SurveyLA field methodology has been 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 was used in the field on tablet PCs and 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 were able to 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. Field surveys began in 2010 and wrapped up in January 2017.
SurveyLA was 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 completed research on the history and development of their Community Plan Area and reviewed information submiited from the pubilc as well as previous surveys and designations. A reconnaissance survey of the area was 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 included building permits, newspaper and journal articles, city directories, and historic maps and photographs.
Field surveys covered the period from the incorporation of the City in 1850 to 1980. All surveys were conducted from the public right-of-way. The surveyors recorded individual properties and historic districts using digital cameras and the FiGSS application. Recording was 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 walked or drove every street in Los Angeles they only recorded properties that met 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 were flagged for additional research. Fields surveyors did not record or resurvey properties already designated under the programs listed above. All recorded properties received California Historical Resources Status Codes developed by the California Office of Historic Preservation; some codes were refined for specific use for SurveyLA.
Survey data were submitted to the City in electronic format; the GIS Division processed the results in report format. All data were peer reviewed by survey team members and vetted by OHR staff and a professional review committee which includes a representative from the California Office of Historic Preservation. Consultants were responsible for completng a Survey Report for each CPA using a standardized report format developed by the OHR. Field surveys are now complete and the results are published in PDF format by Community Plan Area at survey findings.