Despite all of the purported protections and guidelines accorded historic properties in Fullerton, the owners of the 1929 Spanish style bungalow apartments have replaced half of thier divided wooden windows with single glass panel vinyl frames. The too-cute-for-words Mariola Apartments have graced the 500 block of East Commonwealth for 85 years, surviving intact in an age of overdevelopment because through the decades at least someone knew how special they were, and made sure they stayed that way. Until now…

The City of Fullerton’s website features the apartments as a Significanct Property in its Historic Resources section:

“No major alterations are apparent, and the property has been maintained in excellent condition since the current owner, Vincent Mariola, purchased it in 1970.”

That all changed sometime last month when the beautiful arched wooden windows in the units on the west side of the property were replaced with contemporary white vinyl ones.


Fortunately, the wooden windows on the east side remain, for now.


Vinyl windows may appeal to homeowners tired of painting wooden frames, but they are the nemesis of historic preservationists. Even though subsidies exist to encourage their installatioin because they can be better insulated, owners of properties in historic Residential Preservation Zones are usually constrained from installing them because they so significantly alter the appearance of otherwise well preserved older homes and apartments (wooden windows can be made double paned also, to provide better insulation). Unfortunatley, despite being cited as a prime example of Spanish Colonial architecture of the period by the city, the Mariola Apartments are not in a Residential Preservation Zone.

Perthaps if Fullerton participated in the State of California’s Mills Act owners of local historic properties would have more incentive to appropriately preserve them. The Mills Act allows cities to give property tax breaks to landowners “if they pledge to rehabilitate and maintain the historical and architectural character of their properties for at least a ten-year period.” The contract is renewable.

Unlike Fullerton, other Orange County cities like Anaheim, Santa Ana, Orange, Tustin, Laguna Beach, and San Clemente all participate in the Mills Act, presumably because they “recognize the economic benefits of conserving resources and reinvestment as well as the important role historic preservation can play in revitalizing older areas, creating cultural tourism, building civic pride, and retaining the sense of place and continuity with the community’s past.”

It’s time for Fullerton to embrace the Mills Act before more historic properties are compromised or done away with entirely.


It wouldn’t hurt to pave the streets either.