You Have Questions about Historic Preservation, I Have Answers

Published on 06/26/2022 • Posted in

By Tricia Amato (Lewis)

I’ve received some questions from Willo residents, so I decided to write a Q&A article for this month’s newsletter. Feel free to contact me with questions you have, my contact info is below. 

Q: Do I have to use a licensed contractor if I get a permit?

A: No, not as long as you are the property owner and are either doing the work yourself or hiring subcontractors or handymen/women. The project must still meet all code requirements, and the improved home cannot be intended for immediate sale or rent or be used by the public (such as a business). It is not true that obtaining a building permit necessitates the use of a licensed general contractor. (ARS 32-1121 A-4)

Q: What about garages? Can they be torn down and rebuilt on the lot line?

A: Until recently, you needed a public hearing to obtain a demolition permit to tear down any original garage or carriage house. However, that has now changed. If the garage is a simple wood structure, demolition can be approved over the counter. If the building is brick, block, or adobe and mimics the style of the main house, a hearing may be necessary to obtain a demolition permit. 

Many original garages were built right on the property line, which is no longer code for out buildings. However, Historic Preservation Guidelines for a Certificate of no Effect state that garages and outbuildings that were originally positioned on the property line can be rebuilt in the same location provided that the new building retains the same footprint as the original and is the same size. In addition, new construction must be one-story with a roof height lower than that of the main house. The design of the new building must fit the character of the neighborhood, and the roof form and materials are compatible with the main building. More information can be found on under Approvals and Guidelines.

Q: What are the guidelines for solar panels in Historic Districts?

A: Solar panel proposals that meet the following requirements can be granted a Certificate of No Effect —  panels are not visible from the street and either sit below the parapet on a flat roof or on the back side of a pitched roof, or on an accessory building. If none of these options is possible, a Certificate of No Effect may still be granted, provided the applicant can show that they considered all options. HP may require additional information from the solar designer or installer to make their decision.

Q: What resources are available to me to help with my renovation project?

A: The book, Historic Homes of Phoenix, an Architectural and Preservation Guide was produced by the City of Phoenix and is a great resource for anyone looking to renovate a historic property. It covers architectural styles and eras, illustrates and explains significant stylistic details, and provides guidelines for renovations. It is no longer available for purchase through the City of Phoenix, but it is available in the Arizona Room at Burton Barr Library and sometimes available on Amazon.

The City of Phoenix Historic Preservation website has many different resources, such as the City’s Historic Preservation Philosophy and Design Guidelines for Historic Properties. It also has maps, surveys, and special information on Jewish, Asian, and African American history in Phoenix. Check it out — it’s a great resource.

Tricia is a City of Phoenix Historic Preservation Commissioner. Visit for information regarding guidelines and approvals. If you have a topic or question you would like Tricia to write about, email her at