What is a Mills Act Contract?
The Mills Act is an economic incentive program in California for the restoration and preservation of qualified historic buildings by private property owners. Enacted in 1972, the Mills Act legislation grants participating local governments (cities and counties) the authority to enter into contracts with owners of qualified historic properties who actively participate in the rehabilitation, restoration, preservation, and maintenance of their historic properties. Since the costs of doing so can be prohibitive, property tax relief can offset these costs.
This historic preservation program was adopted by Redwood City in 1990.
The minimum duration for a Mills Act Contract is 10 years. When necessary, Mills Act contracts include a schedule of proposed maintenance and improvements that the owner agrees to complete. Such proposed maintenance and improvements may be spread over a 10-year period. Mills Act contracts renew automatically every year after the initial 10-year period unless the property owner or City opts to end the contract. Mills Act contracts transfer with the property in the event the property is sold or otherwise transferred to another party. Once approved, the contract is recorded against the title of the subject property and the information is forwarded to the County Assessor's office.
Once a Mills Act contract is approved and recorded, the property owner saves a percentage of the individual assessed tax valuation of the property. The reduction in property taxes takes effect in January of the year following approval of the contract. This property tax savings can then be used for the rehabilitation and maintenance of the historic property.
How to Apply for a Mills Act Contract
If your property is already a designated historic resource, simply submit a Planning application requesting a Mills Act Contract, $500 fee, and a proposed schedule of improvement and maintenance projects to the City's Planning Division. The proposed schedule of improvement and maintenance projects should include work that would help to preserve the character and integrity of the historic resource (i.e. repair of original wood windows). The schedule of work should not include projects that do not contribute to the preservation of the historic property (i.e. installation of new kitchen appliances).
If your property is not a designated historic resource, but is over 50 years old and may be historic, you'll first need to hire a qualified historian to research your property and prepare a report. If the report concludes that the property is eligible for listing on the local, state or national register of historic places, you may apply to 1) have your property officially designated as a historic resource, and 2) request a Mills Act Contract. Simply submit a Planning application requesting designation and a Mills Act Contract, $500 fee, the historic report, and a proposed schedule of improvement and maintenance projects to the City's Planning Division.
All Mills Act Contracts and Historic Landmark Designation requests must be reviewed by the City's Historic Resources Advisory Committee (HRAC) and Planning Commission (PC). Both the HRAC and PC will make recommendations to the City Council. City Council has the final authority to designate a property as a historic resource and to approve Mills Act Contracts.
Applications for Mills Act Contracts must be submitted by July 1 in order to be processed and recorded by the end of the year.
For more information, contact Karen Vaughn, Principal Planner firstname.lastname@example.org
- Redwood City Historic Designation Information
- California Board of Equalization - Historical Property/Mills Act FAQ's
- California Office of Historic Preservation - Mills Act Program Information
- Mills Act Handbook for Taxation
- California Historical Resources Information System (CHRIS) Consultants List
- Redwood City Historic Resources Advisory Committee