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Uses for Landmark Buildings

July 02, 1989

The article "Preservationists Draft Law to Block Premature Razing of Old Buildings" (Times, June 4) prompts me to write.

The proposed ordinance, which would require developers to produce detailed plans for a new structure before being allowed to tear down a building that has been designated a local landmark, is a step in the right direction but it, unfortunately, is more of an illustration of why cities like Long Beach are disaster areas than of what needs to be done to correct that failing.

A building that has been designated a landmark should not be torn down at all! That should be the firm rule used as a starting point from which decisions for the future will flow. The role of bodies such as the Cultural Heritage Commission should be to decide the most appropriate use to which such landmark buildings should be put. The renovation necessary to put worthwhile buildings to new uses may range from merely cleaning them up to gutting them completely, leaving only the outer shell standing. This great range of renovation options makes it possible and economical to find a new use for any worthwhile building.

If heritage groups and the city's preservation officer are concerning themselves with whether or not a developer has a plan for a building to replace a local landmark, that is an indication of how skewed our priorities are.

A few years ago many Long Beach leaders were smarting from city nicknames such as "Iowa by the Sea"--names that meant Long Beach was old-fashioned. Those leaders responded in a way that proved the criticism valid. They wholeheartedly adopted urban renewal ideas from the 1940s. At that time, urban renewal consisted of tearing down everything old and starting all over again. Modern urban renewal consists of the kind of renovation which I described, putting worthwhile buildings to new uses.

Will changes be made soon enough for any of our heritage from the past to be left?

BARRY GOLDSTEIN

Long Beach

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