Researching Historic Properties: Making Friends with ZIMAS

By David J. Barboza

Let’s say you want to join the fun at MyHistoricLA.org, our MindMixer website, to share your ideas for historic places in the City of Los Angeles, but you just don’t feel like you know where to start.

One great way to get going is to use the City’s Zoning Information and Map Access System or ZIMAS to look up a property. This is a Geographic Information System (GIS) that has lots of interesting information, and at least a couple of key things for researching historic properties: previous historic designations and the date of construction. It’s not hard to use ZIMAS once you get the hang of it. Another benefit is that it only has information on places in the City of Los Angeles, so you know that if it’s in ZIMAS, it could be relevant to SurveyLA.

There is a ZIMAS “how to” guide on pp. 78-81 of the SurveyLA Guide to Public Participation. I’d like to give an example of some of the skills you learn in that tutorial by looking up Harvester Farms, which is in the Chatsworth-Porter Ranch Community Plan Area, one of the areas SurveyLA will be covering this year. I want to know if this property has any previous historic designations, and when it was built.

I happen to know that the property is located at 22049 Devonshire St. So I go to ZIMAS, click on “Search” and then “Address” on the menu that comes up. Your screen will look like this:

How to search by address in ZIMAS

After that I type in the street number and the street name in the fields indicated, with no suffixes on the street, just the word “Devonshire”. Next I click the “Go” button.

Enter address information here

Once this step is complete the parcel at this address will be selected on the map and new information will appear in the left column of your screen. Find the tab that says “Planning and Zoning” and click on it. The following information will appear:

Note the "Historic Preservation Review" section here

Next click on the word “Yes” next to “Historic Preservation Review”. The following screen comes up when you click on the “Other Historic Designations” tab at the top:

Be sure to click on the "Other Historic Designations" tab

This screen tells me that Harvester Farms is a City of Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM #645). This is important information in part because SurveyLA is primarily concerned with documenting historic resources that are not already officially designated. If you want to share your favorite HCMs you certainly can, but SurveyLA needs the most help finding those hidden gems that have slipped through the cracks.

Now, let’s move on to finding the date of construction. To do that, close the historic preservation window (by clicking in the upper right corner) and look for the blue horizontal bar that says “Assessor”. Click on that and the information appears next to “Year Built”.

See the "Year Built" row

So, mission accomplished! I now know that Harvester Farms was built in 1937 and is a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument. ZIMAS is a really neat website with a lot of capabilities and information that I’ve only scratched the surface of here, so I encourage you to play around with it. With these research skills in hand I hope you’ll check out our MindMixer site and share your historic LA! If you’re having trouble with any this (no shame in that) feel free to leave a comment.

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