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Glossary of Terms

Many of our members are new to historic preservation and may be unfamiliar with the language and terms of this field. We hope you will find this useful. If you still have questions, please don't hesitate to call or email SOHO.

Adaptive Re-Use
The method of preservation where a building retains its signature visual elements, but the structure is used for a purpose other than originally intended. The term implies that certain structural or design changes have been made to the building in order for it to function in its new use. Examples might include a factory building now used for loft apartments.

CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act)
A statute that requires state and local agencies to identify the significant environmental impacts of their actions and to avoid or mitigate those impacts, if feasible.

Character-defining/distinctive feature
Features particular to a historic structure that distinguish and/or typify its character in terms of its original visual and structural design (and engineering) and in terms of its historic function or use.

CLG (Certified Local Governments)
A local government, certified or approved by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), which has an appointed commission to oversee the survey and inventory of historic resources, to review areas for historically significant structures, and to develop and maintain community planning and education programs.

Cultural Landscape Preservation
Preservation of cultural landscapes, or areas "where the interaction between man and nature created a unique whole" or "places in nature that have acquired significant associations with human activities and human events. Examples of cultural landscapes include the Oregon Trail, San Pasqual Valley, Balboa Park, Presidio Park, Camp Pendleton, the Coronado Railroad or a landscape made famous by a work of art.

Cultural Resource Surveys
Inventories of sites, buildings, structures, or objects deemed to have local, regional, national, or international cultural significance. The purpose of such surveys is to have a record of what is significant in order to protect such resources from development or encroachment or to document the current appearance or condition for the record.

Cultural Tourism
Includes the artistic, cultural and historical offerings of an area that attract and/or extend the stay of visitors.

Demolition by Neglect
The destruction of a building through abandonment or lack of maintenance.

DPR form
Primary Record and Building, Structure and Object form.

Easement
Legal protection (recorded in a property deed) for distinguishing features of the interior or exterior of a property or in the space surrounding a property because such features are deemed important to be preserved. For example, a new property owner may be prevented from making changes or additions to a building, structure, or landscape by an easement in the property deed itself. These are sometimes specified as preservation easements or conservation easements.

EIR (Environmental Impact Report)
A document required under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). It describes a particular project location in its existing setting, describes the impacts which a project will have on the environment both on and adjacent to the property, and proposes mitigation measures.

Geotourism
Focuses on preserving a destination's geographic character, which is the combination of natural and human attributes that make one place distinct from another. Geotourism encompasses cultural and environmental concerns as well as the local impact tourism has upon communities and their individual economies and lifestyles.

Historic District
A defined geographical area which may be as small as a few contiguous buildings or as large as an entire neighborhood, central business district, or community, within which historic properties associated with a particular time or theme in a community's history predominate. Often the collective significance of the district may be greater than that of any one building or archaeological site. As a planning tool, historic district designation is often used to ensure the preservation of historic properties within the defined boundary or to encourage reinvestment of the buildings.

Historic Fabric
Any important components of the building such as doors and windows as well as the apparently mundane and hidden areas that are original to the building.

  • Formless materials such as rubble or flint wall construction;
  • Structure within voids such as floor joists and roof timbers;
  • Redundant parts of a building such as unused door openings or machinery.

Historic Integrity (per National Register criteria)
The authenticity of a property's historic identity, evidenced by the survival of physical characteristics that existed during the property's period of significance. Including integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association. The ability of a resource to convey its historical significance.

Historic Overlay Zone
A special zone placed over an existing zoning district, part of a district, or a combination of districts. An overlay zone includes a set of regulations that is applied to property within the overlay zone in addition to the requirements of the underlying or base-zoning district. A historic district design review is established through a zoning ordinance rather than an independent process such as establishing a Local Historic District (LHD). The Historic Overlay tier is applied to an area considered worthy of preservation because of its architectural, cultural or historic significance.

Historic Registers
Refers to any local, state, national, or international list of significant sites, districts, buildings, or objects.

Historic Significance (per National Register criteria)
The importance of a property to the history, architecture, archaeology, engineering, or culture of a community, state, or nation. Historic significance is achieved in meeting one or more of the following criteria:

  1. Association with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history;
  2. Association with the lives of persons significant in our past;
  3. Embodiment of the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction or that represent the work of a master, or that possess high artistic values, or that represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction; or
  4. Yielded, or potential to yield, information important in prehistory or history.

HSR (Historic Structures Report)
Comprehensive reference documents providing long-term preservation guidance for historic property. Survey work involves both documentary research and in depth on-site inspection. Reports typically include narratives on the property's history and construction; descriptions and photographs showing its original appearance and current conditions; original paint colors; materials conservation analysis; and other specifications for restoration work.

Infill
The use of vacant land and property within a built-up area for further construction or development, especially as part of a neighborhood preservation or limited growth program.

Mills Act
A California state law allowing cities to enter into agreements with the owners of historic structures. Such agreements require a reduction of property taxes in exchange for the continued preservation of the property. Property taxes are recalculated using a formula in the Mills Act and Revenue and Taxation Code.

Mitigation
The reduction of adverse effects of a proposed project by considering, in the following order:

  1. Avoiding the impact altogether by not taking a certain action or parts of an action;
  2. minimizing impacts by limiting the degree or magnitude of the action and its implementation;
  3. rectifying the impact by repairing, rehabilitating or restoring the effected environment;
  4. reducing or eliminating the impact over time by preservation and maintenance operations during the life of the action by monitoring and taking appropriate measures; and
  5. compensating for the impact by replacing or providing comparable substitute.

National Historic Landmark
National Historic Landmarks "possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating and interpreting the heritage of the United States." This is a national designation and only a small fraction of all sites listed in the National Register of Historic Places bear this designation.

National Historic Preservation Act
Enacted in 1966, the National Historic Preservation Act established a federal program aimed at preserving historically significant resources. Section 106 of the Act requires federal agencies to consider the impacts of their actions on sites that are listed in or eligible to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places. This includes examining alternatives that would reduce or avoid harm to these resources.

National Register of Historic Places
Established by the National Historic Preservation Act, the National Register of Historic Places is "the Nation's official list of cultural resources worthy of preservation."

Reconstruction
The recreation of a historic building or feature that has been demolished or destroyed based on documentation or research. The product resembles its historic predecessor, but is not historic.

Rehabilitation
The process of returning a property to a state of utility, through repair or alteration, which makes possible an efficient contemporary use while preserving those portions and features of the property which are significant to its historic, architectural, and cultural values.

Renovation
Modernization of an old or historic building or structure that may produce inappropriate alterations or eliminate important features and details of Historic Places.

Restoration
The act of returning a historic property as closely as possible to its exact appearance at a particular point in time, based on careful research. This often involves removing modern systems, technological improvements and additions.

Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation
A broad set of guidelines for the rehabilitation of historic properties designated to encourage work which is in keeping with the historic character of the building and which does not do damage to the building's historic fabric.

Section 106
A portion of the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 directing agencies of the federal government and peoples using federal funds, permits or licenses to consider the effects of their proposed projects on properties eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places during the planning stage of their project, and to allow the State Historic Preservation Officer and the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation to comment on their findings. A Section 106 Review is a routine part of the planning phase that is federally assisted and is meant to ensure that federal funds are being spent in a way which is consistent with the policy of preserving historic properties whenever possible set forth by Congress in the National Historic Preservation Act.

Sustainable Tourism
The primary concern of sustainable tourism is to support balance within the ecological environment and minimize the impact upon it by mass-market tourism. The use of this term is evolving as it is also used to describe the impact of mass-tourism on cultural and historic resources.

(Sub) Urban Sprawl
A pattern and pace of land development in which the rate of land consumed for (sub) urban purposes exceeds the rate of population growth using the developed land. Sprawl results in an inefficient and consumptive use of land and its associated resources.

Sympathetic Additions
Additions to structures, which follow or complement the architectural style or scale of the original building.

Transfer of Development Rights
Historic Sites are often located where zoning would permit much larger buildings should they be replaced. The owner of a landmark may transfer unused development rights from his lot to an adjacent site where a new building is to be constructed. This transaction, allowing the new building to be larger, enables the landmark owner to realize some of the present-day value of his land without destroying the historic building.

2005 - Volume 36, Issue 3

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Strength in Numbers


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