City may add 165 buildings to historic preservation list

Amy French, Palo Alto's chief planning official, speaks at an Oct. 12 Historic Resources Board meeting.

This story was originally published in the Daily Post on Oct. 13, but because of high interest in the subject, we’re posting it again to make it easier to find.

By Braden Cartwright
Daily Post Staff Writer

Homeowners want more of a voice as the city of Palo Alto works on adding around 165 buildings to its historic inventory, potentially requiring a longer and more expensive review process before making renovations.

The Historic Resources Board met yesterday (Oct. 12) to talk about the effort. The city plans to update the inventory and then look at an ordinance that says what the rules are for homes on the list, Chief Planning Official Amy French said.

The ordinance approved in 1980 “has not aged well and has been marginally effective for historic preservation,” French said in a report to the board.

The Historic Resources Board reviews major alterations to the outside of homes, but their votes are suggestions only.

Council would ultimately change the ordinance and decide whether properties can be added to the inventory without the owner’s consent.

The city will have a community outreach meeting on Oct. 24 at 6 p.m. at City Hall.

Homeowners speak out John Bard has lived in a potentially historic house for 23 years. He said yesterday that he and his wife like that their house is historic and have put a lot of work into preserving its character.

But Bard is worried that being on the inventory could reduce his property value, because future buyers may want to make alterations and don’t understand the process for doing so.

“There are many deficiencies in the design of our house in 1904. Some of those were addressed in the previous renovations, but not all of them have been addressed, and we’d like to make sure we have the flexibility to do that,” he told the Historic Resources Board yesterday.

Incentives unclear

Darlene Yaplee, who lives in a potentially historic home by Heritage Park, said she still isn’t clear on what the incentives are for homeowners. She’s been involved since the city starting on the effort in March 2022.

“We want to reduce the gap between what’s shared and what residents want to know,” Yaplee said.

Simon Firth said he’s agnostic right now about whether he wants his home listed.

“But I would like to be asked,” he said.

French and the board are preparing to send letters to homeowners on the list that goes over the types of designations and requirements as they currently stand.


  1. This was rejected by the voters but they’re bringing it up again. If council passes this, we should do a referendum to repeal it again, and on the same ballot put the recall of any council member who supports it.

  2. At the very least they should get permission from the owner before adding their house to the list. What if the owner plans to tear down their house and replace it with a better one? Or add a bedroom, which might affect its historic status? The owners should have the final say. I know people in government think they own everything we have, but we have rights.

Comments are closed.