Local News

City to hire firm to survey pre-1976 Davis buildings

By From page A1 | August 08, 2014

Thinking about doing a major remodel on an older building? Thanks to a state grant and volunteers, the city is looking to save you potentially thousands of dollars soon.

City staff will recommend a consultant to the City Council to head up a historical survey effort using local and regional volunteers to look at buildings and homes built before 1976. Sounds nice enough, but the effort’s result is hardly the sole realm of history buffs.

Once the survey is completed, the historical significance of every older property in Davis will be known, and property owners who seek approvals for major remodels won’t have to pay money for private historical surveys, which range from several-hundred to thousands of dollars, said Ike Njoku, city historical resources manager.

The city’s hiring of a firm to oversee the task will come as a result of winning the maximum $40,000 grant from the state Office of Historic Preservation. For comparison, the city of San Francisco was one a few cities in the state to be granted the maximum.

A recent meeting at the Hattie Weber Museum for potential volunteers netted about eight people, said Rand Herbert, chairman of the city’s Historical Resources Management Commission. Once a consulting firm is hired, the company will recruit more volunteers and figure out how best to suit each person to the tasks associated with surveying the entire city.

That will mean men and women in safety vests walking through local neighborhoods to take pictures of houses, Njoku said.

But photography is only one part of the equation. There may be federal and state forms to fill out and get ready for processing, historical research to get done, and clerical assistance. Needless to say, different types of volunteers can do different things.

At the top skill level, Herbert said, volunteers with real-world responsibilities and experience in historical identification and preservation will enable the city to get matching money for their time and effort, in comparison to other volunteers who don’t come with such credentials.

Herbert said the consultant may augment local volunteers with researchers from a public history program at Sacramento State.

“Those students need internships,” he said.

The way homes and buildings will be analyzed depends on a number of factors, Herbert said, including whether they were built before World War II. Those buildings are called “survivors” in the parlance of historical preservation because they lasted beyond the encroachment of suburban subdivision building.

Yet being old isn’t always a ticket to being considered historical. The site has to have some architectural or other kind of significance in history, Herbert said. Subdivisions offer up the least paydirt, historically speaking, but not always, he said.

“Every now and then you’ll have a subdivision that has unique characteristics,” Herbert said, such as a well-known architect or an architect who influenced architectural movements.

Plus, each subdivision has a few models of houses, usually, so volunteers may not need to analyze everything in the neighborhood.

When it’s completed, this will be one in a handful of historical surveys completed of Davis buildings, mostly focused on downtown in the past. In downtown’s case, volunteers may need to only update the city records.

With the city’s hire of a consultant soon to come, interested locals who want to contribute something to local history should contact Njoku at 530-757-5610, ext. 7230, or [email protected] To learn more about the Certified Local Government program, visit www.ohp.parks.ca.gov.

— Reach Dave Ryan at [email protected] or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @davewritesnews.com

Dave Ryan

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