Medford City Council has agreed to look into a proposal that would protect historic houses from demolition in older neighborhoods.
"It's horrible that we have a tendency to bulldoze our past and our heritage," said Sal Esquivel, a Medford state representative who has been restoring his own historical house.
Esquivel and the Old East Medford Homeowner's Association asked City Council on Thursday to consider an ordinance that would protect houses older than 50 years from demolition.
Council agreed to have city staff look into the idea.
Esquivel said historic neighborhoods can be damaged when an old house is removed. Replacing that link to the past with a manufactured home or an apartment complex can destroy the character of the street.
He cited a neighborhood on Quince Street in west Medford where older houses surround a manufactured home that since it was installed about 15 years ago has changed the neighborhood.
Esquivel said that under certain circumstances he could understand why a dilapidated home would need to be demolished, and the ordinance would have provisions that would allow that.
"We don't want to dictate to people that you will do this and you will do that," he said.
However, he said, the city should be able to insist that any new structure at least have some architectural features that help it blend into the neighborhood.
Esquivel and the homeowner's association offered an ordinance adopted by the city of Ashland that could be used as a template for Medford.
The idea of protecting older houses from demolition has been discussed for years, but the issue became more pressing after a proposal came before the city to add a sky bridge connecting to a house at 815 E. Main St. that is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The city rejected the idea because the sky bridge wasn't compatible with a historic structure, but neighbors have expressed concern that the city doesn't have laws in place that would protect the house from being demolished.
— Damian Mann
Read more in the Mail Tribune on Tuesday.