Sound walls

Freeeway traffic moves along the 210 Freeway through La Canada Flintridge at the St. Francis High School overpass. Officials plan to study the effects of building sound walls near potentially historic structures. (Raul Roa / Staff Photographer / June 16, 2012)

City officials planning to place sound walls along the Foothill (210) Freeway will spend a little extra time and money to gauge the project's impact on three potentially historic properties.

This week the La Cañada Flintridge City Council voted to set aside $25,000 to study the likely effects of the project on St. Francis High School and two homes on the 600 block of Meadow Grove Street. All three properties are next to the area where the sound walls are slated for construction early next year.

The high school and one of the homes are notable for having been designed in the early 1920s by Myron Hunt, the architect responsible for landmarks including the Rose Bowl and the main exhibit hall at the Huntington Library.

The sound walls would not affect the structures themselves, but construction work might require access to private land, cause vibrations or alter the views from the private properties.

According to Caltrans, concerns center on “parcels that may require temporary construction easements or can be expected to be subject to significant increased noise or vibration levels, changes in view sheds when the view contributes to the historic significance of the property or other defined effects.”

Terry Kelley, an outside consultant hired by the city for the project, said that if the properties are found to have historical importance, they will receive special attention during construction.

“First, we don't know if they're historical yet, so we don't know what impact they would have” on the project, Kelley said. “But it won't affect the building of the sound walls … we will take care of it through some sort of mitigation.”

Kelley said Caltrans officials and members of the engineering firm Parsons will conduct research in local libraries, the Lanterman House archives and the local planning and building departments.

Kelley said that with construction scheduled to start in January 2013, there is plenty of time to make sure any historic properties receive sufficient protection.

Jay Correia, a historian with the state Department of Parks and Recreation's Office of Historic Preservation, said that if the study finds the properties to be historic, they would be given a designation of eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places, but would not actually be listed.

Tom Palmer, who recently bought one of the two Meadow Grove properties, said that even if his home is deemed historical, he won't apply for a listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

Palmer said his previous home in the Hollywood hills was listed in the National Register, but the designation made it difficult for him to sell the home.

“The drawback that we found up there was that a lot of people didn't want to buy a house that's historical, since there's three times as many steps to go through to make any changes,” he said.

Palmer's home was designed by Hunt, but he said an addition had been built by the previous owners.

“We like the house … but if the sound wall wasn't going up, we wouldn't have been interested,” Palmer said. “From the research I did on sound walls, driving around to various places, it does actually make an impact.”