Taormina Historic District


 Common Questions & Answers regarding a

Historic District

QUESTION: What is required for Taormina to become a Historic District?
ANSWER: An application is filed with the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) of the City of Ojai. The HPC reviews and debates the application in an open meeting as a public agenda item. If the HPC believes the application is acceptable it passes the packet to the Ojai City Council with their recommendation. The City will then schedule the application as an agenda item to be discussed and voted upon in a public meeting. On July 14th 2016 the HPC voted to recommend the proposition to the City Council; the City Council has scheduled the agenda item for an August 30th meeting.

Q.: What does the application consist of?
A.: The application must include: (a) statement of community interest and support, (b) a statement of Guidelines for Construction and Maintenance of Structures within the Taormina Historic District, and (c) a historical report prepared by certified historians, such as the San Buenaventura Research Associates, highlighting the community’s historical significance to the City of Ojai.

Q.: How many property owners must be in favor of Taormina becoming a Historic District?
A.: All property owners must be given the opportunity to vote on the application with at least 51% of the total number of owners voting in favor of becoming a Historic District. As of 2016 over 70% of the Taormina property owners have 'signed on' in favor of establishing an Historic District.

Q.: Will the Historic District function as a Homeowners Association?
A.: No. The HD designation has nothing to do with how the community is run or how money is gathered and spent. The Taormina community is currently under CC&Rs that have been in place since 1967 (revised in 1977) and administered by the Taormina Theosophical Community, Inc. The exceptions are the provisions that relate to the collection and distribution of the monthly fee, the Taormina roads and the trash/recycling area which are administered by the community-based California nonprofit Green Circle Service Corporation, Inc. (www.TaorminaGCSC.org).

Q.: How were the Community Guidelines established?
A.: In 2013 a series of focus groups met. All Taormina property owners were invited to participate. The Guidelines that were developed during that time (that are part of the current Historic District Application) were subject to review by all property owners through the application/voting process. These guidelines were also vetted with the City of Ojai to make sure that they were in alignment with the city codes and their current understanding of historic district standards. You can view the guidelines by clicking here.

Q.: Can the City control what I can or cannot do to my home?
A.: Every property owner seeking to modify one's home is subject to City and County statutes and codes. Living in a Historic District simply means that there are Guidelines in place, created by the district’s property owners, that have been adopted by their vote of at least 51% in favor (over 70% have 'signed on' in favor of establishing an Historic District). The guidelines provide guidance so each property maintains a certain historical "look" unique to Taormina. The Guidelines in a historic district are designed to address only exterior changes that are visible from the street in contrast to the guidelines of an historic house. You can view the guidelines by clicking here.

Q.: Do the Guidelines control what I can do with my property?
A.: Not at all. Each property parcel in Taormina is privately owned. The owner of each parcel can use the property
within the limits of California statutes. The only impact on a property by a Historic District Designation is to the "look" of the external facade of the buildings and the need to maintain the property as seen from the street in a "neat and ordrly manner."

Q.: Do interior remodels or design changes come under the Historic Guidelines?
.: No. The Guidelines developed for the Historic District apply only to the exterior look of the property.

Q.: Will it cost me more to obtain a building permit because I live in a Historic District?
A.: Any building permit issued by the City of Ojai has associated fees that must be paid. Only if the proposed exterior modifications impact on the areas designated in the Historic District Guidelines might there be an additional fee- that fee being generated because any such permit application will have to be reviewed by the City Historical Preservation Committee (HPC) before being presented to the City Planning Commission. At this time (August 2016) no such fee exists. For more information on the costs associated with building in the City of Ojai go to the website: www.ci.ojai.ca.us (click on "Community Development Department" then "Planning Division Permit Applications").

Q.: What about my front yard, landscaping and driveways?  Are they affected by the Guidelines?
.: Not really. Only in as much as the Guidelines require that the front yard be kept in a "neat and orderly manner." Landscaping and driveways are not considered of historical interest.

Q.: What if I want to put solar panels on my roof?
A.: The Guidelines exempt solar installations. The only requirement is that the panels not increase the height of the existing roof by more than 8 inches.

Q.: What about minor exterior work like painting or window repair?  
 A.: Only regarding the choice of colors. The guidelines limit the colors to variations of earth tones. A pallet of reference colors is available by clicking here.

Q.: What about interior design or interior improvements?    
A.:  No, The Guidelines do not address interior changes; anything that would normally require a city permit such as a new electrical, plumbing or air conditioning system continue to need permits.

Q.: What about additions and exterior remodels?  
A.: Work that can affect the historic appearance of the home as seen from the street, such as a large addition or facade remodel, would have to follow the design review guidelines as written by the homeowners.  City permits would be required, just as with any construction. These permits may cost slightly more because of Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) review (as of 2015 there was no additional cost for HPC review, but things change...).  

Q.: Will being in a Historic District affect my property value?
A.: Most probably YES- it will raise the value of your home. Research has shown that housing values in Historic Districts rise faster than in neighborhoods that are not designated as “historic.” A representative sampling of websites that support this finding is available by clicking here.

Q.: Will my taxes go up?
A.: Property taxes in a Historic District are taxed exactly the same as properties in a non-historic district. Historic District designation for Taormina will not affect the level of property tax you now are paying.

Q.: Does the government control what I can or cannot do to my house?  
A.: No, the homeowners in the Historic District decide on the design review guidelines that keep their community special. They have been developed through community meetings over the past several years and are available on this website (click here). However the HPC reviews permit applications that affect the street view to be sure they meet the guidelines agreed to by the homeowners and conform to building requirements of the City of Ojai.

<click here to return to Home Page>