There are 122 homes or buildings on the current Los Altos Historic Resources Inventory list. The Los Altos Historical Commission is responsible for selecting and assigning properties to the list. Structures are selected for the list based on a scale of standards called the Kalman system. Properties are rated and if they score a rating of 60 or greater they find their way onto the list. The list is then logged with the Planning Department so that when and if the owner of the property develops plans to modify or remodel the building measures can be taken to encourage preservation and historical integrity.
Because historic preservation guidelines in the City’s General Plan are vague and informal, the Historical Commission is working with the City to tighten up and draft guideline language that will be incorporated into the General Plan. Currently, without the enthusiasm of a homeowner or building owner to maintain the integrity of an old structure, there is little right now the city does proactively to protect the property. There have been some recent examples of local, historically significant properties being demolished against city wishes. The Spanish style bungalow on Springer and Arroyo that was removed was under consideration for the Historic Inventory list. Some feel that it has been previously overlooked and that the timing for its review was unfortunate in that it was demolished before any protection could be discussed. More recently, in Los Altos Hills the Winbigler house on Fremont Street was flattened against city wishes.
There are four classifications for Historic properties recognized by the City. They are, in order of importance; Local Landmark, Historically Important, Historically Significant and Contributing (to the historic fabric of the community). There are lucrative tax benefits for homes that are recognized as historic and which are maintained as historic. A federal tax act called the Mills act can offers significant tax savings although it is somewhat difficult to qualify and takes a lawyer to complete the complex paperwork.
For a complete listing of Los Altos’ historic inventory you can visit the Planning Department located at City Hall and simply request to view the registry. Their hours for reviewing the Historic Inventory list are Monday through Friday, 8 am to 12 noon and from 2 pm to 5 pm, Monday through Friday. To give a sampling, below is a list of 12 of the Designated Historic Landmarks that now exist in Los Altos:
- Civic Center Orchard
- Redwood Groves
- 51 South San Antonio Road (Los Altos History House)
- 288 First Street (SP Railroad Station)
- 300 Main Street (Shoup Building)
- 316 Main Street (Eschenbruecher Hardware Store)
- 388 & 398 Main Street (First National Bank and Red and White Grocery Store)
- 397 Main Street (Copeland Building)
- 440 Rinconada Court (residence)
- 647 North San Antonio Road (San Antonio Women's Club)
- 762 Edgewood Lane (residence)
-500 University Ave (residence)