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Frequently Asked Questions

Fix Up, Change or Demolish a Building 45 Years Old or Older

Is there any special review that is required for a project if my property has a building that is 45 years old or older?

San Diego Municipal Code Section 143.0212 (PDF) requires a historical screening process for sites with buildings that are 45 years old or older. The Development Services Department (DSD) administers this section of the Code in conjunction with, or prior to, permit requests. Photographs and building and water permit records will need to be provided to DSD staff so they can determine whether or not a site specific historical study is required. If the project requires a discretionary decision, then an extended initial study for the California Environmental Quality Act will also be required while the determination about potential historical significance is being made. For information on the review process and submittal requirements, please review City Information Bulletin 580. To obtain input from Historical Resources Board staff, see the section on our staff assistance procedure.

What do I do if I have to submit a site specific historical study?

Guidelines for the preparation of a Historical Resource Research Report, as well as Guidelines for applying the City's Designation Criteria, can be found at the buttons on the left. A site-specific historical study for a determination on potential historical significance that is completed in conjunction with a discretionary development project must be prepared consistent with the Historical Resource Technical Report Guidelines, also found the left, and must be prepared by an individual or firm that meets the Secretary of the Interior's Historic Preservation Professional Qualifications Standards.

What if the historical study concludes that my property is potentially significant?

A peer review of the historical study will be performed by City staff. If staff concurs that the property is potentially significant, then the study would be forwarded to the Historical Resources Board for consideration of historical designation (PDF) for the site.

Is there any way to avoid having my property designated but still be able to do my project?

To understand the process for potentially historical sites, it is important to know how designated historical sites are treated. Projects affecting designated sites need to meet the City's historical resources regulations (PDF). If a project may have adverse impacts on a historical resource, a Site Development Permit for historical purposes is required in accordance with San Diego Municipal Code Section 126.0502(d)(E) (PDF). Special findings in Section 126.0504 of the previous link need to be made in order for such a Site Development Permit to be approved. In some cases, a project may be designed in a way to avoid impacts on the potential historical resource, and the project may be able to obtain a Site Development Permit exemption in accordance with San Diego Municipal Code Section 143.0220 (PDF). A project can obtain an exemption from the Site Development Permit, as long as the alterations are not defined as substantial alterations (eg., relocation, major alteration or demolition - see Section 143.0250 in the previous link), by meeting the Secretary of the Interior's Standards.

As an extension of these rules, a site that has a potential historical resource can avoid a designation, and consequently a Site Development Permit for historical purposes, if the project meets the Secretary of the Interior's Standards. To obtain input from Historical Resources Board staff, see the section on our staff assistance procedure (PDF). You may also apply to the Development Services Department for a Single Discipline Preliminary Review (see Information Bulletin 513 (PDF)) to obtain early input on whether or not your project meets the Secretary of the Interior's Standards.

What if the project just cannot accommodate preservation of the potential resource and I want to demolish it, relocate it or substantially alter it?

If your project will not meet the Secretary of the Interior's Standards and City staff has determined that there is a potential historical resource on site, the site specific historical study will be referred by the Development Services Department to the Historical Resources Board for consideration of designation. If the site is designated, and the project continues to not meet the Secretary of the Interior's Standards, then a Process 4 Site Development Permit will be required in accordance with San Diego Municipal Code Section 126.0502(d)(E) (PDF). The Historical Resources Board would consider the project at a public hearing for a recommendation to the Planning Commission at the point in time when all of the project's review cycles are complete and the environmental document is final. Mitigation measures would be considered as part of the environmental document, and the Historical Resources Board may recommend further permit conditions to address other historical aspects of the project in order for the Site Development Permit findings in Section 126.0504 of the previous link to be met. The Historical Resources Board may recommend approval or denial of the Site Development Permit. The Planning Commission would consider the project along with the Historical Resources Board's recommendation before taking final action on the project. The Planning Commission's decision is appealable to the City Council.

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