Esther Kang

Manhattan Beach City Council greenlights Mills Act

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This 1922 beach cottage in Manhattan Beach was recognized by the state as a historical landmark in 2007. Photo by Bruce Hazelton

This 1922 beach cottage in Manhattan Beach was recognized by the state as a historical landmark in 2007. Photo by Bruce Hazelton

Manhattan Beach will soon join 80 other cities across California to provide financial incentives to qualifying property owners in an effort to preserve its dwindling inventory of historical landmarks.

On June 17, the Manhattan Beach City Council voted unanimously in favor of the Mills Act, a state law that allows participating cities to provide a tax-incentive program for qualifying homeowners who choose to preserve their historic properties in participating cities and counties. Under the contract, which differs in each jurisdiction, the owner could receive up to a 60-percent reduction in property taxes for maintaining the integrity of the architectural facade.

Under the council’s direction, city staff will draft and present an ordinance within 90 days of the meeting detailing Manhattan Beach’s criteria for qualifying property and maintenance. Staff will also discuss the parameters of tax reduction, estimated amount of staff time and cost to run the program and the required training for individuals who will access the preservation standards.

mills act fact boxHistorian Jan Dennis said she was “absolutely delighted” with the council’s vote. As a former mayor who heads the Manhattan Beach Cultural Heritage Conservancy, she has been lobbying for historical preservation for more than 25 years, she said.

“It’s a long time coming,” Dennis, 82, said. “So much of Manhattan Beach’s history has been destroyed and we’ll never get it back again. At least it’s a movement in the right direction and I think there still are some icons left in town that are worth having people realize that they’re there.”

In 2006, the Manhattan Beach City Council adopted an honorary ordinance in lieu of the Mills Act, recognizing with a plaque historically significant landmarks that are 50 years or older. It offers no protection from bulldozers: Of the 18 homes recognized so far, one house has been demolished. Another building, formerly owned by founding developer George Peck, is facing a similar fate, Dennis said.

“This is an all-volunteer program so if people say no, that’s okay,” she said. “It’s their land, their money. But I would hope that there would be at least more interest in how Manhattan Beach was developed.”

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