By Megan Borthwick, Preservation Program Manager
Historic Hawai‘i Foundation is a nonprofit, membership-based organization with a mission to encourage the preservation of historically significant places in Hawaii. Advocacy for historic preservation is a main strategy in accomplishing this goal. This means that we propose and support policies that promote preservation, and oppose actions that destroy or damage historic properties. Advocacy includes both policy or programmatic actions, as well advocating for specific places.
Historic Hawai‘i Foundation encourages and supports the tax benefits available to historic property owners in Hawai‘i, and supports the historic preservation statutes and policies in the state. On the federal level, Historic Hawai‘i Foundation serves as a consulting party for federal projects that impact historic properties.
We strive to protect Hawaii’s important places from inappropriate development and demolition, but we can’t do this alone. We often hear from community members about threats to historic places after it is too late to take action. Preservation is everyone’s kuleana and starts with caring about your community and the places important to you. Each person can act as an advocate for preservation.
Here are five ways to act now:
1. Get Involved at the Policy Level
Support through voting, signing petitions, and writing letters in order to pass or maintain local, state and federal policies that provide regulatory protection and tax incentives for historic places. If there is a historic property that you love and care about—be it an archaeological site, historic park, or historic neighborhood or district—the local, state, or federal policies that promote historic preservation often will provide assistance or protection to that site.
Historic Hawai‘i Foundation submits testimony and speaks at legislative hearings to support the continuation of preservation policies and benefits, including the county property tax exemptions for historic houses and commercial properties. HHF also voices support for Hawaii’s historic preservation laws and rules at the state and county levels. These are the policies and benefits that will assist you in protecting the places you love. Consider ways to get involved and support these efforts.
- Sign up for HHF’s email list, which includes action alerts and notifications of opportunities to get involved at the policy level: https://historichawaii.org/newsletter-signup/
2. Actively Identify and Designate the Places You Love
Often the site, building, structure, object, or district that is so important to your community’s character is not identified as historically significant until it is threatened by development or demolition. Programs to assist with preservation are often tied to official designation of the property, including tax incentives or grants, or regulatory protections. These may be lessened or unavailable if your site if it has not been identified and designated. If you are the owner of the historic property, or if it is a public property, you can start the process of nominating that property to the State or National Registers of Historic Places.
- Refer to HHF’s Nomination Guide to get started:
3. Know the Benefits and Regulations
Be aware of the benefits such as tax benefits, incentives, and grants available to help preserve the historic places you love; but also know the limitations of those benefits. For example, tax benefits may be available, but the property owner must comply with the conditions that come with the incentive.
Also know the regulations and statutes that pertain to historic places. For example, there is not an absolute legal prohibition against destroying a historic property, but designation or historic eligibility will trigger review processes and opportunities for public input and comment through Hawai‘i Revised Statutes Chapter 6E and Chapter 343. Community input in environmental review can and does impact the outcome of projects with the potential to impact historic properties.
- Refer to the Resource Center Tab on our website for more information:
4 . Create an Advocacy Group Specific to the Site You Want to Save
Assemble a group of people with a common goal to protect the historic property from demolition or inappropriate development. Raise public awareness and knowledge through outreach, and influence decisions through public input opportunities. Knowing what is possible and when public comment is taken is key to success. For State and Federal projects that may impact historic places, there may be an announcement in the newspaper or that department’s website. Your group may need to raise awareness through having a website, emailing announcement, writing letters to state and federal agencies, as well as contacting your representatives.
- Refer to the Advocacy on our website for the booklet “Saving the Neighborhood”
5. Be an Ambassador of Preservation
Spread an appreciation of the historic site you are trying to save, and all of Hawaii’s historic places, through communicating the value of historic preservation. Become active in protecting the places around you and be aware of projects and activities that may impact these historic places. Each voice helps deter harm directed at places that tie us to our history. Please support Historic Hawai‘i Foundation in our efforts and programs to spread awareness and an ethic of preservation.