Background on Historical Resources Preservation
There are a number of ways in which local communities and the State
encourage or require the preservation of California's historical resources.
Before delving into how the CEQA requirements augment this preservation
activity, a short overview of State and local preservation mechanisms is
in order. Keep in mind that while the immediately following discussion reviews
historic preservation programs, the focus of this advisory paper is on the
CEQA-mandated process of evaluating development projects for potential significant
effects on historical resources.
The State Historic Resources Commission and the Office of Historic Preservation
(SHPO) within the Department of Parks and Recreation administer California's
historic preservation programs. The appointed Commission's pertinent duties
include: evaluating applications and recommending properties for listing
on the National Register of Historic Places; maintaining a statewide inventory
of historical resources, including historical landmarks and points of interest;
establishing criteria for recording and preserving historical resources;
developing and adopting criteria for rehabilitating historic structures;
developing and annually updating a statewide historic resources plan; overseeing
administration of the California Register of Historic Places, including
recommending standards for the evaluation of historic resources for inclusion
in the register; and developing criteria and procedures for selecting enhancement
and preservation projects for funding under the National Historic Preservation
Fund, the California Heritage Fund, and other funding programs (Section
SHPO's duties include: serving as staff to the Commission; overseeing State
agency compliance with State preservation statutes and programs; administering
Federal preservation programs in California; administering State programs
such as the California Register; providing information and technical assistance
to agencies and the public; and reviewing and commenting on the impact on
historic resources of publicly funded projects and programs (Section 5020.6).
The California Register of Historical Resources is an authoritative guide
to identifying the State's historical resources. It establishes a list of
those properties which are to be protected from substantial adverse change
A historical resource may be listed in the California Register if it meets
any of the following criteria: (1) it is associated with events that have
made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of California's history
and cultural heritage; (2) it is associated with the lives of persons important
in California's past; (3) it embodies the distinctive characteristics of
a type, period, region, or method of construction, or represents the work
of an important creative individual, or possesses high artistic value; or
(4) it has yielded or is likely to yield information important in prehistory
or history. The Register includes properties which are listed or have been
formally determined to be eligible for listing in the National Register,
State Historical Landmarks, and eligible Points of Historical Interest.
Other resources require nomination for inclusion in the Register. These
may include resources contributing to the significance of a local historic
district, individual historical resources, historical resources identified
in historic resources surveys conducted in accordance with SHPO procedures,
historic resources or districts designated under a local ordinance consistent
with Commission procedures, and local landmarks or historic properties designated
under local ordinance.
An individual resource, district, or local landmark may be nominated for
inclusion in the Register by a resident, a landowner, or a local government.
The Commission will review each request, after providing the opportunity
for affected property owners, local agencies, and interested persons to
comment on the proposed listing, before determining whether to include the
resource on the Register (Section 5024.1). If the local government objects
to the nomination, the Commission must make supportive findings for any
listing. Nominations for which there is owner objection will not be placed
in the Register, but may nonetheless be listed as eligible.
There are several State and federal programs which directly promote historic
preservation. In order to encourage rehabilitation, rather than demolition
or removal of historic values, the State Historical Building Code (Health
and Safety Section 18950, et seq.) can be applied to qualifying structures.
This allows repairs, renovations, and other construction in variance to
the Uniform Building Code (UBC). The Mills Act (Revenue and Taxation Code
Sections 439 et seq.) offers property tax relief in exchange for an agreement
from the property owner to maintain the historic resource for a period of
10 years. The Marks Historical Rehabilitation Act authorizes cities, counties
and redevelopment agencies to issue tax-exempt revenue bonds to finance
the rehabilitation of significant historic buildings. In addition, Federal
investment tax credits are also available for qualified rehabilitation of
The State Office of Historic Preservation publishes a guide, The Survey
of Surveys which lists all local resource surveys known to the SHPO.
The State Office also provides a fact sheet about the California Register.
Guidelines for the nomination of properties to the California Register are
being developed by SHPO and may be available by the beginning of 1997. The
SHPO can be contacted at:
1416 Ninth Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
Other good sources of information on local surveys and designations are
the city or county planning department and the local historical society.
Specific information about a property identified in a formal survey can
be obtained through the 11 regional Information Centers for California Historical
Resources (formerly the Regional Archaeological Information Centers). A
list of these centers is found in Appendix
Cities and counties use a number of tools to identify and protect historical
resources. For instance, at least 60 cities and counties have adopted general
plan elements containing detailed policies on historic preservation or historic
structures. About 20 percent of California's cities and counties (1986)
have completed historic resource surveys.
A variety of local actions directly protect historical resources by limiting
the kinds of changes that can be made to them. Historic preservation ordinances
for identified landmarks, historic districts, and other qualifying resources
which require consideration of a use permit or other discretionary permit
prior to changes in the resource are the most effective means of protection.
Architectural design controls, for example, generally require that proposed
alterations receive the review and approval of an architectural review commission
or board. In order to encourage owners to preserve significant properties,
some localities assist owners in obtaining low-interest rehabilitation loans,
help finance improvements through redevelopment or other activities (particularly
in historic business districts), and may engage in outright purchase to
protect the integrity of historic resources.
Next: CEQA Provisions
Appendix 1: Excerpts from the Public
Appendix 2: Historical Resources Information
For more information, contact:
State of California
Governor's Office of Planning and Research
1400 Tenth Street
Sacramento, CA 95814