Historic District (HD) Overlays - Frequently Asked Questions

1. Where are the Johnson Street and Matheson Street Historic Districts located?

The City currently has two locally designated Historic Districts which include the Johnson Street Historic District and the Matheson Historic District.  Figure 1 indicates the location of these two districts in addition to Character Area 1 as defined in the Citywide Design Guidelines. Projects including additions, changes to the exterior and new construction in these areas are subject to special Land Use Code and Design Guideline requirements. 

HD Maps

2. How can I determine the architectural style of my house?

The Citywide Design Guidelines provides an overview of the various architectural styles found in the older residential districts, including the Johnson and Matheson Street Historic Districts.  Architectural styles range from Homestead and Victorian to Italian Renaissance to various Revival styles.  Appendix E in the Citywide Design Guidelines includes the various styles that may be found and the character defining features that are common to each.

3. What are character defining features and can they be modified?

Character defining features are visible, physical parts of a building that are key components of the building style. These could include the overall shape of the building, the original materials, the evidence of craftsmanship in design and construction, decorative details and elements of the site. Character defining features should remain intact in form, material and construction.

4. If I want to make exterior repairs or modifications to my house, are those subject to the Citywide Design Guidelines?

Yes, changes to the exterior materials and/or additions are subject to the Citywide Design Guidelines and require review and approval by the Planning Department.  The City’s Land Use Code (LUC) includes the following section that applies to homes located in a designated Historic District.

LUC Sections 20.12.055 through 20.12.100 governs homes located within designated Historic District Overlays. Generally, exterior changes to buildings within the Johnson Street and Matheson Street Historic District Overlay will require Design Review by the Planning Department prior to commencing work and a separate Building Permit may be required depending on the scope of work.

  • Minor Design Review is required for:  1) Any new construction less than 25 percent of the existing floor area; or 2) Exterior alterations, repair and rehabilitation of a primary structure.
  • Major Design Review by the Historic Committee is required for:  1) Construction of buildings and structures within a HD Overlay area, including accessory buildings over 400 square feet in floor area, with the exception of accessory dwelling units (ADUs); 2) Demolition of any designated historic building and any building or structure within a HD Overlay area that contributes to the historic character of the area;  or 3) Any alteration to an existing building within a HD Overlay area that results in a permanent physical change in such a manner as to increase the floor area more than 25 percent; or adds a second story; or a significant change to the front elevation(s) which is not consistent with the Citywide Design Guidelines for historic properties.

The project design is evaluated against the Citywide Design Guidelines for consistency with the established guidelines in Chapter  8: Treatment of Historic Resources. These guidelines have been developed based on the Secretary of the Interior Standards for the Treatment of Historic Resources. Depending on the scope of the project, the City may require that a Architectural Historian provide a report on the consistency of the proposed project with the Chapter 8 guidelines.

5. Am I allowed to build an addition or second floor?

A second floor can be added to a home in the HD Overlay. However, the proposed design of the second floor should not impact or modify any character defining features on the existing home and it will need to be consistent with Chapter 8 of the Citywide Design Guidelines. Before finalizing a design, please contact the planning department to meet with a planner before submitting a formal design review application. A new second floor requires approval by the Historic Committee.

6. Do all projects require review by the Historic Committee (Planning Commission)?

No. The scope of the project will determine the level of review required as noted below.

  • Staff Level Review (Minor Design Review Application)
    • Smaller projects that are less than 25 percent of the existing floor area.
    • Exterior changes for repair and rehabilitation.
    • Exterior changes that are consistent with Chapter 8 of the Citywide Design Guidelines.
  • Historic Committee Review (Major Design Review Application)
    • Additions greater than 25% of the existing floor area.
    • Construction of a structure over 400 square feet.
    • Demolition of any structure located with the HD Overlay.
    • New second floors
    • Significant change to the front façade or side façade if located on a corner lot, which is not consistent with the Chapter 8 of the Citywide Design Guidelines.

7. Can I demolish my house and rebuild?

Article V of the Healdsburg Municipal Code requires review and approval of a separate Planning application prior to issuance of a demolition permit. Demolition proposed within the Johnson Street or Matheson Street Historic District require the preparation of a Historic Resource Evaluation (HRE) and a public hearing. The HRE will evaluate the existing home and it will determine the buildings significance as a historic resource. If the home is determined to be a resource, then additional environmental review would be required. If is determined not be a resource,  then the HRE would also evaluate the proposed building and consistency with Chapter 8 of the Citywide Design Guidelines and the Secretary of the Interior Standards.  The Historic Committee at a public hearing, will determine whether to approve or deny the Historic Demolition Permit.

8. Are attached garages allowed?

Generally, attached garages are discouraged within the Johnson Street and Matheson Street Historic Districts as an attached garage was not typically constructed within the timeframe of the older homes in the districts. Garage structures are reviewed for consistency with Chapter 8 of the Citywide Design Guidelines.  Before you finalize plans to build a new garage, meet with a planner in the Planning Department.

9. I want to install a fence in my front yard, are there planning requirements and guidelines?

Yes. The Healdsburg Municipal Code (§20.16.045.A) limits the height of a fence in the front yard to four (4) feet.  Corner lots have additional Corner Vision clearance limitations for front yards fences (see §20.16.005.E for more information). Front yard fencing in a Historic District is also governed by the Chapter 8 of the Citywide Design Guidelines.  

10. I would like to know more about my home, where do I go to find more information?

A good place to start is the Healdsburg Museum and Historical Society located at 221 Matheson Street, Healdsburg, CA 95448 or at  https://www.healdsburgmuseum.org/

11. Where can I get more information?

Address: 401 Grove Street, Healdsburg, CA 95448

Phone: (707) 431-3348

Email: planning@ci.healdsburg.ca.us