In the 1990s, Costa Mesa paid consultants to find buildings and sites that might be eligible for a historic register.
Of 141 properties in the survey area, 27 structures and two areas — the state-owned Orange County Fairgrounds and Orange Coast College — were deemed worthy.
Guided by the newly created list, in late 1999 the City Council passed the Historic Preservation Ordinance, a law designed to "safeguard the city's heritage" and create a local register for which owners of historic properties could voluntarily apply.
Once on the list, the owners would be enticed with special grants, tax deductions, recognition plaques and waivers for city building permits or planning application fees, among other benefits.
Now, nearly 15 years after the ordinance was passed, only one person has taken the bait.
The other 21 buildings eligible for Costa Mesa's historic register are not on any such list. In addition, none of the five properties labeled in 1999 as eligible for the National Register of Historic Places is on the federal list.
According to Art Goddard of the Costa Mesa Historical Society, preservation of historic buildings in this town is always "a crapshoot."
"Each case is different," he said. "Each case is handled individually."
There are some disadvantages to being labeled historic. If the owner were to "restore, rehabilitate, alter, develop, construct, demolish, remove or change the appearance" of the property on the local historic register, a special certificate would be needed.
The one home on Costa Mesa's register is the Huscroft House, built in 1915 in Santa Ana. It was moved to Costa Mesa in 1954.
After its life at 2529 Santa Ana Ave. — where the property has since been subdivided into 10 units — the house was acquired by Costa Mesa in the late 1990s and placed for years in TeWinkle Park, where it became an eyesore to many. Ideas floated about to transform it into a museum in Fairview Park, but eventually the Craftsman home found an owner, who moved it to Bernard Street in 2004 and renovated it.
The council then placed the Huscroft House on the city's local historic register in 2007.
Local historians feel they "dodged a bullet" when it came to losing the Station Master's House at 2150 Newport Blvd. Believed to have been built as early as 1880, it's the oldest home in Costa Mesa.
In the 1990s survey, the tiny house was deemed eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, though it may have trouble making the list because it was moved from its original location decades ago.
The house and adjoining property came up for sale earlier this year. Local Realtor Valerie Torelli indicated she would help raise funds to keep the tiny abode intact, should the new owner not wish to keep it.
Earlier this month the house was sold and the new owner, who wished to remain anonymous, said he wanted to keep the building and maintain it as a residence.
Local historians were able to preserve the memory of Kona Lanes before its closure in 2003. The bowling alley at Harbor Boulevard and Mesa Verde Drive East, was known for its distinctive Googie architecture.
Its neon red Tiki-themed roadside marquee was saved and is now on display in the American Sign Museum in Cincinnati.
The Kona Lanes property, owned by the Segerstrom family, is now part of a 215-unit senior apartment complex.
Though not a building, the Fairview Indian Site, an archaeological remnant in Fairview Park, is Costa Mesa's only listing on the National Register of Historic Places. The council last month approved $110,000 toward permanent fencing around the site as a protective measure.