Seven reasons Candler Park residents will vote NO on historic designation this spring
by Elora Raymond, Candler Park Resident
This fall, CPNO formed a committee to consider a historic designation in Candler Park. A historic designation typically forbids the demolition of any building built during a certain time period, and imposes design standards on any maintenance or redevelopment. You can learn more about the proposal here: https://www.historiccandlerpark.org/
Historic designations are controversial, and like other intown neighborhoods, Candler Park has rejected historic designation in the past. Over the past year, I’ve heard my friends and neighbors raise a lot of concerns about reasons for not wanting a historic designation in Candler Park. Many of these concerns are reflected in the comments of the survey conducted by CPNO on this proposal. These concerns include:
1. The design requirements of a historic designation are burdensome and expensive, and property owners should be able to do what they want. Some residents have expressed concerns that they won’t be able to install ramps for handicapped access, or solar panels, or recall situations where homeowners were unable to repair after storm damage because of the exorbitant costs of renovating in some historic districts in Atlanta. Others have simply said that they don’t want to live in an HOA, or have their decisions controlled by their neighbors’ aesthetic preferences.
2. Historic designations result in substantially higher home prices for single family homes, and will exacerbate the super-gentrification of Candler Park. We will continue to lose long-time residents who cannot upsize as their family grows, or leave due to skyrocketing rents and property taxes. The only people who will be able to move to Candler Park will be those who are in the top 5% of income earners, and we will continue to lose all other households to other areas.
3. This planning process is a waste of scarce time and money, and will be dominated by a handful of people who are not responsive to the wishes of the community. A historic designation will cost CPNO tens of thousands of dollars and require thousands of hours from our community. Households with the most time on their hands will end up controlling what rules are incorporated into a designation. Many households juggling two incomes, young children, eldercare, or all three, will be stuck with the decisions of neighbors who have far more time on their hands to shape this process to their interests.
4. Historic designation will prevent increased density, walkability, and greener commutes in Candler Park. Many residents love the walkability and bikability of this neighborhood, and the freedom of being able to take public transit. Density makes it possible to support walkable retail like our small commercial district along McLendon. Preventing any demolition of older single-family homes will make it nearly impossible for future generations to plan for density, transit, walking and biking which are desirable in their own right, and are needed to adapt to our changing climate.
5. Historic Designation will not prevent luxury duplexes. Some Candler Park residents are concerned about the recent construction of “million-dollar duplexes”. Unfortunately, there’s nothing about a historic designation process would prevent older single-family homes from being converted to luxury duplexes, though they might look different. By increasing price pressure on the area, it may encourage more of these conversions.
6. The committee is particularly interested in selecting a troubling historical period as the “historical period of significance”. Candler Park has moments in our history to be quite proud of, like the creation of progressive institutions in L5P and embrace of the LGBTQ community, and moments which are deeply painful and regrettable, like the forced demolition of housing and displacement of Black communities in Candler Park. The historic designation committee has selected a period of significance which encompasses many painful moments in our neighborhood’s history.
7. The current committee leading historic designation only consider homeowners members of the community and are not committed to a democratic process. Many are troubled that CPNO only canvassed homeowners, and quite deliberately did not seek comment from residents who live in townhomes, condos or apartments in our community. It should go without saying that Candler Park residents should not be judged by their housing type, and that people who rent, who live in townhomes and condos are vital and longstanding members of this community. The impacts of a historic designation on affordability, walkability, and density affect us all. A choice to deliberately exclude roughly half our residents in the decision-making process is troubling to say the least.
The vote for historic designation was supposed to take place in November, and was cancelled due to an inability to handle the large number of residents who joined the call to vote. There was discussion of holding the vote in December or January, then February, and for the moment the vote seems to scheduled for the March CPNO meeting. I am unaware of why the vote has been delayed for several months, beyond the fear that residents of Candler Park are going to show up and vote the measure down. CPNO should schedule this vote as soon as possible, and needs to commit to respecting a democratic process. If the vote is no, CPNO needs to accept the community’s decision.
If for some reason, the vote is in favor of hiring a consultant to design a historic district overlay, committee needs to be composed of members who see their role as being part of a democratic process. Historic designation is too important to be led by people who don’t think renters or condominium owners are part of our community, or by people who refer to Candler Park residents who do not want a historic district as “hordes of people who had not been seen before, pumped to vote no by in-the-shadows organizing and misinformation.” The values of Candler Park residents and the concerns Candler Park residents are raising about historic designation are reasonable and should be respected by CPNO. If for any reason we do begin the historic designation design process, it needs to be led by people who understand that their role in the policy process is to listen to, and implement the wishes of all the residents of Candler Park, not enforce a design aesthetic held by a handful.
As a long-time resident of Candler Park, (and, for what its worth, a professor of Urban Planning at GA Tech), I will be voting NO against the historic designation. In the best moments of Candler Park’s history, this neighborhood has sought to be a creative and inclusive place, has prioritized the environment, and embraced walking, biking and transit as part of our daily lives. We do not need to follow the exclusionary practices of other neighborhoods in the Atlanta area. We do not need to make housing less affordable, make walking, biking and transit more difficult, and ignore the environmental impacts of our built environment. Candler Park should not spend tens of thousands of dollars and thousands of community hours on an exclusionary historic district designation. We should instead focus on addressing declining affordability, thoughtful improvements to L5P, and continuing to enhance bike/walk/transit potential of our area, for all our residents.