Field Survey Methodology

SurveyLA field methodology is informed by best practices in historic preservation including standards developed by the National Park Service and California Office of Historic Preservation.  


Early on in the project, the Office of Historic Resources made the decision to group the surveys by Community Plan Area (CPA). The 35 CPAs constitute the Land Use Element of the City's General Plan and provide established geographic boundaries for survey areas which have been prioritized and phased over a period of years. Developing a methodology to cover a city of almost 500 square miles requires tools that allow field surveyors to move quickly through large geographic areas and provide consistency in evaluating and recording resources. Prior to starting any field work the OHR worked with the Planning Department's GIS Division and consultants to develop a custom-designed map-based mobile field application called the Field Guide Survey System or FiGSS. The FiGSS is used in the field on tablet PCs and is preloaded with information from previous surveys as well as tract maps, built dates, aerial photographs, zoning information, and more.  By selecting from drop down lists, surveyors can record an individual property in about 15 minutes, including the architectural description. To guide property evaluations the OHR also directed development of a ciywide historic context statement (HCS) using consultants, volunteers, and interns. By 2010 the survey phase officially began; field surveys of all 35 CPAs are scheduled for completion by the end of 2016.   

Field Methods

SurveyLA is conducted by field surveyors working under contract to the Department of City Planning, meeting the Secretary of the Interior's professional qualification standards in historic preservation, and with extensive knowledge of Los Angeles. Prior to recording any properties, consultants complete research on the history and development of their Community Plan Area and review information submiited from the pubilc as well as previous surveys and designations. A reconnaissance survey of the area is completed with multiple team members to identify significant properties and the themes they represent and to provide a framework for further research and analysis. Follow-up research may include building permits, newspaper and journal articles, city directories, and historic maps and photographs.    

Field surveys cover the period from the incorporation of the City in 1850 to 1980.  All surveys are conducted from the public right-of-way. The surveyors record individual properties and historic districts using digital cameras and the FiGSS application. Recording is generally completed using one tablet PC and two team members per CPA - one person to record with the FiGSS application and one person to take photographs. The OHR provided classroom and field training for all consultants in the use of the FiGSS and the HCS prior to starting any field work. Although surveyors walk or drive every street in Los Angeles they only record properties that meet criteria for listing in the National Register of Historic Places and California Register of Historical Resources and for designation as local Historic-Cultural Monuments (HCM) and Historic Preservation Overlay Zones (HPOZ). Some properties with little visibility or requiring more information to assess signficance may be flagged for additional research. Fields surveyors do not record or resurvey properties already designated under the programs listed above. All recorded properties receive California Historical Resources Status Codes developed by the California Office of Historic Preservation.  

Survey Data

Survey data are submitted to the City in electronic format; the GIS Division processes the results in report format. All data are peer reviewed by survey team members and are vetted by OHR staff and a professional review committee which includes a representative from the California Office of Historic Preservation. Consultants are responsible for completng a Survey Report for each CPA using a standardized report format developed by the OHR. As surveys are completed the results are published in PDF format by Community Plan Area at survey findings