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Supervisors Back Tax Break for a Historic Property Preservation

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to offer property tax reductions to encourage the preservation and restoration of historic properties in unincorporated areas of the region.

The change to county code, authorized under California’s 1972 Mills Act and championed by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, will cut property taxes for owners of eligible landmark buildings who agree to maintain and protect them.

“The Mills Act is considered the single most important economic incentive program in California for the restoration and preservation of historic buildings by private property owners,” Department of Regional Planning Director Richard Bruckner said in a letter to the board.

Preservation efforts often spur redevelopment in neighborhoods surrounding landmarks, boosting property values overall, according to Louis Skelton, chairman of the county’s Historical Landmarks and Records Commission.

“The Mills Act will provide an incredible opportunity for community redevelopment,” Skelton told the board.

The Hollywood Bowl is the only property in the county that enjoys landmark status, though many more properties could benefit from the Mills Act program, according to Skelton.

The Landmarks commission will comment on application materials, guidelines and consideration criteria. A 10-year, annually renewable contract between each property owner and the county will set preservation standards.

Bruckner recommended that the board limit contracts under the program to six per year for the first three years and limit total property tax reductions to $300,000 annually. He also suggested that eligibility to be limited to single-family homes with an assessed value of no more than $1 million and non-residential properties assessed at $3 million or less.

Those recommendations will be addressed by the board when it considers the final form of the ordinances for adoption.

More than 20 other municipalities in the county have Mills Act programs, according to Marcello Vavala of the Los Angeles Conservancy.