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Supervisors move forward with historic preservation ordinance

Posted: June 3, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: June 3, 2013 2:00 a.m.

County supervisors voted recently to move forward with a proposed ordinance that would give tax incentives to private property owners who accept historical designation for properties located in unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County.

The county would be able to do so under the Mills Act, a 1972 California law that allows reduced taxes for property owners who enter into a contract with a local jurisdiction to preserve, restore and maintain eligible landmark properties.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said such incentives are important to “showcase the county’s heritage.”

“This time-tested strategy provides a dedicated resource for property owners to protect, preserve and rehabilitate buildings,” he said.

Though the ordinance may help preserve historical properties, the county could stand to lose $300,000 per year in property tax revenues as a result, according to documents on file with the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

As proposed, the program would last for 10 years, resulting in up to $3 million in total property tax revenue losses.
But any loss in revenue would be worth it to get property owners to sign on, according to Louis Skelton, chairman of the Los Angeles County Historical Landmarks and Records Commission.

Skelton also said the ordinance could spur property owners to restore their historic properties, as they would have a financial reason to do so.

As worded, the proposed ordinance would be conceptually similar to one adopted by the city of Santa Clarita in January. Santa Clarita’s ordinance also allows property owners to choose whether they want their properties designated as historic in exchange for fee waivers or a streamlined permitting process.

Last week’s vote by county supervisors is one step in the process toward finalizing a Mills Act ordinance. The item will return to the board for final approval at a later date.


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