The front page showing Claudius Emerson’s vision for Idyllwild circa 1928. Courtesy of Riverside County

The Idyllwild Downtown Historic District lacks a local board. Even though the board of supervisors approved the district’s formation a year ago, it cannot be implemented until there are approved design guidelines and a seated local review board.


The guidelines are done, approved by both the planning department and Keith Herron, the county’s historic preservation officer. The five-person local review board has not been seated because there are too few completed applications (3) from Idyllwild and Pine Cove residents on file with the county. The constituting Ordinance 578.5 requires a five-person board. “We’re obviously at a standstill,” said Herron. “The ordinance clearly calls for five.”

And the intended benefits to property owners and businesses conferred by district status also cannot be implemented until a board is seated. Those benefits include flexibility with Americans with Disabilities Act compliance for the 57 buildings within the district identified as contributing resources with historical value. Rules governing both Title II and III of ADA contain exceptions to general accessibility requirements where historic preservation is involved.

Third District Supervisor Jeff Stone noted that building codes drafted for the rest of the county, where for the most part construction is newer, if enforced as drafted in Idyllwild could close down the business district.

In 2008, Stone began advocating for the creation of an Idyllwild district for the dual purposes of obtaining codified flexibility with ADA requirements and with county code compliance for district historic buildings.

The local review board members serve without pay, must live within three miles of the Idyllwild downtown district, review and handle applications for changes to any contributing building within the district including landscaping, fencing, lighting, signs, roofs, windows, doors and siding and additions to any existing structures. The board can also comment on proposed new construction within the district.

Its first and most important function is to review the approved draft design guidelines, take in local input, and then make a recommendation to county planning for final approval.

Without a full board or a revision of the existing ordinance allowing a smaller board, further progress in getting the district up and running is stalled, said Herron. ADA and county building codes will apply here as in the rest of the unincorporated if the historic district is not implemented.

Anyone with questions or who is interested in applying should contact Keith Herron at (951) 955-4558, [email protected] or Olivia Barnes, of Stone’s staff, at (951) 698-7326 or online at [email protected].