Mapping Historic Resources with NavigateLA

By David J. Barboza

Sometimes, when it comes to figuring out what information you might like to send SurveyLA it helps to know what’s already designated as a historic resource. Designation means that some level of government has given the resource a degree of official recognition or protection. SurveyLA is already aware of designated resources, but knowing where they are can help give context to your own suggestions (e.g. “I know a building that looks a lot like that!”). Plus, these are some of the most architecturally and historically interesting sites in the City, so it’s always neat to see if there are any in your neck of the woods.

This blog has already covered how to use the City’s Zoning Information and Map Access System (ZIMAS) to look up designated resources. This is a good way to go if you have a particular address or parcel in mind and want to check to see what’s there. However, ZIMAS can’t easily show you all of the designated resources in a given area. To do that, another City website called NavigateLA is your best bet.

The first thing to know about NavigateLA is that it works best in Internet Explorer (trust me on this). Okay, now that you’re using Internet Explorer, head over to Once you click on the “Accept” button to accept the disclaimer, you’ll be on to this page:

NavigateLA default view. Note the navigation tools, search options and list of layers.

Some key things to notice are the navigation tools at the top of your screen. If you hover your cursor over them you’ll see their names. The “zoom in” (magnifying glass with a +), “zoom out” and “dynamic pan” (hand) tools will be especially useful. In the left column of the screen you can search the system by address, street intersection and several other methods. Last but not least is the list of map layers in the second column from the left. To see designated historic resources on this map, you’ll need to go down the list and find the “City Planning Department” category near the bottom. Once you’ve found it, double click to expand it. You’ll see a list of layers that looks like this:

City Planning Department layers

To turn a layer on, simply check the box to the left of the layer title. Turn on the “Historic Preservation Overlay Zone District” and “Historic Cultural Monuments” layers. Once you’ve done this, they will show up on the map. Now pick a neighborhood you want to know more about and zoom in on it. I’ll do Downtown Los Angeles, since I’m writing this at Los Angeles City Hall. Once I zoom in, my map looks like this:

Designated Historic Resources in Downtown Los Angeles

As you can see above, Downtown is quite the treasure trove of designated resources. If you hover over one of the shaded polygons it will give you information on the resource. In the screenshot above, I hovered over Los Angeles City Hall. As you can see from the legend, the turquoise color of that polygon corresponds to an “LA” monument, meaning a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument (#150). The text box that pops up communicates this by saying “Level of Significance: LA”. The other two colors under “Historic Cultural Monument” correspond to resources that are designated at the California level (see the CA OHP website for more information), or at the federal level on the National Register of Historic Places.

That’s basically all there is to it. Have fun, and don’t forget to let us know if you have information on a place that hasn’t been recognized with a designation. You’ll be helping to ensure that SurveyLA gives our lesser known historic resources the documentation they deserve.


About SurveyLA

I am here to bring you cheer...about LA's historic resources!
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