Historic Preservation FAQs

PDD Image Rotating picture set 2

Q: What is a historic property?
A: A historic property is one that is listed or has been determined eligible for listing on a historic register at the local or federal level. Properties may be listed on these registers individually or as part of a larger historic district. To qualify for either register, properties must meet three eligibility criteria: the property must be at least 50 years old; it must demonstrate historical significance; and it must possess historic integrity. A property's significance can be at the local, state or national level and will be in one or more of the following categories: A) It is associated with events that have made significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history: B) It is associated with the lives of persons significant in our past: C) It distinctly represents a type, period or method of construction, is the work of a master, or possesses high artistic values: D) It has the potential to yield information important in the understanding of our history or prehistory. A property's historic integrity is measured by the following aspects: location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling and association. Typically, if the property has been substantially altered, then the historic integrity is lost and the property is not eligible for listing.

Q: How do I know if my property is historic?
A:
There are two ways to tell if a property is listed on the Phoenix Historic Property Register. First, you can check the listing for the Phoenix Historic Property Register to see if your property is listed. However, even if the property is not listed individually, it may still be located within the boundaries of a listed historic district. The register list includes a general boundary description for the districts, but there are also detailed maps on the website showing the boundaries for all of the residential historic districts. You can check the zoning for the property to see if the property has an "HP" or "HP-L" suffix to the base zoning. City of Phoenix zoning maps are available online. You can also access an interactive map through Phoenix Maps Online. To determine if a property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, visit the National Park Service website. Interactive maps tailored to historic properties have been introduced. Please see the map help page to get started with these maps. These specialized maps have been integrated with the Phoenix Historic Property Register so that historic districts or individually designated properties can be easily located.

Q: If my property is not currently listed, how can I get it listed on the Phoenix Historic Property Register or National Register of Historic Places?
A:
The complete eligibility criteria, consideration factors and procedures for requesting historic designation are available online.

Q: How do I research the history of my property?
A:
The city of Phoenix and Arizona State Historic Preservation Offices may already have information available on the history of your property. Check with them first before doing research. If research is necessary, the best sources for information are the Burton Barr Central Library, Arizona Room; Arizona State Archives; Arizona Historical Society; and Arizona State University, Luhrs Reading Room. Collections and contact information are available in the Guide to Historic Property Research (PDF).

Q: What is the difference between listing on the Phoenix Historic Property Register and listing on the National Register of Historic Places?
A:
Properties listed on the Phoenix Historic Property Register are actually rezoned with an "HP" or "HP-L" zoning overlay. Once rezoning is complete, the properties are formally protected through a special permit review process administered by the city of Phoenix Historic Preservation Office. These properties are also eligible for financial incentives offered by the city of Phoenix. Properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places are not rezoned and have no formal protection, but they are eligible for incentives administered by the Arizona State Historic Preservation Office and National Park Service. The same eligibility criteria are used for both historic registers.

Q: What is the difference between HP and HP-L overlay zoning?
A:
HP zoning is used for standard historic designations, whereas HP-L zoning designates properties as historic landmarks. The eligibility criteria for HP-L zoning are the same as for HP zoning, except that HP-L-zoned properties are required to demonstrate "exceptional significance." These properties are subject to higher levels of protection and receive the highest priority for financial incentives.

Q: How does listing on the Phoenix Historic Property Register protect historic properties?
A:
Once an area is formally listed on the Phoenix Historic Property Register, all demolitions occurring within its boundaries are reviewed. Demolition of properties that contribute to the historic nature of the area may be delayed for up to a year while the city Historic Preservation Office (HPO) seeks alternatives to the demolition (properties with HP-L overlay zoning may be delayed for up to three years). Other changes to historic buildings also are reviewed to ensure that modifications are in keeping with the historic character.

Q: What kind of work is subject to the city historic review process?
A:
No building, permanent sign or other structure within an HP or HP-L overlay district may be erected, demolished, moved, restored, rehabilitated, reconstructed, altered or changed in exterior appearance without first being reviewed by the HPO. Routine maintenance items, such as painting, are excluded from the review process. Interior work that does not impact the exterior of the house does not require HPO review.

Q: Who does the reviewing?
A:
Most minor work items can be approved by an historic preservation planner via a Certificate of No Effect. If the work is more complex or is street visible, then the work will require a Certificate of Appropriateness. These approvals require a public hearing by the Historic Preservation Officer or representative. In these cases, a historic preservation planner will meet with the applicant in a pre-application meeting to discuss the proposed work. If a public hearing is required, the historic preservation planner will prepare a brief report with a recommendation to approve, approve with stipulations or deny. The Historic Preservation Officer or representative will make a decision based on the staff report and comments received at the public hearing.

Q: How will I know what type of work is acceptable or appropriate?
A:
The HPO has developed a set of general design guidelines based on the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties for the review of exterior work. These guidelines (PDF) are available on the city's website. The HPO has also developed a publication, Historic Homes of Phoenix: An Architectural and Preservation Guide, which sets forth general guidelines for rehabilitation for historic residences. The HPO also works individually with property owners as they plan rehabilitation projects to provide information and materials to assist the owner. Applicants for projects requiring a Certificate of Appropriateness are required to schedule a pre-application meeting with a historic preservation planner before submitting construction plans for a public hearing.

Q: How long does the review procedure take?
A:
Depending on the nature of the work, the application will be processed as one of the following:

  • A Certificate of No Effect is for minor work clearly within the adopted design guidelines. No public hearing is required for a Certificate of No Effect and it typically is completed over the counter or within a few days. Work items include walls and fences, rear patio covers and small rear room additions.
  • A Certificate of Appropriateness is for more complex work that may have an impact on the historic character of the property. If a Certificate of Appropriateness is required, the review typically takes three to four weeks. The public hearing will take place within 20 days of the date a complete application is filed. After the hearing, there is a mandatory five-day waiting period, during which an appeal may be filed. If the application is approved and no appeal is filed, the historic preservation planner will issue the Certificate of Appropriateness at the end of the five-day waiting period. If the application was approved with stipulations, the applicant will provide updated plans which reflect the stipulations. Typical work items include large room additions, new garages and carports, and any changes that are highly visible from the street.
  • A Request for Demolition Approval is for all demolition requests. These requests are referred to the Historic Preservation Officer, who will make a decision on the request within three days.

Q: When the review is complete, what happens?
A:
Once a Certificate of No Effect, Certificate of Appropriateness or Demolition Approval is issued, the applicant may obtain a city Construction or Demolition Permit to begin the project. The approval is valid for one year.

Q: Is there an appeal process?
A:
The Historic Preservation Officer's decision may be appealed to the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC). The HPC is a nine-member citizen panel appointed by the Mayor and City Council. Members are selected because of their special interest or experience in fields related to historic preservation. A decision of the Historic Preservation Commission may be appealed to the City Council.

Q: Is there a fee for a Certificate of No Effect, Certificate of Appropriateness, or Demolition Approval?
A:
No.

Q: What plans do I need to submit with my application for a Certificate of No Effect, Certificate of Appropriateness, or Demolition Approval?
A:
The instructions for filing a Certificate of No Effect or Certificate of Appropriateness (PDF) are available online. The instructions for filing a Request for Demolition Approval (PDF) are available online.

Q: Do I need permission to perform ordinary maintenance to my house?
A:
No. As long as the materials and design are not changed, you do not need permission to paint, make repairs, or replace materials in kind (e.g., replacing asphalt shingles with asphalt shingles). The only exception to this would be a conservation easement on the property which required additional review of work items by the HPO.

Q: Are paint colors regulated?
A:
No, the HPO does not regulate paint colors. However, the HPO does discourage owners from painting masonry that has never been painted and removing paint from masonry that was originally painted. If paint is to be removed from masonry, the HPO recommends that you use the gentlest means possible. Avoid abrasive removal methods, such as sandblasting, which are likely to permanently damage the masonry.

Q: Do I need approval to replace my windows?
A:
Yes. Window replacement can greatly affect the historic character of a building and must be reviewed by the HPO. Replacement of a single window at the rear of the house may qualify as a Certificate of No Effect. Most window changes, however, will require a Certificate of Appropriateness, particularly if the work is visible from the street.

Q: Can the city help me purchase a historic house?
A:
The HPO does not offer programs to assist with the purchase of historic properties, but other city departments, such as Housing or Neighborhood Services, may have or know of programs that are available.

Q: What incentives are available to owners of historic properties?
A:
Owners of HP- and HP-L-zoned properties are eligible for various city programs developed to assist in local preservation efforts. These incentives vary from year to year and include community education workshops, technical and design assistance, and the historic district sign program. HP- and HP-L-zoned properties are also eligible for financial assistance from the Historic Preservation Bond Fund. Properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places are eligible for additional incentives at the state and federal levels. For more information on incentives currently available, please visit the  incentives program page.

Q: If I have more questions, how can I contact you?
A:
Contact the Historic Preservation Office at 602-261-8699, historic@phoenix.gov, or by fax at 602-534-4571. Our address is: City of Phoenix Historic Preservation Office, 200 W. Washington St., third floor, Phoenix, AZ 85003.