Revised plan aims at protecting Fresno's historic buildings

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A look inside the Hardy's Theatre reveals a mess of construction and demolition work.

A church now owns the historic theater and the city of Fresno recently cited them for code violations including construction without a permit.

"The Hardy's Theatre was simply a wake-up call for us that this policy, which is decades old, needed to be updated," says Councilmember Miguel Arias.

The owners didn't violate the city's existing historic preservation ordinance and the owners recently agreed to restore some of the historic elements.

But Arias wanted to prevent a repeat at any other buildings.

His updated historic preservation ordinance would give the city council and the Historic Preservation Commission oversight concerning any buildings already designated as historic.

A previous version would've applied to any building over 50 years old, but Arias changed it after realizing that could force thousands of homeowners to apply for permission to make changes at their non-historic homes.

The updated ordinance still calls for notification of neighbors when demolition of major construction is proposed and it would institute fines up to $100,000 for violations.

"These new safeguards, we believe will strengthen our ability to protect these nationally registered and locally registered historical assets," Arias said.

The ordinance made it through a first reading Thursday.

It won't be enforced retroactively, so it wouldn't apply to the Hardy's Theatre.

Historic preservation commissioners hope this lets people know how important historic buildings are to everyone.

"This is something in every neighborhood and we need to get the message out that historic buildings are why people come to visit a city," says Don Simmons.

If the ordinance passes at the next city council meeting, it'll take effect in mid-November.
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