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Historical Building Repair

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I have a client with a registered historical building where the fire escape system (exterior, decorative steel and angles with flat bar slats) is severely rusted and deteriorated.  The client wants to replace the damaged areas in kind, with exactly the same construction as is currently there.  Original structure was built in 1928.
There is nothing unsafe about the existing design from what I can see except for the weathering. 
My question is; is it permissible to replace historical elements in kind?  There is no way the rails meet the current UBC 4" sphere test. Are the typical stair rail requirements applicable to an old historical fire escape?  If it is permissible, what would be the permit process if any?
Any advice or words of experience are appreciated, particularly from CA plancheck engineers and building officials.
Thank you,
Paul Feather