The process of urban redevelopment provides numerous opportunities to explore a community’s history. In past centuries, new buildings and facilities were often constructed atop the remains of earlier structures and neighborhoods. Applied EarthWorks has developed effective techniques for integrating cultural resource studies into the process of redevelopment. The company employs historians who specialize in archival research that can be used to predict which portions of currently developed areas are sensitive for cultural resources. This proactive approach helps to focus archaeological investigations, which affords the project proponent the chance to save time and money. Applied EarthWorks has used this process successfully in numerous historic downtown areas throughout California for both public and private redevelopment projects. 

Representative Projects

Court Street Redevelopment Project

City of San Luis Obispo
San Luis Obispo, California

The Court Street Redevelopment Project entailed redevelopment of two discontiguous blocks in the downtown core of San Luis Obispo, converting surface parking lots into a mixed-use commercial, residential, office, and parking development. The project required substantial grading and excavation, demolition of an existing building, and alteration of the setting and viewshed in the historic downtown area. The EIR studies demonstrated that these activities had the potential to cause significant impacts to historical and archaeological resources.

To mitigate significant impacts, Æ proposed a unique “consolidated approach” that combined the archaeological discovery, evaluation, and mitigation phases into a single operation. Areas likely to contain remains were exposed prior to construction, and identified archaeological features or strata were evaluated immediately. Those meeting predefined significance criteria were treated through a program of controlled data recovery excavation. The historic context for evaluation, project research design, and mitigation plan were set forth in the EIR, which received the 2003 Association of Environmental Professionals Award for Outstanding Environmental Document.

During fieldwork, 19 archaeological features dating from the late eighteenth century (circa 1790) to the late twentieth century (circa 1970) were discovered. Of these, six were judged to meet the established significance criteria. These represent Native American occupation during the mission era, the remains of the Bank of San Luis Obispo, a saloon, and a brothel. While the project was underway, our archaeologists met with the media and conducted tours to explain the investigations in progress, continuing the City’s public outreach efforts.

Key Services

  • Environmental Impact Reporting
  • Archival and Historical Research
  • Historic Building Survey/Architectual History
  • Archaeological Testing and Impact Evaluation
  • Data Recovery Excavation and Impact Mitigation
  • Laboratory Processing and Data Analysis
  • Collections Management
  • Native American Consultation and Coordination
  • Geomorphology and Geoarchaeology
  • Hazardous Material Remediation Monitoring
  • Public Outreach and Interpretation

Historic Building Surveys

Fresno Unified School District
Fresno, California

Fresno Unified School District is acquiring land in the city of Fresno for future development of elementary and middle schools. Most of these proposed school sites lie within established neighborhoods that represent various periods in the history and development of the community. To meet its legal obligations under the Fresno Municipal Code and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the school district is required to evaluate the sites for the their potential to contain historical resources.

Æ performed historic building surveys of each school site in conjunction with background research to accurately document the age, association, and condition of the buildings in the area. Potential school sites lie within an early Fresno subdivision dating to 1888, a neighborhood that was settled by Volga German emigrants beginning in 1909, and an area containing homes and businesses constructed in the 1940s. Residential properties, commercial buildings, and public facilities in the project areas that were at least 50 years old at the time of the surveys were photographed and recorded according to California Department of Parks and Recreation standards.

Archival research was used to develop a historic context for each proposed school site. These contexts were then used to examine the recorded properties with reference to the documented historical themes, in relation to other existing resources in each project area, and in accordance with CEQA criteria. Using these methods, Æ was able to accurately evaluate the significance of the historical resources and assist Fresno Unified School District in their planning process.

Key Services

  • Environmental Impact Consultation
  • Archival and Historical Research
  • Historic Building Survey
  • Evaluation for California Register Eligibility
  • Coordination with Local Regulatory Agencies

brand park community center

City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks
Los Angeles, California

Between July 2004 and August 2010, Æ staff, under contract to the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, completed a cultural resource assessment, archaeological testing, and data recovery for the Brand Park Community Center. The City of Los Angeles proposed a new community center within an existing park in the Mission Hills of San Fernando Valley. Because the park is in proximity to Mission San Fernando Rey de España and Brand Park Memory Garden is a California Historical Landmark, the project area is considered highly sensitive for historical resources.

Testing demonstrated the presence of intact archaeological deposits associated with the mission, which was built in 1795. Applied EarthWorks archaeologists and historians subsequently developed a research design to recover significant remains. Data recovery was completed in two phases, the first prior to construction and the second in conjunction with building of the center. These efforts resulted in the recovery of significant mission-era matanza deposits with extensive bone midden, remnants of the mission granary, and tile cooking features. Mitigation monitoring continued after data recovery, and additional structural remains were found.

Project coordination involved the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, Department of Public Works, and Bureau of Engineering as well as concerned Native American groups and the California Office of Historic Preservation. Æ prepared a comprehensive report of findings, which was filed with the City Department of Recreation and Parks, Regional Information Center, and Fowler Museum at the University of California, Los Angeles, where the artifact collection is curated. Æ prepared a display of photographs, artifacts, and drawings for exhibit at the Brand Park Community Center.

Key Services

  • Testing and Evaluation for National Register Eligibility
  • Data Recovery Excavation and Mitigation
  • Construction Monitoring and Emergency Archaeology
  • Laboratory Processing and Collections Management
  • Native American Consultation and Coordination
  • Archival and Historical Research
  • Interpretive and Educational Programs


Fresno Unified school district 

City of los angeles department of parks and recreation

City of San Luis Obispo

California Public Employee’s Retirement System (CalPERS)