See When Historic Preservation Hurts Cities: The madness of prohibiting solar panels on the rooftops of historic buildings illustrates how preservation culture has run amok by Binyamin Appelbaum of The New York Times. Excerpts:
"historic preservation comes at a cost: It obstructs change for the better. And while that price is generally invisible, it is now on public display because of the city’s efforts to prevent Washington homeowners in historic neighborhoods from installing visible rooftop solar panels."
the mandarins of historic preservation — and a good many of my neighbors — regard allowing people to install rooftop solar panels with the kind of horror they usually reserve for, say, anachronistic window frames. (The Capitol Hill Restoration Society helpfully advises homeowners: “In the Historic District you should not even consider using vinyl windows.” That’s right — please stop thinking about vinyl, immediately.)
"“I applaud your greenness, and your desire to save the planet. And I realize that we are in crisis, politically as well as sustainably,” Chris Landis, an architect who sat on one of the boards that pass judgment on proposed changes to Washington homes, told a homeowner in October who had the temerity to request permission to install 12 front-facing solar panels on his own roof. “But I just have this vision of a row of houses with solar panels on the front of them and it just — it upsets me, as somebody who’s supposed to protect the architectural fabric of a neighborhood.” (The quote is from a Washington Post article, with plenty more like it.)"
"the petitioner, Steven Preister, put the matter to Mr. Landis and his colleagues: “If we do not change and loosen these standards, will the district be habitable in 100 years?”"
"The board, however, decided it was more important to keep Mr. Preister’s roof looking as it did 100 years ago.
"after Mr. Preister’s failure caused an uproar, the city announced changes that make it a little easier to win permission to put solar panels on historic homes. Mr. Preister finally won permission after promising to spend some $1,300 on camouflage." [that just leads to another tradeoff-the resources used to camouflage cannot be used for something else]
"houses, with rare exceptions, are not historically significant. Residential historic districts mostly serve to protect property values, and the government should stop privileging that goal over other values like access to affordable housing. Or the value of trying something new. Or, say, the value of doing something to slow global warming and preserve a habitable planet."