Green Dragon Colony

A country without a past has the emptiness of a barren continent; and a city without old buildings is like a man without a memory.

Graeme Shankland   Architect and City Planner


Who decides what is historic?
Historical status is established by a vote of the City’s Historical Resources Board (HRB). Properties are designated by HRB based on review of a historical study that documents the property’s significance. Historical studies are typically prepared by a historian consultant but property owners may prepare a study on their own for historical designation. Historical site designations are made by HRB at a publicly noticed hearing. The owner is specifically notified in writing before the hearing. After a property has been designated as a historical site, it will be placed on the City’s Register of Designated Historical Resources.

What makes a property historically significant?
In order to be designated as a historically significant site, the historical study must provide evidence that sites meet at least one of the following City of San Diego historical designation criteria:

  • Exemplifies or reflects special elements of the City’s, a community’s or a neighborhoods historical, archaeological, cultural, social, economic, political, aesthetic, engineering, landscaping or architectural development.
  • Is identified with persons or events significant in local, state or national history.
  • Embodies distinctive characteristics of a style, type, period, or method of construction or is a valuable example of the use of indigenous materials or craftsmanship.
  • Is representative of the notable work of a master builder, designer, architect, engineer, landscape architect, interior designer, artist, or craftsman.
  • Is listed or has been determined eligible by the National Park Service for listing on the National Register of Historic Places or is listed or has been determined eligible by the California State Office of Historic Preservation for listing on the California Register of Historical Resources.
  • Is a finite group of resources related to one another in a clearly distinguishable way or is a geographically definable area or neighborhood containing improvements which have a special character, historical interest or aesthetic value or which represent one or more architectural periods or styles in the history and development of the City.

For more information about Writing an Historical Research Report* for submission to the city, please visit the City of San Diego website. Additional information can be found at Save our Heritage Organisation**.

* Reprinted with permission from the City of San Diego website
** Linked with permission from SOHO, Reflections newsletter, 2001 - Vol 32, Issue 2

The Mills Act

Named for former State Senator James Mills, the Mills Act is a 1972 state law offering monetary incentives via reduction in property tax to foster the preservation, maintenance, and restoration of designated historic properties.

A number of informative websites are available, including:

San Diego Historical Resources Board
California Office of Historic Preservation
Save Our Heritage Organisation