VerPlanck Historic Preservation Consulting provides wide-ranging services related to historical architecture, cultural landscapes, and community planning. The firm utilizes all aspects of contemporary historical documentation and analysis techniques at our disposal, including proprietary archival research and field investigation techniques, databases, and an extensive in-house library to prepare the highest-quality product for every need. We draw upon extensive experience with complex state and local regulatory standards, including the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), to provide nuanced, balanced, and objective evaluations. Finally, though we approach every project differently, we apply to all of them our extensive background in California and regional history, as well as our knowledge of architectural styles and traditional construction materials and methods.
The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is the foundation of environmental policy and law in the state of California. It encourages the protection of the environment (including historic resources - Section 21084.1) by requiring agencies to prepare informational documents on the environmental effects of a proposed action before carrying out any discretionary activities. "Historical Resources" include properties listed in or formally determined eligible for listing in the California Register of Historical Resources, or that are listed in an adopted local historic register.
VerPlanck Historic Preservation Consulting provides the expertise to determine whether a property is an historical resource for the purposes of CEQA. Locally we do this in the form of Historic Resource Evaluations (HRE) and Supplemental Information Forms. In these reports we research and detail information such as previous owners, original architect, construction history, and historic contexts. In contrast to the Supplemental Information Form, the HRE also evaluates the potential significance of the property, and if it appears to be a historical resource, we assess the potential impact(s) of the proposed project.
Pacific Rolling Mill Co. Plant
San Francisco Hall of Justice Replacement Project
10848 San Pablo Ave
Former San Jose City Hall
50+ HREs and Supplemental Information Forms for
Properties in San Francisco
Design Review is one of the trickiest parts of project approvals in San Francisco and many other California communities, especially if historic buildings are involved. We understand the review standards and we can help you avoid many common pitfalls by getting involved early on in the design process. We can guide your architect toward design solutions that comply with the Secretary of the Interior's Standards while accomplishing your project goals. Chris VerPlanck has consulted on the design of several major rehabilitation projects from the schematic design phase through construction administration. Though I am not a licensed architect, I have design experience and an eye for good design as well as strategies that will comply with the letter of the law. One of my most recent and extensive projects in this area is the rehabilitation and expansion of the semi-abandoned Del Monte Warehouse in Alameda, California for residential use.
Historic Context Statements provide an organizational framework for understanding the physical and cultural development of a particular community, as well as relating common property types to the history of the community and with those around it. Information is usually organized around a historical or cultural theme within defined geographical and chronological limits, ranging from a neighborhood to an entire city or county. The contexts are then used to inform the identification, evaluation, registration, and treatment of potential historical resources in later survey work.
Chris VerPlanck has a great deal of experience preparing Historic Context Statements, having prepared more than a dozen throughout the state, ranging from rural St. Helena in Nap Valley's Wine Country to the gritty industrial Showplace Square and Dogpatch districts of San Francisco, to the monumental civic and landscapes of the Los Angeles Civic Center. VerPlanck Historic Preservation Consulting leverage's Mr. VerPlanck's extensive experience as well as proprietary research sources in his own library, which contains books, pamphlets, journals, databases, and write-ups on many communities, architects, building types, and other categories typically encountered in California's myriad communities.
Latino Citywide Historic Context Statement
African American Citywide Historic Context Statement
South of Market
Los Angeles Civic Center
City of St. Helena
Charleston, South Carolina
A Historic Resource Inventory (Survey) is typically prepared following the adoption of a Historic Context Statement. Surveys are one of the most useful preservation planning tools because they provide a baseline level of information on a community's historic patterns of development and its existing building stock. Depending on the values of a community, a survey can be used to identify significant properties and historic districts and to protect the community's historical assets, which frequently plays a significant role in community revitalization. Surveys are also helpful in the development of long-range planning projects, as well as providing data for reviewing individual building permit applications.
Chris VerPlanck is especially well-versed in completing Historic Resource Inventories, having surveyed dozens of communities throughout the state, as well as one for Charleston, South Carolina (for Page & Turnbull). In collaboration with his former business partner Tim Kelley, Mr. VerPlanck co-developed an efficient survey method that uses GIS technology and databases to efficiently survey hundreds, if not thousands, of individual properties within a given area. The methodology includes an electronic field survey form linked to digital photographs, as well as templates used to prepare the state Department of Parks and Recreation 523 forms for each property and potential historic district.
Examples of recently completed Historic Resource Inventories include Marinship, in Sausalito; Downtown Martinez, in Contra Costa County; and the Showplace Square, Transit Center, and Bayview-Hunters Point surveys in San Francisco.
Historic Structure Reports (HSR) provide documentary, graphic, and physical information about a property's history and existing physical conditions. Each HSR is customized to the unique characteristics of the proposed project. Typically an HSR includes a detailed description of the property; documentation of its construction and alteration chronology; assessment of its architectural, historical, or cultural significance; and a description and evaluation of its existing physical and structural fabric.
In contrast to an HRE and other CEQA reports, an HSR assumes that the property will be retained and restored. It is therefore geared toward providing a roadmap for its rehabilitation. Depending on the property type, we may call in experts in allied fields, including landscape architecture, conservation, or structural and mechanical engineering, to make useful recommendations. The HSR is a crucial building block in developing strategies for reusing a historic building, landscape, or group of related properties.
Many communities in California have local landmark ordinances that allow citizens to nominate individual properties or historic districts to a local register of historic landmarks. In addition to the intangible benefits of owning a historic property, local listing is often beneficial to property owners who can then take advantage of tax incentives, such as the Mills Act and the State Historical Building Code.
Chris VerPlanck has nominated several properties and historic districts in San Francisco City, including the Dogpatch Historic District, a 100+ parcel district consisting of Victorian-era workers' housing in San Francisco's Central Waterfront District; the Murphy Windmill and Millwright's Cottage, in Golden Gate Park; and the Shipwright's Cottage in Hunters Point.
California and the United States both maintain registers of historical resources. The National Register of Historic Places (National Register) was established in 1966. Designed to be a comprehensive register of properties important at the local, state, and national levels, properties can be listed in the National Register provided that they meet at least one of the four qualifying criteria and retain historic integrity. California followed suit with the California Register of Historical Resources (California Register) in the early 1990s. Based very closely on the National Register, for a property to be listed in the California Register it must meet one of the four qualifying criteria and retain historic integrity.
Listing in the California Register and the National Register, in addition to the less-tangible benefits of owning a historic property, allows property owners to take advantage of Federal Rehabilitation Tax Credits and deductions for historic façade easement donations (National Register) and the Mills Act and the State Historical Building Code (California Register).
VerPlanck Historic Preservation Consulting is well-qualified to draft and submit nominations for properties to the National and California Registers. Chris VerPlanck has made thousands of determinations of eligibility for the California Register and has directly nominated the properties below to the National Register. All are located in San Francisco except for the Los Angeles Federal Building.
Offerman and Dielmann House National Register Nominations
Sacred Heart Church
Don Lee Building
New Mission Theater
Los Angeles Federal Building
Though many of the services we offer fall under this broad category, we do offer specific services related to guiding communities on how to protect and enhance their historic buildings, landscapes, and historic districts. We provide as-needed/on-call services to planning departments in several cities in the Bay Area, including Sausalito and Alameda, to provide technical assistance for specific projects as well as big-picture help with long-term goals, such as revising a preservation ordinance, planning and implementing a survey, or assisting in the preparation of design guidelines.
Various preservation incentives are available to owners of historic properties in California. Owners of income-producing properties listed in or determined eligible for listing in the National Register may be eligible to apply for tax credits for up to 20 percent of the hard costs of rehabilitating their property, as long as the project complies with the Secretary of the Interior's Standards. Owners of qualified historic properties may also obtain substantial tax deductions for relinquishing the right to substantially alter the primary exterior façades of their property. Other preservation incentives are available to owners of historic properties at the state level, including the Mills Act property tax abatement program and the State Historical Building Code.
Chris VerPlanck is experienced with most of the preservation incentive programs currently available, particularly Federal Rehabilitation Tax Credits, facade easements, and the State Historical Building Code. VerPlanck Historic Preservation Consulting can lead historic property owners through the frequently tangled and arcane process of applying for these benefits so that owners of historic properties may offset some of the added costs associated with caring for them.
In addition to his paid work, Chris VerPlanck spends much of his free time writing and lecturing on various preservation and architectural history topics. Mr. VerPlanck is also writing a book on the history of historic preservation in San Francisco from the late nineteenth century to the present day.
Recent lectures include:
"From Downtown to Dogpatch: 40 Years of San Francisco Architectural Heritage" – San Francisco Architectural Heritage lecture, October 13, 2011
"From Trad'r Sam to Smugglers' Cove: Polynesian Pop and Tiki Culture in San Francisco: 1936-2011" – Docomomo-Noca, May 9, 2011
"From Trad'r Sam to Smugglers' Cove: Polynesian Pop and Tiki Culture in San Francisco: 1936-2011" – San Francisco Architectural Heritage Semi-Annual Meeting, January 2010
"The Mechanics' Institute Library Commission and Construction: 1906-1912" – The Mechanics' Institute, July 15, 2010
Mr. VerPlanck is currently collaborating with a group of San Francisco nightlife aficionados to save the historic Gold Dust Lounge at 247 Powell Street.