Disasters and Historic Resources Q&A
For purposes of Federal actions (see FEMA), a qualified historic resource is defined as a property listed in or formally determined eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places before a disaster occurs.
For purposed of State actions, the California Health and Safety Code Section 18955 defines a qualified historical building or property as any building, site, structure, object, district or collection of structures, and their associated sites, deemed of importance to the history, architecture or culture of an area by an appropriate local, state or federal government jurisdiction. This shall include structures on existing or future national, state, or local historical registers or official inventories, such as the National Register of Historic Places, State Historical Landmarks, State Points of Historical Interest, and city or county registers or inventories of historical or architecturally significant sites, places, historic districts or landmarks.”
Local and state agencies and organizations may consider a broader definition of qualified historic properties in the review, evaluation, and treatment of properties damaged during a disaster.
A property is considered historic if it is listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. The National Register is the nation’s official list of buildings, sites, objects, and districts that warrant special preservation consideration. California has approximately 15,900 historic properties listed in the National Register either individually (more than 13,500) or as contributing properties within nearly 330 historic districts.
The California Historical Resources Information System (CHRIS) includes the statewide Historical Resources Inventory (HRI) database maintained by OHP and the records maintained and managed, under contract, by ten independent regional Information Centers (ICs), To find out if a property is listed contact the regional IC which services the county in which the property is located.
Be prepared! You should identify your risk(s) and appropriately reduce those risk(s), understand your property’s character and integrity, and list your property in the National Register of Historic Places.
Depending on your risks, property protection could range from emergency preparedness, actual property work such as creating a fire safe zone around property susceptible to wildfires or seismically strengthening or structurally reinforcing structures, to hazard mitigation planning and work.
Have sufficient insurance coverage and a clear understanding of what your coverage pays for and what it does not. Does your policy cover replacement in-kind or only pay for substitute materials and techniques?
What assistance is available for historic property owners in case of a disaster?
OHP may be able to provide technical rehabilitation and preservation services to owners of historic properties affected by a natural disaster. Staff may be able to consult with local governments, non-profit organizations, and the general public on recovery and rehabilitation procedures. Services may include telephone consultations, copies of technical articles and information, on-site inspections and evaluations, and referrals for local responsible contacts.
• Lists of appropriate consultants and contractors may be available at regional ICs and local governmental agencies and/or preservation organizations. Contacts for assistance, guidance on response and recovery, and materials may also be available within your local area.
Although there are no federal or state funds available to private owners specifically for historic properties impacted by disasters, historic properties may be entitled to additional consideration from private insurers and state and federal relief agencies. Be sure to indicate on all claims or requests for assistance that your property is or may be historic.
Other Historic Preservation Incentives include federal, state, and local incentives that may assist in disaster preparedness, response, and recovery as well as regularly scheduled work.
The Seismic Bond Act for unreinforced masonry buildings provides a seismic improvement 15-year assessment exclusion.
American with Disabilities Act (ADA) Incentives include a tax credit and a deduction for accessibility improvements made to a business.
The Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives Program provides for a 20% tax credit for the substantial rehabilitation of income-producing historic buildings that meet the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation and a 10% tax credit for non-historic, non-residential buildings placed in service before 1936. Both National Park Service and Internal Revenue Service regulations and requirements apply.
List your properties! Make sure documentation of National Register listed and eligible properties is current. This is important for FEMA activities covered under Section 106 review. Adopt preservation friendly legislation, ordinances, and other planning and zoning tools that properly address historic properties in times of disaster.
An imminent threat is defined under the California Historical Building Code as any condition within or affecting a qualified historical building or property which, in the opinion of the authority having jurisdiction, would qualify a building or property as dangerous to the extent that the life, health, property or safety of the public, its occupants or those performing necessary repair, stabilization or shoring work are in immediate peril due to conditions affecting the building or property. Potential hazards to persons using, or improvements within, the right-of-way may not be construed to be “imminent threats” solely for that reason if the hazard can be mitigated by shoring, stabilization, barricades or temporary fences.
What is a qualified historic building or structure for use of the California Historic Building Code?
Public Resources Code, Section 18955 states, “For the purposes of this part, a qualified historical building or structure is any structure or collection of structures, and their associated sites deemed of importance to the history, architecture or culture of an area by an appropriate local or state governmental jurisdiction. This shall include structures on existing or future national, state or local historical registers or official inventories, such as the National Register of Historic Places, State Historical Landmarks, State Points of Historical Interest, and city or county registers or inventories of historical or architecturally significant sites, places, historic districts or landmarks.”
What is a qualified historic resource for FEMA purposes?
"Historic property" is any district, building, structure, site, or object that is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places because the property is significant at the national, state, or local level in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, or culture. Typically, a historic property must be at least 50 years old and retain integrity.
An immediate threat is defined by FEMA as the threat of damage to improved private or public property or to lives, public health, and safety as a result of an event that could reasonably occur within 5 years. Debris removal, emergency protective measures, and emergency repairs to some facilities are eligible only if these actions are necessary to lessen or eliminate an immediate threat. For example, an immediate threat for an earthquake may exist if aftershocks could cause further damage to a structure or threaten the safety of the structure's occupants. See also Public Assistance Policy Digest (FEMA Report 321).
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region IX
1111 Broadway, Suite 1200
Oakland, CA 94607-4052
Environment & Historic Preservation Contact:
California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES)
3650 Schriever Ave.
Mather , CA 95655-4203
(916) 845-8511 FAX