replacement of; or alterations to, materials (including siding and trim) on exterior walls, chimneys, and foundations.
d. Changes to roofing, including materials and changes to installation pattern of roofing shingles or tiles.
e. Replacement of existing skylights or installation of new skylights.
f. Front yard and side yard fences and walls (including retaining walls).
g. Mechanical equipment in front of house or on roof (including solar collectors).
h. Demolitions of garages; alterations to existing garages; new garages.
i. Waiver of zoning requirement for two-car garage.
j. Restoration of historic features (including removal of asbestos, vinyl, or aluminum siding).
k. Porches.
NOTE: Certificates for this category of work will be issued upon approval by staff. At its discretion, the staff may refer applications to the Cultural Heritage Commission.
3. These items, if visible from the public right-of-way, require review and approval by the Commission:
a. Demolitions (except garages).
b. Additions or major alterations to the front or side elevations of a house.
c. Additions to the rear elevation that exceed the existing height of a house.
d. Alterations to the roof (except re-roofing and skylights).
e. New construction (except garages).
f. Relocations of houses and other structures.
B. Non-Contributing Structures
1. Alterations to structures identified as non-contributing to the historic quality of the district shall be exempt for review except for the following:
a. Demolitions (except garages).
b. Substantial exterior rehabilitations (for example, additions, new exterior cladding, infilling of open porches, and changes to openings for windows and doors).
c. Front and side yard fences and walls.
2. Review Guidelines for Non-Contributing Structures.
a. When reviewing alterations to non-contributing structures, the Commission shall consider an alteration or addition in terms of its relationship to the existing structure and to the appearance of adjacent or other surrounding (“immediate neighborhood”) structures in the landmark district or neighborhood.
b. The design for an addition should always be compatible with its surroundings in mass, materials, and relationship of solids to voids.
c. An addition or alteration should avoid obscuring or damaging historic materials which may exist on the non-contributing structure.
d. The Commission will encourage (but not require) the retention of existing historic features on houses that could, upon rehabilitation, become contributing to the District.


1. The Commission shall also be responsible for the following reviews:
a. Advisory reviews (to Public Works & Transportation and Parks & Recreation Departments) concerning improvements to Washington Park.
b. Advisory reviews (to zoning administrator) concerning non-conforming parking in areas zoned for multi-family development.
c. Requests for economic hardship waivers (as authorized by 17.52.080 of the Pasadena Municipal Code).
2. All requests for demolition permits in the District (except for garages) will be reviewed by the Commission. Demolition of historic structures shall not be allowed unless:
a. Disapproval will deprive the property owner of substantially all reasonable use of the property; or
b. Approval will not have a significant effect on the achievement of the purposes of the LD overlay district. For example:
3. The structure has already been significantly altered and no longer contributes to the historic quality of the district; or
4. The structure is less than 50 years old and does not contribute to the District.

5. The current zoning requirement for two covered parking spaces (P.M. C.17. 68.020) may be waived by the staff or the Commission only for single family residences and if the existing, covered parking structure is:
a. An integral part of the architectural/historical quality of the residence or neighborhood; and
b. Visible or partially visible from the street; and
c. Fifty years old or older.
This waiver ensures that historic garages are not remodeled or demolished simply to meet the zoning requirements for parking. Alterations to historic garages require a Certificate if the alteration is visible from the public right-of-way.


The City of Pasadena, as a major property owner in the district, will endeavor to maintain the historic quality of the neighborhood. This objective includes but is not limited to:
a. Repairing and preserving the existing historic street lights;
b. Replacing – when necessary – historic street lights that match or are compatible with the existing historic street lights;
c. Replacing street trees with as large a tree as possible, and in locations that match the existing pattern, as identified in the City’s designated species list and master plan for street trees; and
d. Installing drive-way curb cuts to replicate those which are original to the district.


To assist property owners to comply with this Conservation Plan, the City of Pasadena will make available to property owners information and resources relative to acceptable methods of construction and alteration


1. Exterior alterations listed in the previous section as requiring design review will be reviewed by the Commission or by staff to the Commission. The Commission (or staff) will determine whether the proposed alteration or construction is in keeping with the historic quality of the neighborhood and adheres to the most current edition of the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation and Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings, available from the office of the Design & Historic Preservation Section (626-744-4009) of the Planning Division. The Commission (or staff) may approve, conditionally approve, or deny an application.

2. All Commission meetings are open to the public.

3. Staff decisions are not subject to calls for review by the Commission. Any decision by the staff may be appealed by the applicant to the Commission. Any decision by the Commission may be appealed by the applicant to the City Council.

4. The Landmark District has a zoning designation of “LD overlay district.” Within this district, the Commission or staff may impose reasonable design-related conditions that are stricter than the zoning regulations if it finds that a proposal for demolition, alteration, or new construction is inconsistent with this plan and with the historic architectural qualities of the district. Copies of the district ordinances may be obtained from the office of the Design & Historic Preservation Section.