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DOWNTOWN area plan

The 2009 Downtown Area Plan has multiple policies for protection and enhancement of historic resources in downtown but they need to be strengthened in the new General Plan.  It is essential that the General Plan 2040/Downtown Plan include additional policies such as those in SMHeritage's Recommended Alternative Historic Resources Element that safeguard the Downtown Historic District for the long-term benefit of the community. 


The Downtown Area Plan, adopted by the City in 2009, includes seven policies related to historic resource protection, particularly in regard to the locally designated, National Register eligible Downtown Historic District.  Because the General Plan revision will incorporate changes to the Downtown Plan, the continuation of those policies is not ensured.  San Mateo Heritage Alliance believes it is essential that downtown plan policies supportive of historic resource protection are retained, strengthened and not 'lost' in the revision process.  Excerpts from key policies are:

IV. Protect Key Landmarks And The Historic Character That Exists In Parts Of Downtown. 

IV.1 Building Heights. Relate the height of new buildings to the pattern of downtown and to the character of existing and proposed development. New development shall be encouraged to step down towards some existing buildings in order to be compatible with the pattern of Downtown.

IV.2 Store Fronts in the Retail Core. Maintain the traditional store front environment of the Downtown Retail Core area by requiring new buildings to be constructed to the street building walls to be dominated by windows and pedestrian entrances.

IV.3 Design Guidelines.  Evaluate the Downtown Design Guidelines to ensure that it: (1) Emphasizes the public realm - streets and sidewalks and public spaces in building design, scale, detail, and pattern of new developments; (2) encourages building design to be compatible with the historic and architectural features common to many buildings in the Downtown; (3) encourages a compatibility of diverse building styles; and (4) encourages building details, surfaces, textures and materials that are interesting for the pedestrian.

IV.4 Downtown Historic Character.  Preserve and retain the historic and architectural character of structures within the downtown.

IV.5 Historic District.  Maintain the identified historic district along portions of 3rd Avenue and B Street, and continue to implement regulations to protect the overall historic and architectural character and integrity of the area.  The City's Downtown area is of particular importance and interest with respect to historic structures.  These historic structures...contribute to downtown's identity and add to the overall character of the City...This sense of history within the downtown adds to its unique sense of place.

IV.6 Downtown Design Guidelines/Downtown Historic District Design Guidelines.  Revise the Downtown and Historic District Design Guidelines to give consideration to new development within a historic preservation context...Design standards should continue to require adherence to specific historical/architectural design features for development on 3rd and B Street.   It is important to balance historic preservation with new development as they occur in Downtown.


The City and community have expressed a strong interest in respecting existing historic and architectural features while allowing for new development/redevelopment to occur within the downtown historic area.  An update of the design guidelines...shall include development of guidelines to allow a variety of building design and styles and provide more detailed explanations on statutory (federal and state) requirements that are applicable to projects involving individually eligible historic structures as well as those in an historic district.

IV.7 Incentives.  Give historic structures priority status for available rehabilitation funds and provide incentives for their maintenance and rehabilitation.



Historic preservation clearly does much more than preserve bricks and mortar. It recognizes that our built history connects us in tangible ways with our past and provides context for the places we occupy and the world we live in. It fuses art with craftsmanship, capacity for modern utility with embodied energy, and progressive ideas for economic revitalization with traditional authenticity. Historic preservation is at the same time wonderfully egalitarian; all socioeconomic classes in every corner of the nation have successfully utilized its principles to protect their heritage and revitalize their communities.


-Craig Potts, Executive Director of the Kentucky Heritage Council and State Historic Preservation Officer


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