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Pauli Halstead: What you need to know about Historic District Initiative

Pauli Halstead | Other Voices

In 1968, Nevada City determined that departure from the Gold Rush era architectural style would be detrimental to historic places and buildings, and adopted the Historical Ordinance to protect the downtown historic district against such changes.

Now, The Nevada City Historic District Initiative wants to expand the Historical District and implement strict architectural review criteria to all existing neighborhoods it deems historic.

Furthermore, the initiative would give authority to the City Council to implement this mean-spirited agenda. The consequences for property owners within the newly expanded Historic District would be subject to the same cumbersome architectural reviews by the Planning Commission currently employed in the Historic District and would result in untold expenses when doing maintenance, repairs, or additions to your home.

The Committee for Nevada City Historic Neighborhoods District is going door-to-door circulating a petition for The Nevada City Historic District Initiative.

The initiative is designed to thwart the implementation of Senate Bill 9 (California’s HOME Act) a multi-year effort to develop solutions to address our state’s housing crisis.

First: Read Senate Bill 9


Second: Read ORDINANCE No. 338: An ordinance of Nevada City establishing a Historical District and providing regulations for the protection, enhancement and perpetuation of buildings herein.


A copy of the complete Initiative is available by submitting a public records request to the city clerk.

The initiative:

“To the Honorable Clerk of the City of Nevada City:

“We the undersigned, registered and qualified voters of the City of Nevada, hereby propose an initiative measure to amend the City of Nevada City General Plan and The City of Nevada City Municipal Code. We petition you to submit this measure to the City Council of Nevada City for adoption without change or for submission of the measure to the voters of the City of Nevada City at the earliest election for which it qualifies.


“A. Purpose: This Nevada City Historic Neighborhoods District Initiative promotes the preservation of historic residential neighborhoods within the City of Nevada City by designating historic residential neighborhoods within the City of Nevada City General Plan and City of Nevada City Municipal Code. For the purposes of this initiative, historic neighborhoods are those with a combination of architectural styles and lot patterns, sizes, and setbacks from homes developed in the mother lode style of the 1800s, pre-World War II homes, including the simpler homes and cottages of the 1920s, mid-century modern, the neo-traditional ranch, and other 20th century designs of the 1900s, which are 50 years or older, that create the overall historic streetscape throughout Nevada City’s neighborhoods that have been recognized throughout the state and internationally. Specifically, The National Register of Historic Places uses ‘over 50 years of age’ as a threshold for evaluation to ensure historic perspective. Of the homes in the Historic Neighborhoods, more than half of them are over 50 years of age.

“B. Effect: This initiative amends the General Plan to establish a historic neighborhoods districts to identify areas within the city with a preponderance of historic homes, including buildings of special historical or architectural interest or value. The Initiative also established HDN combining district overlay in the zoning ordinance of the municipal code to ensure consistency with the General Plan. Properties within the HDN must comply with the city’s existing architectural review procedures. The initiative does not change those procedures or change their reach; rather it insures that architectural review procedures will continue to apply within the HDN. This HDN and combining district overlay may not be amended except by a vote of the people. Nevertheless, the City Council may add qualifying neighborhoods to expand the HDN without a vote of the people.“

Make no mistake, the Historic District Initiative is designed to curtail your choices as to what you can do with your property.

The fear mongering taking place with the proposed initiative that the architectural character of the city will significantly change is just not going to happen. We have plenty design guidelines in place already.

Don’t let the City Council decide what you can do or not do with your property. There is no reason to fear that our architectural heritage is in danger!

Pauli Halstead lives in Nevada City.


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