Thursday, November 5, 2015

The 2015 Survey of Davis “Historic Resources” Is Now Public (244)

Without fanfare, the 2,166 page “update” of a survey of Davis’ “historic resources” was recently posted on the City’s website.

It can be viewed by clicking just below or by clicking on the first item in the right-hand sidebar.

The report is in eight parts, which the City depicts in list form on its website (#1) and I portray in text-icon form here (#2).

This is the fourth such survey in Davis: 1980, 1996, 2003, and 2015. For reference and historical perspective, photos of the covers and of the first three volumes are reproduced as images 3, 4 and 5. Image 6 shows the cover of the fourth.*

The fourth survey is much longer than the others not only because thousands of additional structures were “inventoried,” but also because (some) page-length forms on structures from the first three surveys were incorporated into the fourth one. (Images 7a and 7b reproduce the table of contents.)



As far as I know, there are no plans for a hard copy paper version of this latest survey.

The next usual step in this process is presentation to the CIty Council for its approval and adoption as some kind of truth about Davis “historic resources.” As of this publication, the date of that approval decision has not yet appeared on the Council’s calendar.

Although the report is now available on the City website, I am told its current availability should not be considered a period of public review and comment. To the best of my knowledge, there is no specific provision for soliciting comments, receiving them, or responding to them.  

As I reported in the previous two posts on Davis History Today (numbers 242 and 243), assessments published in surveys of this type are oddly immune to appeal. There are no formal procedures for appeal to neutral reviewers and there are no provisions for outside expert examination of disputed assessments.

For example, if you read in this report that your house has been significantly altered since it was built but you know it has not been changed (or the reverse), there is no neutral process you can use in order to call attention to and to correct this mistake.**

Widening the perspective, in image # 8 I reproduce the three pages in the 2015 survey providing a list of the larger “resources” surveyed together with each one’s “eligibility determination.”


The first 37 on the list are of the “neighborhood” “type” of resource. Two of the 37 are deemed possibly “eligible” for “historic listing” (Elmwood and University Estates).***

I have read the documents on these two areas, as well as the reports on a number of other areas--including Davis Parkside, Miller’s Addition, Oeste Manor, and Robbin’s Addition. As I told the person making these classifications, it is hard to understand from these reports why Elmwood and University Estates are considered possibly historic and other areas seemingly like them or historically distinctive in other ways are not so considered. As phrased by someone familiar with these same reports, these assessments are “all very confusing and unsatisfactory.”

At the end of the list shown in image # 8, there are two “building” “resources.” One is said to be “eligible” and one is not for “lack of integrity.” Odd to me at any rate, the ineligible building’s lack of integrity is not the main reason for its disqualification given in the actual report, nor is integrity necessarily an issue regarding reasons for the historic status of this specific location.

The main question posed just above is not, of course, what are the correct assessments of historic status regarding each of these examples.

Instead, the main question is: Is it formally possible to get a fair rehearing of legitimately questionable survey assessments such as seen in the above examples?

Amazingly, in the university city that Davis claims to be, with a presumed commitment to the dispassionate examination of evidence, the answer to that question is no.


*    Students of the historic preservation perspective might find it of interest to compare the main concepts appearing in the titles of each of these four documents. First, only one of the four uses the concept of “historical resources." Instead, the different and broader idea of “cultural resources” is featured in the first two documents. Oddly, the latest survey does not have a substantive concept in its title. Second, the idea of an “inventory” (first two documents) gives way to the concept of a “survey” (most recent two). (This hodge-podge might hint that historical preservationists lack a unified outlook or that its outlook shifts over time.)

**    Details on an instance of description error and lack of proper redress in the current survey are provided here:

***    As one can see, 38 neighborhoods are listed, but University Village appears twice. As far as I have been able to determine, there are 37 "neighborhood" reports.

3. 1980

4. 1996
5. 1996

6. 2015