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Mills Act Historical Property Contract Program

Do you own a great historic building in Los Angeles? Is your property an existing City of Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument or a contributing structure in a designated Historic Preservation Overlay Zone? Are you interested in a financial incentive that can help you rehabilitate, restore and maintain your building? The City of Los Angeles can help.

The Mills Act Historical Property Contract Program allows owners of qualifying buildings to receive a potential property tax reduction and use the savings to help rehabilitate, restore and maintain their buildings. The Mills Act is the single most important economic incentive program in California for the restoration and preservation of historic buildings by private property owners. Enacted in 1972, the Mills Act legislation grants participating local governments (cities and counties) authority to enter into contracts with owners of qualified historic properties who actively participate in the restoration and maintenance of their properties to receive property tax relief. The City of Los Angeles adopted local Mills Act legislation in 1996. Since then, over 900 properties have benefited from the program.

 

2019 Mills Act Program 

The City of Los Angeles is now accepting Part 1 applications for the 2019 Mills Act cycle. Note that Priority Consideration Criteria (see page 7 of the Application Guide) will be weighted heavily in the application process.

Please reference the 2019 Mills Act Application Guide (see pages 17-18) and 2019 Mills Act Workshop presentation for instructions on completing the application and recent changes to the program. 

Part 1 applications must be submitted no later than 4:00pm on Friday, March 1, 2019. Applications received after this date and time will not be considered for this year's cycle.

 

In order to be considered for the Mills Act, a property must be a Contributor to a Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ) or be a designated Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM). All recently nominated HCMs must be designated by City Council on or before March 1, 2019. HCM applications that do not make the deadline this year and are successfully designated in 2019 will be able to apply for a 2020 Mills Act Contract. 

For those filing for Mills Act Exemption Properties, the FINAL Historic Structures Report (HSR) and Exemption Application fee are due at the submission of the Part 2 application.  Draft or incomplete HSRs will not be accepted. If the HSR requires more time, consider applying in 2020.

For additional information on the City's Mills Act Program, it may be helpful to review our Frequently Asked Questions.

 

Below are key dates in the 2019 application process:

  • January 9, 6:30pm           Mills Act Workshop (see PowerPoint presentation)
  • March 1 (by 4pm)            Deadline for the City to receive the Part 1 application and application fee
  • April 30 - May 1               Part 2 of the application and contract submission by appointment

 

About the Program

A formal agreement, generally known as a Mills Act or Historical Property Contract, is executed between the City of Los Angeles and the property owner for a revolving ten-year term. Contracts are automatically renewed each year so that the term of the contract always extends for ten years. Property owners agree to restore, maintain, and protect the property in accordance with specific historic preservation standards and conditions identified in the contract. Periodic inspections by City and County officials ensure proper maintenance of the property. The City may impose penalties for breach of contract or failure to protect the historic property. The contract is transferred to new owners if the property is sold, and is binding to all successive owners.

 

Benefits to Owners

Owners of qualified historic properties may apply for the program if they pledge to rehabilitate and maintain the historical and architectural character of their properties for the life of the Contract. The Mills Act program is especially beneficial for recent buyers of historic properties and for current owners of historic buildings who have made major improvements to their properties.

Mills Act participants may realize substantial property tax savings each year for recently improved or purchased older properties because valuations of Mills Act properties are determined by an Income Approach to Value rather than by the standard Market approach to determining appraised value. The Income Approach, divided by a capitalization rate, determines the assessed value of the property. In general, the income potential for an owner-occupied residential property is calculated by examining comparable rents for similar properties in the area, while the income amount on a commercial property is based on actual rent received. Because rental values vary from area to area, actual property savings may vary. In addition, as County Assessors are required to assess all property annually, Mills Act properties may realize slight increases in property taxes each year.

 

Qualified Historic Property

A qualified historic property in the City of Los Angeles is a property listed as a locally-designated Historic-Cultural Monument or Contributing Property to an approved Historic Preservation Overlay Zone. Additionally, single-family residences (with a property tax value assessment of not more than $1,500,000) and income producing multi-family/commercial/industrial properties (with a property tax value assessment of not more than $3,000,000) are eligible to apply. Property values in excess of these limits may apply for an exemption if they meet certain criteria.

The City will be accepting applications for properties that need significant rehabilitation or restoration work. The work needed to rehabilitate or restore the property shall be pending or not completed. Applications will be prioritized based on how the Mills Act will be used to assist the viability of the project.

Properties seeking an Exemption from the Valuation Limits of $1.5 million for Single-Family Residences and $3 million for Multi-family/Commercial Properties are required to prepare a Historic Structure Report (HSR). The report shall follow the methodology outlined in Preservation Brief 43 - The Preparation and Use of Historic Structures Reports published by the National Park Service (see http://www.nps.gov/tps/how-to-preserve/briefs/43-historic-structure-reports.htm) and formatted as per the California Office of Historic Preservation's Historic Structure Report Format. The HSR is used to substantiate the exceptional circumstances that warrant granting the exemption.

 

Mills Act FAQ

A list of frequently asked questions regarding the Mills Act was compiled during the 2014 Mills Act Workshop. The answers were provided by the three panelists at the workshop: Robert Chattel, Lambert Giessinger, and Patricia Johnson Connor. Click here to view the questions and their answers: http://www.preservation.lacity.org/news/frequently-asked-questions-about-mill-act-program.

 

For Additional Information

If you need additional information, please e-mail the Department of City Planning's Office of Historic Resources at planning.millsact@lacity.org.

 

The following documents provide information about the program. 

  1. Mills Act Application Guide 2019
  2. 2019 Part 1 Mills Act Application (must be received no later than 4:00pm on Friday, March 1, 2019)
  3. Mills Act Application Check List 
  4. Historical Property Contract (EXAMPLE)
  5. Exhibit A - Rehabilitation/Restoration/Maintenance Plan (EXAMPLE)
  6. Exhibit B - Maintenance and Rehabilitation Conditions (EXAMPLE)
  7. Tax Adjustment Worksheet 2019
  8. 2019 Mills Act Workshop Presentation