What is a Historic Resource Survey and why is the County conducting one?
A Historic Resource Survey is the process of systematically, researching, photographing, identifying and documenting Historic Resources within a defined geographic area. The resulting list of evaluated properties and any identified Historic Resources may be consulted for future Landmark designation. Per Section C17-3 of the County Ordinance Code, all surveys shall be conducted in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior's Standards and Guidelines for Identification and Evaluation, as may be amended.
A Historic Resource Survey is typically done on the behest of stakeholders looking to enact preservation measures for a site, building, or area due to its local, state or national historical significance. The County is conducting the San Juan Residential District Historic Survey & Development Standards Study (“Study”) in response to direction from the Board of Supervisors to evaluate the historic character of the neighborhood. The Board provided this direction in response to feedback from residents of the San Juan Residential District (“Residential District”) stating that the Residential District contains several historic residences and could qualify as a Historic District. In order to further evaluate and identify any historic characteristics, the County is conducting a Historic Resource Survey of the neighborhood to determine the following:
- What buildings within the Residential District qualify to be identified as a Historic Resource?
- Do any identified historic buildings in the Residential District collectively contribute to a distinct identifiable development pattern of historic value?
- If so, what are the important shared design and development elements that define the historic character of these buildings?
- If there is an identifiable grouping of historic buildings defined by a shared development pattern of historic value, does that area qualify to be identified as a Historic District and recognized in the County Zoning Ordinance.
What are the Historic Designations the County is considering?
The County is conducting the Study to identify if individual resources of architectural, historical, and cultural merit are present within the Residential District, or if collectively there is an identifiable group of historic resources that could represent a Historic District. The results of the historic survey will determine the options available to the County in applying a historical designation. Any individual buildings found eligible to be classified as a Historic Resource may be considered for listing on the County’s Heritage Resource Inventory. Any building listed on the Heritage Resource Inventory is provided some level of protection from demolition. A property owner may also propose to list a resource on the County’s Heritage Resource Inventory as a Landmark, which provides additional protections regarding alternations to the building. Listing of a building as a Landmark requires owner consent.
The historic survey will also inform the County if there is a grouping of historic resources that could collectively qualify to be identified as a Historic District. Historic Districts are identified in the County Zoning Ordinance as ‘–h’ Historic Preservation Combining Districts. The Zoning Ordinance states that Historic Preservation Combining districts may be “utilized to protect and conserve sites and areas which are of special character, architectural value, or aesthetic interest, if such areas contain at least one registered historic place or resource.” Adoption of a new Historic Preservation Combining District requires approval by the Board of Supervisors and would include the adoption of any specific development standards that recognize the historic character of the Residential District.
What are the standards that need to be met to be eligible for classification as a Historic Resource and a Historic District?
A Historic Resource means any evaluated building, structure, object, or site that potentially meets the Landmark designation criteria outlined in Division C17, Article II of the County Ordinance, Chapter 3.50 of the Zoning Ordinance, or Division C16 of the County Code, or that is listed in a federal or state register.
Either the owner of the property, the Historical Heritage Commission (HHC), or the Board of Supervisors may designate those historic resources as Landmarks, with consent. The Landmark will need to meet the following designation criteria:
- Fifty years or older. If less than 50 years old, sufficient time must have passed to obtain a scholarly perspective on the events or individuals associated with the historic resource and/or the historic resource is a distinctive or important example of its type or style; and
- Retains historic integrity. If a historic resource was moved to prevent demolition at its former location, it may still be considered eligible if the new location is compatible with the original character of the property; and
- Meets one or more of the following criteria of significance:
- Associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of local or regional history, or the cultural heritage of California or the United States;
- Associated with the lives of persons important to local, California or national history;
- Embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, region, or method of construction, or represents the work of a master or possesses high artistic values; or
- Yielded or has the potential to yield information important to the pre-history or history of the local area, California, or the nation.
Historic Resources evaluated in a Historic Resource Survey may be added to the Heritage Resource Inventory by the Board of Supervisors with consideration of a recommendation by HHC. Notice is provided by mail to the property owner and occupant of the subject historic resource at least 30 days prior to the scheduled HHC and Board of Supervisors meetings, in accordance with all applicable laws.
To qualify as a Historic District, a definable unified geographic entity has to possess a significant concentration, linkage, or continuity of sites, buildings, structures, or objects united historically or aesthetically by plan or physical development (State definition of Historical District under Section 5020.1). Furthermore, per County Zoning Ordinance Section 3.50.080, the eligibility for establishing a historic preservation combining district over a neighborhood requires that “ at least one site, building, or structure which is a "registered historic cultural resource". The "-h" historic preservation combining district may include, in addition to any registered historic cultural resource, such additional area as is deemed necessary for the protection of the environment of the registered historic cultural resource against the intrusion of incompatible land uses and development.
The process of establishing a Historic District requires the Board of Supervisors, to approve the designation, with consideration of a recommendation by the HHC. Notice is provided by mail to the property owner and occupant of the subject historic resource at least 30 days prior to the scheduled HHC and Board of Supervisors meetings, in accordance with all applicable laws. Notice includes the date, time, and place of the meeting, a general explanation of the proposed listing to be considered, and a general description of the property location.
If designated, a set of new development standards will be included in the County Ordinance that will guide future development and alternations within the district to maintain the character elements that have been identified as part of the historic resource(s) within the district.
If a home or neighborhood is eligible for a landmark designation, must it be designated?
Per Section C17-6. of the County Code, if a home is eligible for landmark designation, the designation may be initiated by any of the following parties:
- Owner(s) of the historic resource proposed for designation or authorized representative of the owner; or
- Historical Heritage Commission; or
- Board of Supervisors.
At the time of submission of the application for landmark designation, the owner must provide written consent to the designation on a form supplied by the County. Designation of the home or property as a landmark will require an authorization by the Board of Supervisors.
What are the legal steps for an official Landmark designation to take place?
In the case of Landmark designation, the Historic Resource must meet the criterion set forth in Section C17-5 of the County Ordinance Code, and thereafter designation may be initiated by either the owner of the property, the HHC, or the Board of Supervisors. If designation is initiated by the HHC or Board of Supervisors, the Department of Planning and Development or Clerk of the Board of Supervisors shall notify the owner and the occupants of property by certified mail 30 days prior to the HHC or Board of Supervisors meeting regarding initiation of designation and shall request written consent for landmark designation from the owner on a form supplied by the County. Thereafter, a hearing on the application for designation shall be scheduled and a recommendation by the HHC to the Board of Supervisors. The Board of Supervisors would adopt, modify or deny the recommended inclusion in the Heritage Resource Inventory, or a Landmark designation. The listing on the inventory or designation may be repealed or amended in the same manner and procedure as was followed in listing or designation.
What are the opportunities for the community to be involved in the County’s process?
The County is planning to hold four Community Stakeholder Group meetings (CSG) at critical points during the Historic Survey process. There will also be three public meetings, the first will be held on February 26th at the initiation of the study, and one, after the draft ordinances and development standards have been developed if there is sufficient evidence that a designation of Historic District is needed or to otherwise explain the outcome of the study. We hope to understand the nature of the second meeting by Fall of 2020. The public notifications of these meetings will be sent 10 days in advance.
Summary reports and findings during the study will be provided on the project website, with opportunity for public comment through the website where applicable.
Should a Historic District designation be the outcome and new development standards and zoning ordinance amendments required, it would go to the Historic Heritage Commission, the Planning Commission, and the Board of Supervisors for consideration. At each step the County would need to hold appropriately noticed public hearings.