May 27, 2015
Santa Monica’s most important preservation incentive was granted to five landmark property owners at the October 28 meeting of the City Council. This action brings the City’s total number of Mills Act contracts to 62, which enables a property tax reduction for owners who commit to an approved plan of restoration and maintenance.
The properties newly approved are:
This year’s Mills Act beneficiaries are an unusually diverse group, including two historic multifamily residential properties and downtown commercial buildings. Owners of such structures are frequently surprised to learn that the City’s incentives for designated properties are not restricted to single family homes.
Under the provisions of the Santa Monica Landmark Ordinance, Structures of Merit and contributing structures in designated Historic Districts are also eligible to apply for Mills Act contracts; several have done so since the program was first authorized in 1991.
The Mills Act, the state program that reduces property taxes on designated historic properties, is one of Santa Monica’s most powerful incentives for historic preservation. Eligible properties include designated landmarks, structures of merit, and contributing properties in historic districts. To date, 57 historic buildings in Santa Monica have been rehabilitated under Mills Act contracts.
On July 7, the City Council acted to clarify and strengthen the Mills Act program in Santa Monica, adopting the recommendations formulated by the Landmarks Commission over the past year.
The action, supported by the Santa Monica Conservancy, defines additional eligibility requirements for qualified historic properties pursuing Mills Act Contracts with the City, including submittal of a detailed Work Plan that conforms to the Secretary of Interior Standards – the benchmark for appropriate rehabilitation and restoration work on historic properties. Additionally, the property must not have any outstanding code violations or tax delinquencies.
The City’s Mills Act application form will be amended to reflect these new requirements. Once approved, the contracts will be monitored biennially, requiring the contract holder to submit a report describing work performed on the property and progress toward completing the activities described in the Work Plan.
Council had initially asked staff to study the implementation of limits on the size of individual contracts and/or the total amount of tax loss created by Mills Act Contracts. These provisions were strongly opposed by the Landmarks Commission and the Conservancy and were not included in the approved changes to the program.
This year’s applications for new Mills Act Contracts will be reviewed by the Landmarks Commission on September 8 and will then be forwarded to the City Council for approval.