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Frequently Asked Questions

Learn How a Property Becomes Historical

Who decides what is historical?

Historical status is established by a specific designation vote (PDF) of the City's Historical Resources Board. Properties are designated by the Historical Resources Board based on the Board's review of a historical study that documents the property's significance. Historical studies are typically prepared by a historic consultant (a list is available upon request), but property owners may prepare a study on their own for historical designation. Historical site designations are made by the Board at a publicly noticed hearing. The owner is specifically notified in writing before the hearing. After a property has been designated as a historical site, it will be placed on the City's Register of Designated Historical Resources (PDF). There are more than 1500 sites within San Diego presently listed either on their own or as part of historical districts.

What information is required to be in the historical study?

The City of San Diego Land Development Manual contains submittal requirements for information to be included in a historical study. Requirements are slightly different for the Development Services Department related to projects versus requirements for the Planning Department on designation requests not related to any project.

What makes a property historically significant?

In order to be designated as a historically significant site, the historical study must show that sites meet at least one of the following City of San Diego historical designation criteria:

  1. Exemplifies or reflects special elements of the City's, a community's or a neighborhood's historical, archaeological, cultural, social, economic, political, aesthetic, engineering, landscaping or architectural development.
  2. Is identified with persons or events significant in local, state or national history.
  3. Embodies distinctive characteristics of a style, type, period or method of construction or is a valuable example of the use of indigenous materials or craftsmanship.
  4. Is representative of the notable work of a master builder, designer, architect, engineer, landscape architect, interior designer, artist or craftsman.
  5. Is listed or has been determined eligible by the National Park Service for listing on the National Register of Historic Places or is listed or has been determined eligible by the California State Office of Historic Preservation for listing on the California Register of Historical Resources.
  6. Is a finite group of resources related to one another in a clearly distinguishable way or is a geographically definable area or neighborhood containing improvements which have a special character, historical interest or aesthetic value or which represent one or more architectural periods or styles in the history and development of the City.

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