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Architecturally Speaking

An architect stopped by my Sunday open house yesterday.

The open was at a traditional home in Beverly Hills I had just listed and the architect (whose name I recognized) had done several impressive projects in the area, including a contemporary residence that received a prestigious design award, one of only two houses built in the city in the last three years that were so honored.

The architect was there to check out the property for a potential development client. The corner location, he explained, opened up a variety of design options that weren’t possible mid-block. He asked me the size of the lot and then, like a human calculator, recited the required frontage, yard size and dimensions of a new home based on the famously strict building ordinances in Beverly Hills.

Then he threw out an unexpected question: had this house been designated an historic landmark?

I said no.

Was I sure, he inquired, that it wasn’t even a “bad John Byers”?

I assured him it wasn’t.

But the truth was I had no idea. In fact, not only did I not know who John Byers was, I was embarrassed to admit to myself that I had only a vague concept of the historic landmark preservation laws in Beverly Hills and how they might impact the sale of a house.

Not good.

A top agent would be expected to know this stuff cold.

So as soon as I got home, I immediately went online and read everything I could on the subject.

According to the City Of Beverly Hills website, there are five criteria that would qualify a house for preservation review in Beverly Hills. Chief among them: if the property was associated with important events in local history; if it had been lived in by a significant person; or if it had been built by a renowned architect.

Could this apply to the property I was representing?

You would be hard-pressed to find a more ordinary-looking house in all of Beverly Hills. However, if two of the five benchmarks were met – if, for example, some bygone movie star once resided there, and if it also happened to be designed by one of the “geniuses” (as described by the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission) on the designated Local Master Architect list – then yes, that could restrict what kind of restoration or construction would be permitted which in turn could have a significant impact on the value and desirability of the home.

First thing on my to-do list: call my title rep to pull the property records.

As for John Byers, turns he was an early-20th century architect noted for his use of the Spanish Colonial revival style.