Historic preservation is not just about regulations that prevent inappropriate changes to historic resources. Successful preservation programs also make incentives available for owners of historic properties. Read about some of the City’s current preservation incentives below.
Mills Act Program
The Mills Act Historical Property Contract Program is the City’s most significant financial incentive for historic preservation. It allows owners of Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monuments (HCMs) and contributing properties within one of the City’s Historic Preservation Overlay Zones (HPOZs) to receive a potential property tax reduction to help offset the costs of substantial rehabilitation and restoration of their buildings.
There are property assessed valuation thresholds in place for new applications: $1.5 million for single-family residences or $3 million for multi-family residential, commercial, or industrial properties. Any properties exceeding these valuation limits require an application for an exemption and the preparation of an Historic Structure Report.
Additional information about the program is available below and in the list of Frequently Asked Questions.
To receive updates, sign up to subscribe to City Planning e-mails and click “Mills Act Program” under Current Planning Initiatives.
2022 Mills Act Program
The Mills Act Historical Property Contract Program has served as Los Angeles's primary financial incentive for historic preservation since 1996, offering property tax savings for owners who invest in the rehabilitation and restoration of historic buildings. In an effort to strengthen and potentially expand the program, City Planning has commissioned an assessment study to identify operational and administrative improvements to make the program more effective and sustainable, with a focus on how to encourage a more equitable distribution of the program’s benefits.
Because the program is under review, City Planning will not accept new Mills Act applications in 2022. City Planning will be conducting public outreach later this year to inform the department’s Mills Act program recommendations to the City Council. The application process will resume once these recommendations have been completed and advanced to the City Council for deliberation and approval. For more information, contact email@example.com. Sign up here to receive updates on the Mills Act Program.
- Presentation from the 2020 Mills Act Workshop
- Tax Adjustment Worksheet
- Sample Historical Property Contract
- The Adaptive Reuse Ordinance Boundary Maps outline areas that are exempt from the property assessed valuation thresholds
- State Board of Equalization Guidelines for the Assessment of Enforceably Restricted Historical Property
- Municipal and State Codes Regarding Historical Property Contracts
Federal Rehabilitation Tax Credit
Owners of properties that are listed or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places may take advantage of a 20 percent Federal tax credit that is an incentive for historic preservation at the national level. The Federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit program is administered by the National Park Service and the Internal Revenue Service in conjunction with the California State Office of Historic Preservation. The credit equals 20 percent of the amount spent on qualifying historic rehabilitation expenditures (both hard and soft costs) and is only available to income-producing properties (commercial, industrial, agricultural, and residential rentals), not owner-occupied housing.
California Historical Building Code
Owners of qualified historic properties (either designated or determined eligible for designation) are entitled to use the California Historical Building Code (CHBC) for rehabilitation of older structures, which are typically out of conformance with code requirements for new construction. The CHBC does not allow code standards to be waived, but instead provides for alternative methods to achieve reasonable levels of safety.
Where prescriptive code alternatives are not identified in the CHBC, determination of the code lies with the State Historical Building Safety Board to provide interpretations, hear appeals, or act as a review body to state and local agencies or any affected party.
Adaptive Reuse Ordinance
The City’s Adaptive Reuse Ordinance has facilitated the conversion of dozens of historic and under-utilized structures into several thousand new housing units. The Ordinance was originally approved in 1999 for Downtown Los Angeles and was extended into other neighborhoods of the city in 2003. It provides for an expedited approval process and ensures that older and historic buildings are not subjected to the same zoning and code requirements that apply to new construction.
Easements offer owners of properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places a one-time federal income tax deduction for the donation of a partial interest in a property to a qualified preservation organization or government agency. The owner continues to own the property but transfers a specific set of rights represented by the easement to the easement-holding organization for the long-term protection of historic structures.
Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation
The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation are part of the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties. The Standards for Rehabilitation set a nationally recognized and accepted benchmark for reviewing proposed alterations to designated historic properties.
The Standards for Rehabilitation provide a framework for managing change. They seek to preserve the most significant, character-defining features of historic properties. For assistance in interpreting and applying the Standards for Rehabilitation, the National Park Service has published Preservation Briefs and detailed Guidelines.
Los Angeles’s historic buildings have a role to play in combating global climate change. The Office of Historic Resources’ Info Brief on the “Climate Heritage” movement explores the relationship between our cultural resources and our changing climate.
The following websites offer more information about historic preservation:
- California State Office of Historic Preservation
- California Historical Resources Information System (CHRIS) – Manages the state-wide database of historical resources
- National Park Service
- National Trust for Historic Preservation
- California Preservation Foundation
- Los Angeles Conservancy
Helpful Documents and Tips
Top Ten Myths About Historic Preservation, Ken Bernstein
- Incentives for Historic Preservation, Los Angeles Conservancy
- Funding and Loan Programs:
- National Trust for Historic Preservation Community Investment Corporation
- Potential Funding Sources for Historic Preservation, California Office of Historic Preservation