Amie Hayes, historic resources specialist with Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO), has been appointed to the California Cultural and Historical Endowment Board (CCHE) by Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins.
The CCHE was established in 2003 and charged with the preservation and protection of the state’s cultural heritage. Funded by the 2002 California Clean Water, Clean Air, Safe Neighborhood Parks, and Coastal Protection Act (Proposition 40), CCHE has awarded nearly 200 grants to help preserve the many historic treasures that are California’s cultural legacy.
She is also an advocate in her Bankers Hill community, and serves on the Uptown Planning board and as SOHO’s representative on the Old Town planning board.
Uptown News Editor Kendra Sitton discussed Hayes’ new role in a phone interview.
The following exchange has been edited for clarity and length and the order of some answers has been changed.
When did you first hear about this new role?
The Senate Rules Committee contacted me, so it wasn’t something that I was specifically lobbying for. I didn’t actually know that it was available, which is why it’s such an honor to be appointed. This is just another exciting way to serve my community and to be able to serve my state and represent San Diego well.
What does this new role with the CCHE entail?
Essentially there are bond funds that go into a specific bucket. This board then gets to disseminate them. So this will take me up to Sacramento, I imagine a couple of times a year and we’ll be diving into essentially the dispersion of the grants, I believe. My understanding is that is their primary role.
How did you get into the field of historical preservation?
I’m from the Midwest and I grew up in central Illinois for the most part. When I was a kid, my parents were not very wealthy and so we would buy houses and then if we would need to move, we would fix them up. So we’d scrape and paint and fix windows. Then we’d sell these older homes and move on to our next home. So it was really through doing a little bit of the grunt work when I was a kid that really helped me to understand how well old buildings are made, the quality of the materials that they’re made with, and just how they add beauty to our built environment.
During my undergraduate, I got an American studies and philosophy degree. Preservation has always been something that I focused on, but I really wasn’t sure how to have a career in historic preservation. I was fortunate to make my way to SOHO. I actually started volunteering with them. After a little while, I was able to be employed by them part time. I worked with them for a while and got to know the field a little bit better and all of the opportunities for a career in historic preservation because there are multiple avenues — there’s education, there’s advocacy, there’s historic house museum, there’s land use, you can be an attorney, there’s real estate — there’s just so many facets that you can come to historic preservation from. After working with SOHO the first time, I really kind of understood that I wanted to do a little more planning and community development, so I went back to school to Boston University where I got a masters in preservation planning. I started as an intern and then as a part-time planner with Somerville and then moved into a full-time planner with the city of Somerville. I was really able to help move their planning department forward a little bit by helping them understand the need to evaluate this historical resource while we’re dealing with this larger project, not at the end of the day as an afterthought.
I left them in 2015. I was very excited to be able to come back to SOHO as their historic resource specialist, especially because they gave me that preservation foundation that I needed at the beginning. I was very appreciative that I could bring this back and help San Diego and use my education to benefit SOHO and San Diego.
Why is historical preservation so important?
It contributes to the sustainability. We recognize that the greenest building is the one that’s already there. It also contributes to a lot of other things. It contributes to housing affordability. A lot of the older buildings stock, the rental units, are slightly under market or are just at market. So these are the units that the middle class currently can afford. Historic properties often are much more densely built than we realize. The building materials, the authenticity, all of those architectural pieces that add to the quality of life — I think all of those combined are why historic preservation is important. Historic preservation can work in tandem with new development and things. The urban fabric is continually changing, but at the same time, we do need to have some consistency in our lives as well. I think it’s very important to just have some of that continuity and sense of place, otherwise we’re going to end up living in Anywhere USA. That just doesn’t appeal to me.
I believe historic preservation, through the historic built environment, adds quality to people’s lives. That’s the reason that I live in the building that I live in. That is a lot of the reason that I advocate for our historical resources to the extent that I do.
I currently live in a historically designated apartment building. It’s a Prairie-style built in 1913. It’s just beautiful. I just love living in it. Coming home everyday to that apartment makes my heart happy. I have beautiful wood floors and wood windows and just the character and the architecture that’s there, it adds to the quality of my life. So that’s where my passion comes from.
How do you see yourself continuing in these advocacy efforts in the future?
I think I’m actually very fortunate that I’m able to advocate directly for my own community. I’m just very fortunate and appreciative that I’m able to advocate directly for my Bankers Hill and Uptown community and to try and make it the best place to live, work and play. I don’t necessarily have goals of trying to rise up the ranks or anything. I’m not trying to be a politician. I’m just trying to do the best that I can for my community.