The California State Office of Historic Preservation (OHP) is responsible for administering federally and state mandated historic preservation programs to further the identification, evaluation, registration and protection of California's irreplaceable archaeological and historical resources under the direction of the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO), a gubernatorial appointee, and the State Historical Resources Commission
OHP's responsibilities include:

  • Identifying, evaluating, and registering historic properties;
  • Ensuring compliance with federal and state regulatory obligations;
  • Encouraging the adoption of economic incentives programs designed to benefit property owners;
  • Encouraging economic revitalization by promoting a historic preservation ethic through preservation education and public awareness and, most significantly, by demonstrating leadership and stewardship for historic preservation in California.

Architectural Review and Incentives

OHP administers the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives Program and provides architectural review and technical assistance to other government agencies and the general public in the following areas:

  • Interpretation and application of the Secretary of the Interior's Standards and Guidelines for the Treatment of Historic Properties;
  • General assistance with and interpretation of the California Historical Building Code and provisions for qualified historic properties under the Americans with Disabilities Act;
  • Developing and implementing design guidelines;
  • Preservation incentives available for historic properties;
  • Sustainability and adaptive reuse of historic properties.


Information Management

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 twelve independent regional Information Centers (ICs).  The ICs provide archeological and historical resources information, on a fee-for-service basis, to local governments and individuals with responsibilities under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), as well as to the general public. ICs collect and maintain information on historical and archaeological resources which was not reviewed under a program administered by OHP.

Local Government Assistance

OHP works with California's city and county governments to aid them in integrating historic preservation into the broader context of overall community planning and development activities by adopting a comprehensive approach to preservation planning which combines identification, evaluation, and registration of historical resources with strong local planning powers, economic incentives, and informed public participation.

OHP provides guidance and technical assistance to city and county governments in the following areas:

  • Drafting or updating preservation plans and ordinances;
  • Planning for and conducting architectural, historical, and archeological surveys;
  • Developing criteria for local designation programs, historic districts, historic preservation overlay zones (HPOZs), and conservation districts;
  • Developing design guidelines using the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards;
  • Developing economic incentives for historic preservation;
  • Training local commissions and review boards;
  • Meeting CEQA responsibilities with regard to historical resources.


OHP also administers the Certified Local Government (CLG) Program and distributes at least 10% of its annual federal Historic Preservation Fund allocation to CLGs through a competitive grant program to them in achieving their historic preservation goals.

Environmental Compliance: Section 106, PRC 5024, and CEQA

OHP reviews and comments on thousands of federally sponsored projects annually pursuant to Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act and state programs and projects pursuant to Sections 5024 and 5024.5 of the Public Resources Code. OHP also reviews and comments on local government and state projects pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) .

The purpose of OHP's project review program is to promote the preservation of California's heritage resources by ensuring that projects and programs carried out or sponsored by federal and state agencies comply with federal and state historic preservation laws and that projects are planned in ways that avoid any adverse effects to heritage resources. If adverse effects cannot be avoided, the OHP assists project sponsors in developing measures to minimize or mitigate such effects.

State and Federal Registration Programs

OHP administers the National Register of Historic Places, the California Register of Historical Resources, the California Historical Landmarks, and the California Points of Historical Interest programs. Each program has different eligibility criteria and procedural requirements; all register nominations must be submitted to the Commission for review and approval. 

Eligible and listed resources may be eligible for tax benefits and are recognized as part of the environment under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

California Main Street

In 1985, California joined a growing national movement to improve the quality of life in America's towns, cities and neighborhoods by adopting the Main Streets Program, an approach to revitalization of historic central business districts developed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In 2004, as a result of a provision of Senate Bill 1107, OHP was charged with administration of the Main Street Program. However, no funds were allocated for staff or operations.

OHP and California Main Street Alliance (CAMSA) have entered into a Cooperative Agreement whereby CAMSA will provide education workshops and training for existing and aspiring Main Street communities on a fee-for-services basis until OHP has completed rulemaking procedures and regulations and funding are in place.