69°

San Diego
Weather

Historic Contexts and Surveys

Historic Preservation Planning Section

 

Overview

Historic contexts and surveys are critical tools for understanding, identifying, evaluating, and protecting the City’s historical resources. Historic contexts provide the foundation for preservation planning and successful survey work. They describe the broad patterns of historical development of a community or region that are represented by the physical development and character of the built environment. Historic Contexts are not intended to be a chronological recitation of a community’s significant historical events or noteworthy citizens or a comprehensive community history. Rather, historic context statements are intended to provide an analytical framework for identifying and evaluating resources by focusing on and concisely explaining what aspects of geography, history and culture significantly shaped the physical development of a community or region’s land use patterns and built environment over time, what important property types were associated with those developments, why they are important, and what characteristics they need to have to be considered an important representation of their type and context.

Historic resource surveys are performed to identify, record, and evaluate historic properties within a community, neighborhood, project area, or region. Surveys provide many benefits, including the information needed to make informed planning decisions, prioritize preservation goals and objectives, develop and implement land use policies, and educate the public and increase the understanding of and appreciation for the built environment as a tangible reminder of the community’s history. Surveys also assist in the identification of resources worthy of designation in the City of San Diego’s Register of Historic Resources, the California Register of Historical Resources, or the National Register of Historic Places.

Conducting a survey involves three sets of activities: archival research and development of a historic context, field survey, and recording of information. Although archival research begins before fieldwork, and much information is recorded as the result of fieldwork, all three activities will normally be going on at once. Archival research will indicate what to look for and what to record, and fieldwork and recordation will identify information needs to be pursued in archival research. Both the Secretary of the Interior's Guidelines for Identification and common practice distinguish between two general levels of survey: reconnaissance and intensive survey. Both kinds of survey involve background documentary research into the community's history, archeology and architecture, as well as field work, but they are different in terms of the level of effort involved.

A reconnaissance survey may be thought of as a "once over lightly" inspection of an area, most useful for characterizing its resources in general and for developing a basis for deciding how to organize and orient more detailed survey efforts. In conjunction with a general review of pertinent literature on the community's past, a reconnaissance survey may involve such activities as a “windshield survey” of the community noting the general distribution of buildings, structures and neighborhoods representing different architectural styles, periods and modes of construction; review of aerial photographs and historical maps; and detailed inspection of sample blocks or areas.

An intensive survey, as the name implies, is a close and careful look at the area being surveyed. It is designed to identify precisely and completely all historic resources in the area. It generally involves detailed background research, and a thorough inspection and documentation of all historic properties in the field. It should produce all the information needed to evaluate historic properties and prepare an inventory.

Detailed information on the purpose and intent of historic context statements and surveys, as well as how to conduct them, is available from the California State Office of Historic Preservation and the National Park Service:

 

City of San Diego Contexts and Surveys

The City of San Diego maintains a number of historic contexts statements and surveys. Some contexts, such as the Modernism Context Statement and the LGBTQ Historic Context Statement, are more thematic than geographic in nature, and apply City-wide. Other contexts are focused on specific communities or Community Planning Areas. Some contexts were developed without subsequent surveys, and are used to evaluate individual properties and districts, and could be used in future survey work. The City has a number of finalized surveys, some contexts and surveys that are in progress, and several older, suspended surveys that are useful as a source for historic photos and basic property descriptions. Links to the City's archive of contexts and surveys, along with a brief summary of each document, are provided below. Staff is the process of digitizing and uploading additional documents, so check back soon.

 

Finalized Historic Context Statements (Without Surveys)

The following historic context statements, which have been finalized, were prepared as stand-alone contexts and did not include a historic resource survey:

  • PDF icon Ocean Beach Historic Context Statement (2015): Prepared in support of the comprehensive update to the Ocean Beach Community Plan, the Ocean Beach Historic Context Statement is intended to provide the historic context for the development of Ocean Beach and identify themes significant to that development.
  • PDF icon San Diego Citywide Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Historic Context Statement (2016): Prepared with funding from a Certified Local Government Grant, the San Diego Citywide LGBTQ Historic Context Statment is intended to provide guidance for identifying and evaluating potential historic resources related to San Diego’s rich LGBTQ history.
  • PDF icon San Diego Modernism Historic Context Statement (2007): Prepared with funding from a Certified Local Government Grant, the San Diego Modernism Historic Context Statement is designed to address the regional and local emergence of Modern architecture in San Diego; the architects, builders and other individuals significant in the development of Modernism in San Diego; as well as the property types and sub-styles which characterize San Diego Modernism and the criteria which should be applied to evaluate those resources and establish significance.
  • PDF icon Southeastern Historic Context Statement (2014): Prepared in support of the comprehensive updates to the Southeastern and Encanto Community Plans, the Southeastern Historic Context Statement (which also address the community of Encanto) is intended to provide the historic context for the development of the Southeastern and Encanto communities and identify themes significant to that development.

 

Finalized Historic Context Statements and Surveys

The following historic context statements included reconnaissance-level survey work to identify potential historic resources associated with the context. These documents have been finalized:

  • PDF icon Barrio Logan Historical Resources Survey (2011):  Prepared in conjunction with the Barrio Logan Community in support of the comprehensive update to the Community Plan, the Barrio Logan Historical Resources Survey included a literature review, a records search, archival research, preparation of a historic context statement, field reconnaissance, data analysis, and a report. The survey boundaries included the Barrio Logan plan area, with the exception of the area southwest of Harbor Boulevard. The survey was focused on buildings constructed before 1965 and those visible from the street. A total of 485 properties were surveyed including Chicano Park, established in 1970.  Of the 485 properties surveyed, 129 properties were found to be potentially significant under the City of San Diego's designation criteria..

  • PDF icon Downtown San Diego African-American Heritage Study (2004): This study focuses on African-American history and culture within the context of the development of portions of downtown San Diego. While the role and context of other ethnic and racial groups were by no means ignored, and in fact could not be ignored given the interwoven nature of the African American, Latino, and Asian American communities, the emphasis was on persons of African-American descent, their history, their cultural heritage, their role, and the places that would be important to them.

  • PDF icon Golden Hill Community Plan Area Historic Resources Survey (2016): Prepared in support of the comprehensive update to the Golden Hill Community Plan, the Golden Hill Community Plan Area Historic Resources Survey included a literature review, a records search, archival research, preparation of a historic context statement, field reconnaissance, evaluation, and a report. The survey boundaries included the Golden Hill plan area, and focused on buildings constructed before 1970 visible from the street. Only properties identified as potentially significant -either as an individual site or as a feautre of a potential historic district were documented. The consultant identified 1 potential historic district and 1 potential multiple property listing, as well as 52 individual properties which appear eligible for local designation under the City of San Diego's designation criteria.. In addition, working with members of the community, staff identified a larger potential boundary for the identified district, 1 additional potential historic district, 1 additional potential indiviudal resource, and 5 additions to the multiple property listing, which are noted in the survey report. (Individual property survey forms are pending upload to the City's CHRID. Check back for updates and links.)

  • PDF icon North Park Community Plan Area Historic Resources Survey (2016): Prepared in support of the comprehensive update to the North Park Community Plan, the North Park Community Plan Area Historic Resources Survey included a literature review, a records search, archival research, preparation of a historic context statement, field reconnaissance, evaluation, and a report. The survey boundaries included the North Park plan area, and focused on buildings constructed before 1970 visible from the street. Only properties identified as potentially significant -either as an individual site or as a feautre of a potential historic district were documented. The consultant identified 6 potential historic district and 1 potential multiple property listing, as well as 47 individual properties which appear eligible for local designation under the City of San Diego's designation criteria.. In addition, working with members of the community, staff identified 5 additional potential historic districts, 21 additional potential indiviudal resources, and 5 additions to the multiple property listing, which are noted in the survey report. (Individual property survey forms are pending upload to the City's CHRID. Check back for updates and links.)

  • PDF icon Otay Mesa Community Plan Update Historic Context Statement and Historic Resource Survey (2008): Prepared in support of the comprehensive update to the Otay Mesa Community Plan, the Otay Mesa Community Plan Update Historic Context Statement and Historic Resource Survey included a literature review, a records search, archival research, preparation of a historic context statement, field reconnaissance, evaluation, and a report. The survey boundaries included the Otay Mesa plan area, and did not reveal the presence of any historic resources beyond the 7 historically designated resources previously identified.

  • PDF icon San Ysidro Historic Context Statement and Reconnaissance Survey (2011): Prepared with funding from a Certified Local Government Grant in support of the comprehensive update to the San Ysidro Community Plan, the San Ysidro Historic Context Statement and Reconnaissance Survey included a literature review, a records search, archival research, preparation of a historic context statement, field reconnaissance, evaluation, and a report. The survey boundaries included the San Ysidro plan area, and the analysis revealed 2 potential historic districts and 12 individual properties which appear eligible for local designation under the City of San Diego's designation criteria.

  • PDF icon Uptown Community Plan Area Historic Resources Survey (2016): Prepared in support of the comprehensive update to the Uptown Community Plan, the Uptown Community Plan Area Historic Resources Survey included a literature review, a records search, archival research, preparation of a historic context statement, field reconnaissance, evaluation, and a report. The survey boundaries included the Uptown plan area, and was focused on buildings constructed before 1961 visible from the street. Of the 11,000 properties surveyed, the analysis revealed 22 potential historic districts, 2 multiple property listings, and just under 2,200 individual properties which appear eligible for local designation under the City of San Diego's designation criteria. (Individual property survey forms are pending upload to the City's CHRID. Check back for updates and links.)

 

Draft Historic Contexts and Surveys

The following historic contexts statements and surveys are currently in development:

 

Suspended Historic Contexts and Surveys

The following historic context statements and surveys were never finalized, for varying reasons. These surveys are useful primarily for historic photo documentation and basic building descriptions. Please contact [email protected] for more information.

  • Draft Barrio Logan/Logan Heights (1989)
  • Draft La Jolla Survey (2004)
  • Draft North Park Survey (2004)

(Updated October 2017)

You must have Javascript enabled to use this form.