CALIFORNIA'S SHBC: Implementation of the Code

The fastest-growing sector of America's tourist industry is tourism related to history. All across the nation, whether in a metropolis or out in the country, "Old Town" has become a major destination, with a major positive economic impact. In every community, the social, economic and environmental benefits of historic preservation have become unarguable.

California communities are finding it valuable to establish and maintain their own inventories of historic resources and districts, ideally coordinating their work with the State Office of Historic Preservation (OHP). By means of local inventories, especially when maintained in the jurisdiction's data bank, local planning and building agencies should be able to immediately identify their historic resources whenever projects and/or permits are under consideration.

By this means of identification with, say, a distinctive historic designation stamp on all documents, staff is able to instantly recognize the requirement to invoke the special protective state and local preservation mandates. In addition, with respect to historic resources, more and more jurisdictions are realizing the need for early consultation, and implementing a comprehensive gathering of all interested parties when a project is at the schematic level, recognizing that only in this way can the broad flexibility provided by the State Historical Building Code (SHBC) be fully utilized. And building officials are finding in the SHBC the latitude necessary to exercise, within state law, the judgement required to insure the survival of our cultural legacy of historic structures.

These steps not only expedite the completion of historic preservation projects, they also pay dividends in both staff time savings, and in solutions more sensitive to the community's cultural legacy. Moreover, use of the SHBC is a near-certain guarantee that the rehabilitation will be more cost-effective. Finally, California law (H&S 18959) requires that the jurisdiction "administer and enforce" the SHBC. Thus, jurisdictions may not deny an owner the protection of the SHBC; but rather should inform owners and agents of historic properties of the provisions of the SHBC, and its applicability to their project, just as they routinely inform owners of the applicable codes with respect to non-historic buildings.

The State Historical Building Safety Board (SHBSB) and its staff provide a resource to owners, architects and jurisdictions in helping to formulate the reasonable alternatives and reasonable equivalencies which are key to the SHBC's implementation. Finally, when necessary, the SHBSB will hear formal appeals and establish formal rulings which, by statute, are the final administrative authority with respect to interpretation of the SHBC.