Survey of Historic Resources

A comprehensive survey documenting the historic resources is key to identifying which places to preserve in a community.

Historic resources surveys are often done as part of the preparation of a community’s General or Specific Plan.

Surveys that meet state standards may identify properties as “historical resources” for the purposes of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which may then provide for a public review process and consideration of preservation alternatives, especially in cases involving egregious alterations or demolition.

Surveys also serve as an invaluable educational tool to inform city officials and residents about the rich built heritage of their communities, and to assist in thoughtful development and environmental planning.

The mere existence of a comprehensive historic resources survey is not a particularly good indicator of the strength of local preservation efforts. To be truly useful, a survey must be regularly reviewed and updated, so that historic buildings or sites that have lost their significance can be noted, and buildings or sites whose significance was not determined at the time the survey was prepared can be recognized.

A number of the communities we contacted for the Preservation Report Card did have comprehensive historic resources surveys. Yet many had not updated their surveys in more than twenty years, limiting their usefulness.