Palm Springs’ national architectural reputation has brought the 44th annual California Preservation Foundation conference to the desert again after a 10-year hiatus.
Set for May 8-11 at the Hilton Palm Springs, the conference includes more than 40 sessions, special events, and site tours in and around the desert cities. The public is invited to purchase a ticket to the conference. Free events include walking tours on May 10-11, but require registration at eventbrite.com.
The Plenary Session featuring keynote speaker Gary Johns, president of the Palm Springs Preservation Foundation, is free to the public and will be held from 9-10:30 a.m. May 9 at the Hilton’s Plaza Ballroom.
A few of those tours will stop at landmarks that are part of Palm Springs’ preservation history, making it an easy choice to host the conference again, according to Cindy Heitzman, foundation executive director since 2004.
“Palm Springs is a prime example of why preservation matters, and how thoughtful partnerships between local governments, preservationists, and community groups, can revitalize a community,” Heitzman says. “We have amazing partner organizations from the local preservation community, including the Palm Springs Preservation Foundation, the City of Palm Springs, Modernism Week, Sunnylands, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, Palm Springs Modern Committee, and more – the support from the community truly is unparalleled. But perhaps most importantly, the rich architecture of the city and the surrounding areas is truly remarkable. The concentration and variety of midcentury modern and Spanish revival buildings is a real draw for our members, as is the history and culture of the region.”
The California Preservation Foundation is the only statewide preservation nonprofit organization. Considering the sheer size of the state, CPF’s mission to be a leader, advocate, and educator in protecting historic places is a rather daunting challenge.
Heitzman, a longtime resident of Napa, has trained and educated countless municipalities as well as building department personnel on the California Historical Building Codes and their use. She offers her insights about the conference in Palm Springs as well as the statewide preservation landscape, its benefits, challenges and successes.
What are some of the hot button preservation battles and/or issues in the state?
The housing shortage in California creates opportunities and threats to historic resources in California. Currently, we are working with the leading preservation organizations in California (including the Palm Springs Preservation Foundation) to ensure that historic resources do not lose existing protection under new legislation proposed to streamline housing development.
PHOTOGRAPH BY GARY BEMBRIDGE
The Tramway gas station now the Palm Springs Visitor's Center.
Another major issue is the cost of restoring historic buildings, which is why incentives are so important. SB 451, the State Historic Tax Credit bill that we reintroduced with Senate Pro Tem, Toni Atkins, proposes a 20 percent tax credit for the restoration of historic buildings and the possibility of a 25 percent tax credit for certain types of rehabilitation of buildings, such as affordable and low-income housing. We are working with a statewide coalition, including our co-sponsors, the California Council of the American Institute of Architects, to pass the bill in this legislative cycle and promote preservation funding.
Has Palm Springs’ success with Modernism Week triggered other communities that you know of to embrace its architectural and historic resources?
Absolutely! Whether we are in San Diego, San Francisco or Sacramento, our programs on modernism are always popular. Modernism Week’s impact is felt throughout the state, as cities are becoming increasingly aware of the beauty and importance of midcentury architecture in particular, but also the unique buildings and landscapes that make their communities special.
Can you give us an overview of this upcoming conference?
The conference is a four-day program with over 50 education programs, tours and special events. The education program is developed by a committee to address topics of statewide interest including some that can be examined at the local level. Some of the educational programs take people into the community for site visits to see first-hand how people have preserved cultural resources – buildings and sites. Over 600 people will come to the conference from across the West Coast to learn the current and best practices in historic preservation
What is the significance of the conference title?
This year’s theme, “Preservation Springs Eternal” invites attendees to reflect back on battles won and lost, and to look forward to the next generation of preservationists and preservation technologies. You don’t have to call yourself a preservationist to understand that historic buildings and communities are significant to each of us in unique ways, and this year’s theme reflects the value of protecting our shared architectural and cultural heritage. We will present a variety of ways that historic preservation enhances the economic vitality and identity of communities across California – the diverse streams that connect us all together.
PHOTOGRAPH BY STEPHEN SCHAFER PHOTOGRAPHY (HABSPHOTO.com)
Palm Springs' concentration and variety of midcentury modern and Spanish revival buildings is a real draw.
In what terms will you define the conference’s success?
If every individual who attends this conference increases their understanding of how we can preserve our architectural heritage and can apply this information in their community, then I will consider this conference a success. If they can share the information, all the better. It’s hard to quantify, but we want to make this event a fun, learning experience that connects people to resources. To that end, we offer a variety of activities, from advanced sessions to fun tours and networking receptions where people can get to know others while enjoying some of the region’s most breathtaking architecture.
For more information and to register for the conference, visit californiapreservation.org/conference.