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Over 950 Historical Monuments in Los Angeles -- Many Go Unnoticed

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Not only is the Lake Hollywood Reservoir a historic monument, but so is the Hollywood Sign and the land underneath | Photo by maveric2003 via Flickr

Not only is the Lake Hollywood Reservoir a historic monument, but so is the Hollywood Sign and the land underneath | Photo by maveric2003 via Flickr
Los Angeles residents may be living in or around historical monuments and not even know it. With more than 950 “Historic-Cultural Monuments” in Los Angeles under the protection of The Cultural Heritage Commission (CHC) there are buildings or sites on the list (PDF) you would have never expected.

UCLA students living in the Landfair apartment buildings, a family walking past avocado trees in Hollywood, USC students biking past the Shrine Auditorium in South Los Angeles, or a kid getting gas at the station on Barrington Avenue in Brentwood probably have know idea those sites are designated, protected, and pampered by the city under the label of a historical monument.

The Cultural Heritage Commission is an appointed body that oversees local landmarks around the Los Angeles County. The 1962 LA Cultural Heritage Ordinance (PDF) allowed buildings and sites to be designated “Historic-Cultural Monuments” requiring the city to provide recognition and protection.

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Certain people or groups submit an application for a building or a site. A review is presented to the commission and must first be nominated for formal consideration, toured, evaluated, and then approved. Once approved the City Council then can officially accept or decline the building as a historical landmark.

The commission generally approves buildings as historically significant if it is some sort of aesthetic, architectural, or engineering masterpiece or if it has noteworthy cultural and historic value attached as well. Examples are the Campo de Cahuenga in Studio City, where the treaty of Cahuenga was signed marking the end of the Mexican-American war over California; or the Leonis Adobe in the West Valley known as the most haunted site in Los Angeles County.

Once it is recognized as such, a building or site is eligible for tax reductions under the Mills Act program; special treatment under the Sate Historical Building Code; rehabilitation projects to repair, replace, and treat damages in accordance to the original historical design under Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation; protection against demolition for at least a year, and technical assistance. Yet for most people the pride and prestige of being able to attach the name “historical-monument” is motivation enough.

What this commission does goes largely unnoticed, but Los Angeles benefits from it everyday as history is actively being preserved, guarded, and restored.