Adopt a Cultural Impact Study


Right now, public policy can stop developers from rezoning or bulldozing your neighborhood if they find an endangered plant, animal, or insect there. Shouldn’t human habitat have the same protections?

The right to culture is meaningless unless the value of human culture is recognized and protected. Your neighborhood, city, county, state, nation—any public body authorized to make decisions about things like zoning and development—can support cultural rights by adopting a Cultural Impact Study (CIS) requirement for every project with potential negative cultural impact, designating each project as approved, in need of mitigation to avoid cultural harm, or disapproved.

Download the complete text for a model resolution by a board of trustees or directors, a city council, county board of supervisors, state legislature or other authority adopting a CIS as official policy below. Call on us anytime for information or help at

Adopting a Cultural Impact Study (CIS) requirement is one of ten points in Standing for Cultural Democracy: the USDAC’s Policy and Action Platform.


Too often, developers and officials see communities of color and low-income communities as disposable in the face of economic “progress.”

We see longstanding neighborhoods destroyed—not just buildings and public spaces, but cultural and social fabric—to make way for highly subsidized or otherwise profitable development projects such as new freeways or sports stadiums. Across the U.S., residents are displaced due to gentrification, driving up housing costs to attract and accommodate trendier, wealthier tenants, converting neighborhood groceries to high-end boutiques and restaurants and public gathering-places to private amenities.

Contrast this with environmental protection. Since the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969, proposed federal projects require an environmental assessment, and if that shows possible negative environmental impact, an Environmental Impact Study must be prepared and considered before approval, modification, or rejection of the proposed project. This powerful and influential tool of environmental policy forces consideration of impact before steps are taken that might do damage.

Culture has no legal standing in such decisions, no grounds for protection. In seeking solutions, What about the sense of belonging, the sites of public memory, the gathering-places, the expressions and embodiments of heritage cultures that would be destroyed by proposed developments?

Every community should be authorized to assess, study, and act on these too. The purpose of a Cultural Impact Study (CIS) is to help public officials make informed decisions reflecting deep understanding of negative cultural consequences and the positive alternatives available. Download the full text using the form above of a model resolution adopting a CIS requirement for all projects with potential negative cultural impact, giving your community essential tools to ensure that all development respects and protects cultural rights.

Call on us anytime for information or help at And if you’re working to enact a CIS already, please keep us posted!