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  • Writer's pictureJosh Taylor

Our Story, Saving more than 50% on Property Taxes with Mills Act

Joe and I bought our home, which we named The Jade Manor, in Sherman Heights a year and a half ago. We were instantly captivated by its charm and character. After some digging, we discovered that our home was historically designated, which gave us an opportunity to save significantly on property taxes through the Mills Act.

Built in 1897 The Jade Manor or officially known as the Historic Frank Noeltner House, it boasts a lightly Neoclassical architectural style. Frank Noeltner, the founder of the Mission Wine Company, resided here until 1918. Interestingly, in 1906, Noeltner built a smaller Queen Anne house at 530 19th Street, which he sold soon after, likely as part of a speculative building venture. Researching the Noeltner family has been a fun journey, adding depth to our appreciation of the home.

What is the Mills Act?

The Mills Act is a California state law enacted in 1972 that offers economic incentives for the preservation of historic buildings. By entering into a contract with the local government, property owners can receive a significant reduction in their property taxes, often by up to 50%. In exchange, owners agree to maintain and preserve their historic properties according to specific standards.

Our Experience with the Mills Act

Discovery and Research

We first heard about the Mills Act at a local historical society meeting. Intrigued by the potential savings, we began our research. Here’s what we learned:

  • Eligibility: Properties must be listed on any federal, state, county, or city register as a historic property.

  • Contract: A minimum 10-year agreement with automatic renewal every year, committing to the property's preservation.

  • Maintenance: Adherence to the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.

Qualification Process

  1. Determine Eligibility: We verified The Jade Manor's designation as a historic property through our local planning department.

  2. Initial Consultation: We met with the city’s historic preservation officer, who guided us through the application process.

  3. Application Preparation: We prepared a detailed application including:

  • A description of The Jade Manor’s historical significance.

  • Current photographs of the property.

  • A maintenance and rehabilitation plan.

  1. Submit the Application: After compiling the necessary documents, we submitted our application along with the required fee.

  2. Property Inspection: The city’s preservation officer conducted an inspection to assess the property’s condition and our proposed preservation plan.

  3. Approval and Contract Signing: Once approved, we signed the Mills Act contract, which was then recorded with the county recorder’s office.

Maintaining Compliance

To retain the benefits of the Mills Act, property owners must:

  • Annual Reports: Submit annual reports detailing the maintenance and rehabilitation work completed.

  • Periodic Inspections: Allow periodic inspections by the local government to ensure compliance.

  • Continuous Maintenance: Follow the maintenance and preservation plan.

Our Savings

The most rewarding part of this process was the significant reduction in our property taxes. Our bill was reduced by nearly 50%, translating into thousands of dollars in annual savings. These savings have enabled us to reinvest in the ongoing preservation and maintenance of The Jade Manor.

Is the Mills Act Right for You?

If you own a historic property and are committed to its preservation, the Mills Act can offer substantial financial benefits. However, it’s important to consider the responsibilities:

  • Ongoing Maintenance: Be prepared for the financial and time commitment required.

  • Compliance: Non-compliance can lead to the termination of the contract and potential penalties.

Steps to Get Started

  1. Research: Determine if your property qualifies and learn about local requirements.

  2. Consult: Meet with local preservation officials or a historical society.

  3. Apply: Prepare and submit your application.

  4. Maintain: Commit to ongoing maintenance and compliance requirements.

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