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WHY BECOME A CERTIFIED LOCAL GOVERNMENT (CLG)?

What’s in it for the local jurisdiction? Why would you want to associate your local preservation program with state and federal programs? Would you be giving up autonomy?

Credibility
When your local preservation program is consistent with federal and state standards and regulations you have the backing of programs that have stood the test of time. The National Historic Preservation Act has been around since 1966. The National Register of Historic Places and its criteria are widely recognized and they have been tested legally (reviewed, refined by adoption into regulations, tested and upheld in courts). Although the California Register of Historical Resources is much newer (1992), its criteria and procedures parallel the National Register.

When your local survey and designation program is consistent with the National Register and California Register you know you are on safe ground. Similarly, in project review or adoption of Certificates of Appropriateness, the adoption and use of the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards provides criteria for project evaluation that, again, have stood the tests of time, reasonableness, and the courts. It insulates the local preservation program from charges of being arbitrary and capricious. Becoming a CLG provides the local program the added value of prestige and cachet.

Technical Assistance

A perquisite for becoming a CLG is access to a listserv hosted by the State Office of Historic Preservation. Membership to the listserv is limited to SHPO staff, CLG coordinators, members of CLG boards/commission, and other interested staff in the CLG. It is a communication tool that offers the Office of Historic Preservation and CLGs the opportunity to submit suggestions or questions to other members of the listserv. SHPO staff also uses the listserv to forward information about training opportunities, publications, grants, and a variety of technical assistance to CLGs.

Streamlining
The use of the National Register/California Register criteria and the Secretary of the Interior Standards integrates local, state, and federal levels of review. It brings clarity to the question of what resources are significant when it comes to CEQA and Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. Adopting the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards will allow the use of categorical exemptions under CEQA, and likely result of findings of no adverse effect under Section 106. The use of these criteria and standards make environmental review faster, more efficient, and reduces costs and delays.

Involvement
The CLG program brings local preservation boards and commissions into broader land use planning and project approval processes. CLGs are obligated to involve their boards/commissions in the CEQA and Section 106 review process, as well.

Funding
Each state is required to pass through 10% of its annual Historic Preservation Fund grant from the National Park Service to CLGs to fund their preservation activities. In California, the CLG grant program is competitive for a wider variety of preservation planning activities. This funding is not a large amount, but it can support important activities including completion of a preservation element or plan, a survey, preparation of a National Register district application, or the update of an ordinance. When work is carried out under the CLG grant program, there is the assurance that the work conforms to time-tested state and federal standards.

Autonomy
When your local governments decides to become a CLG, it agrees to carry out the intent of the NHPA and the Secretary of the Interior's Standards. OHP's role is advisory. Recognizing that individual local governments and individuals employed by those local governments often do not have all the background, training, and skills to achieve a good balance between development and preservation, OHP reviews the structure and processes of the local preservation program, and may comment on or make suggestions about strategies a local government can use to accomplish its goals and objectives. Beyond that, neither the NPS nor OHP have any regulatory authority over local governments.

Neither the NPS nor OHP dictate the content of historic preservation plans or ordinances; neither the NPS nor OHP review nor is their approval needed prior to the selection and appointment of individual local preservation commissioners by local government officials. In no way is the autonomy of a local government decreased by becoming a CLG.  However, a CLG may be decertified if it establishes policies or adopts practices that violate the intent of the National Historic Preservation Act.

Economic Benefits
Although there are no direct economic benefits to being a CLG other than the opportunity to compete for CLG grants, your CLG's commitment to historic preservation does result in multiple economic benefits. Where preservation is supported by local government policies and incentives, designation can increase property values and pride of place. Revitalization of historic downtowns and adaptive reuse of historic districts and buildings conserves resources, uses existing infrastructure, generates local jobs and purchasing, supports small business development and heritage tourism and enhances quality of life and community character.