Letters to the Editor

Viewpoint: Historic sites key to local prosperity

Bill Morem’s column, “Historical district standards run amok,” was surely an April Fool’s Day spoof. Please tell me he cannot have been serious.

Historical resources include, but are not limited to, buildings, structures, sites, areas and places that are historically significant or that are significant in the architectural, engineering, scientific, economic, agricultural, educational, social, political, military or cultural annals of the city, region, state or nation.

Some prominent examples found in California include Hearst Castle, the Golden Gate Bridge, Luther Burbank’s home, the Santa Barbara Presidio and the towers of Simon Rodia. In San Luis Obispo, we are fortunate to have several historical resources including the Karl Kundert Medical Building, the Mission, the Stenner Creek railroad trestle, the Dallidet Adobe and the Octagon barn, to name just a few.

The Cultural Heritage Committee, a group of seven citizens who advise the City Council on cultural resource preservation, developed guidelines, and they are a part of the city’s environmental guidelines. Private citizens, property owners, developers, design professionals, staff, the Cultural Heritage Committee and decision makers will use these guidelines as a resource for determining whether or not a property is a historical resource and for determining whether their undertaking is subject to the city’s regulations governing historical resources.

Why historic preservation?

The preservation of our country’s historic buildings and sites has long been the purview of private individuals and organizations, largely for commemorative purposes. Beginning in the mid-20th century, government at all levels began to take a more active role in the identification, evaluation and preservation of historic resources.

This interest in preservation, especially at the local level, arose as a result of the rapidly expanding number of developments (commercial, residential, industrial, community redevelopment and the expansion of the national highway system) that adversely affected historic properties following World War II. Even the U. S. Congress recognized these impacts when it passed the landmark National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.

In the preamble to the act, the authors wrote that “the spirit and direction of the Nation are founded upon and reflected in its historic past; (and) that the historical and cultural foundations of the Nation should be preserved as a living part of our community life and development in order to give a sense of orientation to the American people.”

It was the first time that the federal government recognized “the importance of history to society as a transmitter of values from one generation to another, and the need for partnership among all levels of government, the private sector and the public to protect such values.”

The city of San Luis Obispo has a strong commitment to preserve the community’s history and historic resources for the benefit of present and future generations.

The maintenance and preservation of historic sites, structures and objects is of considerable importance to most of the city’s residents and is a key factor in the region’s economic prosperity and popularity with tourists.

To that end, we are all stakeholders in the management of our community’s historic heritage.

I know that Morem and many of the readers of The Tribune would not enjoy this city as much if it weren’t for the protections provided by these important laws and regulations, as well as the efforts of city staff and its dedicated citizens on the Cultural Heritage Committee.

Robert C. Pavlik is a former member of the Cultural Heritage Committee.