The City of Tucson recently made new rules about demolishing buildings that are more than 45 years old and located in the “Historic Central Core” of the City. Before proceeding with demolition, the property owner must, in addition to the complying with the other rules pertaining to demolition, prepare and give to the City a survey of properties within 300 feet of the proposed demolition. The property owner must then wait while the Tucson/Pima County Historical Commission and the City decide whether to delay the demolition to “document important historical features” or to arrange to acquire the building. To the City’s credit (sort of), the City imposed a time limit on itself of not more than 180 days for this process.
In Washington D.C., by contrast, the local government can apparently outright deny a property owner permission to demolish a building. According to a recent article in The American Spectator, the Third Church of Christ, Scientist, designed in 1971 and described as “a largely windowless octagonal tower made of raw, weathered concrete,” was declared to be a historic landmark, meaning that it cannot be demolished or even remodeled.
An organization that calls itself the Recent Past Preservation Network (“RPPN”) actually advocated for the preservation of this building, and is apparently advocating for the preservation of other buildings like it. RPPN’s mission statement says that the organization “promotes preservation education, assistance, and activism through the medium of new technologies, to encourage a contextual understanding of our modern built environment,” and “assists preservationists by providing an open community platform for the development and revision of practical strategies to document, preserve, and re-use historic places of the recent past.” I saw no mention in their materials of the possibility that they might actually spend their own money to “preserve and re-use historic places of the recent past.”
Please don’t misunderstand me. I like interesting old buildings. In looking through the materials on the RPPN web site I found links to photographs of some nifty mid-20th century “modern” homes in the older parts of Tempe and Scottsdale that I really hope will not disappear. It’s just that when rules are made forcing property owners to jump through (expensive) hoops to demolish their own obsolete buildings, or worse, decreeing that property owners can’t demolish or even substantially modify such buildings at all, the cost to the owners of such properties seems to get little, if any, consideration.
A not too off-the-wall analogy occurs to me. Say I own a 1971 Ford Pinto. Now, you sure don’t see those very often anymore, do you? Let’s even say that mine is the last 1971 Ford Pinto that still runs. I’m sure there is someone somewhere who thinks that it should be preserved as an artifact of the special style of “economy” vehicles produced in Detroit in the 1970s (along with the Chevrolet Vega, the AMC Pacer, etc.). Therefore, I should have to preserve it so that others can look at it, right?
Well, if you watch the Speed Channel much, you’ll see that there are people who treasure, and spend lots of (their own) money to preserve, all kinds of cars (I don’t know about the Pinto, though). The title of this article is the tag line from a Speed Channel program called “American Muscle Car” that features restored vehicles of the 1950s, 60s and 70s. In a similar vein, it’s obvious from the photos I mentioned above that there are owners who are spending lots of time and money to preserve and enhance those “recent past” houses in Scottsdale and Tempe. If something is really worth preserving, there are people who will expend their own resources to preserve it.
Rule-making by governments is necessary. The trend, however, is to continually make more rules about more things, and to expand the rules that already exist. Making sense of those rules (to the extent possible), and helping people navigate through them, is what I do. I just wish that the rule-makers would think a bit more about how the new rules impact the people whose properties are affected by the rules.
MORE AMAZING RULES ABOUT WHAT YOU CAN DO ON YOUR PROPERTY
While we are on the subject of regulations that control, for the benefit of others, what you can do on your property, and while I’m quoting from publications with highfalutin titles, consider this from the January 4, 2008, American Thinker, on proposed California standards for “building efficiency”:
Every new home and every change to existing homes’ central heating and air conditioning systems will be required to be fitted with a PCT (“programmable communicating thermostat”) beginning next year . . . . Each PCT will be fitted with a “non-removable ” FM receiver that will allow the power authorities to increase your air conditioning temperature setpoint or decrease your heater temperature setpoint to any value they chose. During “price events” those changes are limited to +/- four degrees F and you would be able to manually override the changes. During “emergency events” the new setpoints can be whatever the power authority desires and you would not be able to alter them.
In other words, the temperature of your home will no longer be yours to control. Your desires and needs can and will be overridden by the state of California through its public and private utility organizations. All this is for the common good, of course.
Got that? If there is an “emergency event” (a term which is not defined in the regulations) the regulators, not you, will control the temperature setting of your thermostat. Are we in “The Outer Limits” yet?