What We Do
The Assessor locates, identifies the ownership, and determines the value of real and business personal property in the county. The department completes an annual assessment roll for all properties in the county, which is prepared after assessing properties and taking any necessary reassessments into consideration. The department also maintains historic documents, such as maps and deeds; develops and maintains geographic information systems data; and tracks tax rate area geographic boundaries to allocate special district funding.
Preserving History for Future Generations
The County of San Luis Obispo Assessor’s Office continued its second year of a six-year project to properly preserve, digitize and store thousands of historic maps in its possession.
Because many of the maps date back to the 1890s, they are rapidly deteriorating. It is the Assessor’s obligation to permanently preserve these historic maps for public record and to ensure that they are always accessible. However, there has always been a tremendous risk of losing irreplaceable information.
The pages of these maps are quite literally falling apart—they are brittle with tears and missing information that is vital to the County’s day-to-day business. (See the photo slideshow below to see the state of these historic documents.)
“We use these records quite frequently to track the ownership of land, and we’ll go back in time to the earliest maps we have when necessary,” said Preston McKelvy, an Assessment Manager at the Assessor’s Office. “Due to the exposure to oxygen and dirt, the type of paper they’re printed on turns brittle and pieces can easily break off when handled.”
The Assessor’s Office has been working for two years with the Kofile Preservation Company to preserve the maps.
“They de-acidify the maps and digitize them, so we don’t have to handle the hard copy as frequently,” McKelvy said. “They mount them on a backing sheet as an archival tool and place them in polyester sleeves to protect the maps from oxygen and dirt. The maps are then placed into a hanging rack system. The documents are all currently in bounded books, which means maps you don’t even need to access are getting handled frequently, which causes further deterioration.”
In 2014, 57 large format maps were preserved through this process, and an additional 112 maps are to be preserved this year. The Assessor’s Office will continue the preservation project for another four years. Next steps include replacing the current storage system with a new hanging rack system in the same area of the office.
“If we don’t preserve the maps, we are in danger of losing them,” McKelvy said. “When we preserve these maps, their estimated lifespan goes from decades to 300 to 500 years. We’re trying to preserve history for generations to come. It really is a public service to everyone in this county and to future citizens.”