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What is the California Register and What Does It Have to Do With CEQA?

Historical resources are recognized as part of the environment under CEQA (PRC Sections 21002(b), 21083.2, and 21084.1). The California Register is an authoritative guide to the state’s historical resources and to which properties are considered significant for purposes of CEQA.

The California Register includes resources listed in or formally determined eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, as well as some California State Landmarks and Points of Historical Interest. Properties of local significance that have been designated under a local preservation ordinance (local landmarks or landmark districts) or that have been identified in a local historical resources inventory may be eligible for listing in the California Register and are presumed to be significant resources for purposes of CEQA unless a preponderance of evidence indicates otherwise (PRC Section 5024.1, 14 CCR § 4850).

The California Register statute (PRC Section 5024.1) and regulations (14 CCR Section 4850 et seq.) require that at the time a local jurisdiction nominates an historic resources survey for listing in the California Register, the survey must be updated if it is more than five years old. This is to ensure that a nominated survey is as accurate as possible at the time it is listed in the California Register. However, this does not mean that resources identified in a survey that is more than five years old need not be considered “historical resources” for purposes of CEQA. Unless a resource listed in a survey has been demolished, lost substantial integrity, or there is a preponderance of evidence indicating that it is otherwise not eligible for listing, a lead agency should consider the resource to be potentially eligible for the California Register.

However, a resource does not need to have been identified previously either through listing or survey to be considered significant under CEQA. In addition to assessing whether historical resources potentially impacted by a proposed project are listed or have been identified in a survey process, lead agencies have a responsibility to evaluate them against the California Register criteria prior to making a finding as to a proposed project’s impacts to historical resources (PRC Section 21084.1, 14 CCR Section 15064.5(3)).