Photo Courtesy of PICRYL

California Office of Historic Preservation grants Pomona $40K for Latinx ‘historical context statement’

By Lann Nguyen and Gregory Karp, September 12, 2023

In August, the California State Parks’ Office of Historic Preservation announced $240,000 in federal grants to support local preservation efforts in six cities – through the Certified Local Government program.  

Split between the California cities of Pomona, Carmel, Los Angeles, Riverside, Sacramento and Santa Barbara, each city will receive $40,000 to accommodate the development of historic context statements, unit design guidelines and resource-planning guidelines.  

Pomona will use the $40,000 in federal funds to establish a “historic context statement” for the 150,000 Latinx population, according to the CLG’s Grant Awards.  

The funds will lay a foundation for future preservation efforts, including identifying cultural resources and documenting oral histories of this particularly underrepresented community.  

Preservation efforts for California’s Latinx populations date back to the Obama administration -when former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar noticed and instructed his staff to document the lack of diversity in the United States National Register.  

Salazar began implementing diverse backgrounds within the department, ensuring the country’s national parks and monuments were inclusive of America’s tribal and minority communities.  

Associate Professor of Urban and Region Planning and Latinx Studies Alvaro Huerta is quick to price check the COHP’s $40,000, envisioning a seven-digit budget for large-scale preservation efforts.    

“This is a very important federal grant and it should be millions of dollars in funds,” said Huerta. 

Although Huerta’s case for a substantially higher budget is applicable to Pomona’s underrepresented Latinx population, the COHP’s overall $240,000 is concerningly low for the allocation to six major California cities.  

Business Marketing student Guicely Rosales shared her excitement toward COHP funding to Pomona, noting her interest in seeing the potential for more Hispanic representation in Pomona. 

“I think it’s very significant honestly, especially for me — specifically because I feel like there’s not enough of my culture visually,” said Rosales. 

Luis Hoyos, member of the State Historical Resources Commission and co-coordinator with a concentration in Historic Preservation is part of the team looking at nominations for a particular building or landscape to see if it will be entered into the National Register. 

“The diversity, gender or otherwise, was not there,” said Hoyos. “At one time, the register was made up of buildings and monuments that were not related to the core mission, instead focused mostly on issues very clearly important to white men.”  

According to Hoyos, the register was around 97% white and 3% diverse — which would include everything other than the white demographic. 

Hoyos recalled his grandfather used to have a flower farm in west Los Angeles, where many Japanese flower farms housed many of those workers.  

“These small huts would have been a great idea for historical preservation, yet they are no longer standing,” said Hoyos. “This is just one example of our diverse history being erased through the years because they were not preserved or protected.”  

The history of this grant began by the secretary who is in charge of the National Park Service, and they conducted several context studies as to how each city decides what to preserve, according to reflective studies by Hoyos.

Photo Courtesy of Al Russell | SoCal Landmarks

“There are many reasons lawyers or building owners can maneuver the law or sway the people to demolish a possibly historic site or landmark, but if the people get together and speak up, then an important cultural and historically significant piece of the community may be preserved for future generations,” said Hoyos. 

“Queen of the Citrus Belt” — a nickname coined for Pomona in the 1920s — is focusing on architectural styles, particularly on mission revival, art deco and other styles, but the city has yet to do context studies or surveys on the people in order to have the architecture reflect the community. 

There is credence in visualizing the buildings and landmarks within a city, representative of the community because it symbolizes the honor and pride built from the ground up. 

“Pomona should interview the people and allocate someone to do the mapping, just for Latinos,” said Hoyos.  

The Pomona packing house that locals may know of as a local hangout to enjoy art and beer, used to be a processing and canning company. While focusing primarily on yellow peaches, many workers — some of which lived in little cottages along the railroads were responsible for production. 

Those would have been an integral part of history to preserve, considering the Mexican American workers are an underrepresented group in the community, despite their hard work. 

“This country is in shambles because I think at the end of day, people need to recognize themselves in government, the leadership and in the planning policy — and more than anything, they need to see themselves represented,” said Hoyos. 

There is a clear disconnect between the problem of underrepresented communities in cities including Pomona, because the community has yet to be asked how to honor their heritage.  

“That could all be fixed by context studies and by surveys,” said Hoyos. 

As to how exactly Pomona will allocate these funds, a proposed plan has not yet been released to the public by the COHP’s Certified Local Government Program.  

Feature image courtesy of PICRYL

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