SurveyLA: What Is It And Why Does It Matter?

SurveyLA – the Los Angeles Historic Resources Survey – is Los Angeles’ first-ever comprehensive program to identify significant historic resources throughout our city.

The survey marks a coming-of-age for Los Angeles’ historic preservation movement, and will serve as a centerpiece for the City’s first truly comprehensive preservation program.

Los Angeles is taking a significant step to identify and protect its rich heritage by identifying and documenting historic resources representing significant themes in the city’s history.

While Los Angeles has over 900 Historic-Cultural Monuments (local landmarks) and 25 Historic Preservation Overlay Zones (Historic Districts, or HPOZs), to date only 15% of the city has been surveyed. This leaves important resources at risk and developers and property owners frequently surprised or exasperated by eleventh-hour preservation efforts. SurveyLA will provide valuable information to City officials, homeowners, neighborhood associations, and preservation groups, and much greater up-front certainty for developers and property owners.

What does Historic-Cultural Monument Status mean?

It recognizes the building, structure, site, or plant life as important to the history of the city, state, or nation;

It provides eligibility for the Mills Act Program, providing a historical property contract that can result in a property tax reduction

It permits use of the California Historical Building Code

It allows property owners to purchase and display a plaque showing that the property has Historic-Cultural Monument status

It requires Cultural Heritage Commission review for proposed exterior and interior alterations in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation, the nationally accepted criteria for evaluating change to historic properties

It fosters civic pride in neighborhoods and business districts, helping develop a sense of place and time, as well as many other benefits as outlined here.

SurveyLA is partially funded by a $2.5 million grant from the J. Paul Getty Trust. Additionally, the Getty Conservation Institute, which has played a crucial leadership role in preparing detailed studies outlining the purpose, benefits, and best practices of a citywide survey, is providing significant technical and advisory support to the project. The project is coordinated by the Department of City Planning’s Office of Historic Resources.

SurveyLA marks a coming-of-age for historic preservation in Los Angeles. In the coming months, as the project progresses, you will be hearing more about the survey and ways to become involved. The Office of Historic Resources looks forward to collaborating with all segments of the Los Angeles community in building creative partnerships that will take full advantage of this exciting opportunity.

How will the survey be conducted?

The survey will cover the period from approximately 1865 to 1980 and include individual resources such as buildings, structures, objects, natural features and cultural landscapes as well as areas and districts (archaeological resources will be included in a future survey phase). Significant resources will reflect important themes in the city’s growth and development in various areas including architecture, city planning, social history, ethnic heritage, politics, industry, transportation, commerce, entertainment, and others.

SurveyLA is organized in two phases to be completed over an approximate six-year period — the two-year Initiation Phase (2006 to 2009) and the three-year Implementation Phase (2010 to 2013). During the Initiation Phase all survey tools and methods were developed and tested. During the Implementation Phase, launching this year, the field survey work will be conducted.

While the survey is proceeding on a very aggressive schedule, the Office of Historic Resources is counseling patience throughout the process. A comprehensive survey in a city the size of Los Angeles cannot be completed overnight. Los Angeles comprises 466 square miles and 880,000 separate legal parcels – an area larger than eight of the nation’s largest cities combined.

Resource List:

SurveyLA Website (part of the City of Los Angeles’ Department of City Planning’s Office of Historic Resources)

Information Regarding Historic-Cultural Monuments and the Cultural Heritage Commission

Historic Cultural Monuments Image Gallery

City of Los Angeles Historic Preservation Overlay Zones and Image Galleries

SurveyLA on Twitter

The Los Angeles Historic Resources Survey Report: A Framework For A Citywide Historic Resource Survey (120p. PDF, Getty Conservation Institute, 2008)

Images, from top:
432 N. Avenue 66 in Garvanza (HCM #107)
Capitol Tower And Rooftop Sign in Hollywood (HCM #857)
Lederer Residence in Canoga Park (HCM #204)
Grand Canal in Venice (HCM #270)
Lady Effie’s Tea Parlor in South Los Angeles (HCM #764)
Weatherwolde Castle in Tujunga (HCM #841)