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Mills Act Agreement

 Limited Application Period! Mills Act applications are only accepted between Jan. 1 and March 31 each year. Properties must be historically designated by Dec. 31 of the prior year to be eligible to apply.

 

This application is required for an individual property owner requesting a Mills Act Agreement. Enabled by state legislation in 1972 and adopted by the San Diego City Council in 1995, the Mills Act offers a unique tool for historic preservation through a revolving 10-year contract between the City and the property owner. The program's strength is that it incentivizes, through a property tax reduction, investment in historic preservation for the maintenance, restoration and rehabilitation of historic properties within the City of San Diego.

PDF icon  San Diego City Council Policy 700-46 outlines the Mills Act Program. PDF icon Learn more about the City of San Diego Mills Act Program.

Plan Your Project

What You Should Know

  • Applications are accepted yearly between Jan. 1 and March 31; applications must be received by March 31 to be processed in the same calendar year.
  • To be eligible to apply for the Mills Act in the City of San Diego, the property must be historically designated on the local register by Dec. 31 of the prior year.

The Mills Act application must include the following:

  • Proposed Improvements
    This document must explain how the Mills Act will promote the preservation of the historic property. It must include a tentative schedule of restoration and maintenance activities to be undertaken over the next 10 years, consistent with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties and include cost estimates from qualified contractors. 

    Applications will not be processed if it cannot be demonstrated that the tax savings will or have been invested in the historic property. 

  • Photographic Survey
    This file must include current color photographs of the street view and all elevations, including any character-defining features of the historic property and any outbuildings.
  • Grant Deed
    The current Grant Deed, including a legal description of the property, must be submitted. This document is available at the San Diego County Assessor’s Office.

The following additional documents may be required, if applicable:

  • Additions and Modifications
    This document must include the description of any additions, alterations, or modifications to the property since it was designated (e.g., additions, recent restoration work, or non-original windows or doors).
  • Authority to Sign
    This file must include documentation that establishes authority of signer(s) if the property is held in a Trust, Corporation or Partnership (e.g., Certification of Trust, Articles of Organization, Certificate of Limited Partnership).

Fees

  • The application fee for the Mills Act is $471.00, this is a one-time fee.
  • The monitoring fee for the Mills Act is $234.00, this fee is due when the Mills Act Agreement is signed and every five years thereafter.

Need Help?

To help customers avoid any additional costs or confusion, staff can provide guidance on the application process and answer any questions via email at DSDMillsAct@sandiego.gov. We look forward to hearing from you!

Compliant Outdoor Expansion

Apply for a Permit

Step 2

Read the PDF icon requirements for PDF file uploads.

Not following the PDF requirements will delay project review and approval.

Step 3

Obtain and submit:

  1. Proposed Improvements
  2. Photographic Survey

  3. Grant Deed

  4. Additions and Modifications is required if there have been any additions or modifications to the property since it was designated.

  5. Authority to Sign is required if the property is held in a trust, corporation or partnership.

 

4

Your PDF documents MUST meet our upload requirements. See Step 2 for more info.

Validate your PDF documents with Scout™

Step 5

Apply for the permit

Complete applications will only be accepted between January 1 and March 31 each year. You will be required to upload the completed documents from Step 3 at the time of application. Submitting without all the requirements will result in delays.Ste

Frequently Asked Questions

How much will I save on my property taxes?

The amount you save will depend on your property's location, size and comparable rents in the area. The value continues to be assessed by the County Tax Assessor's office using a formula and procedures contained in state law. Property tax reductions result when the property tax amount that is based on the Mills Act value is compared to the previous property tax amount. The savings vary from property to property and have ranged from 20% to 70% based on the County Tax Assessor's property valuations in accordance with the state law formula. Properties that have been under the same ownership for a long time (e.g., pre-Prop. 13), where the property taxes are already low compared to homes sold at the peak of the market, will most likely not benefit from the Mills Act.

Is my building eligible for the Mills Act without local historical designation?

No. Local historical designation is required before you can enter into a Mills Act agreement. Even if your property is listed on the National Register and/or California Register but is not designated historical by the City of San Diego, your property is not eligible for the Mills Act.

What is the term of the Mills Act agreement?

The terms of Mills Act agreements are established by state law. The initial term of the agreement is ten years. The agreement is automatically renewed each year for an additional year and changes the expiration date so that 10 years is still left in the term of the agreement. The agreement will thus continue in effect indefinitely unless notice is served by either party for the automatic renewals to stop. If either party serves notice for the automatic renewals to stop, the agreement will expire on the agreement's current expiration date, which would be about ten years after the notice is recorded.

What are the responsibilities of a Mills Act agreement?

The responsibilities of Mills Act agreements are established by state law and any other requirements set up by the local Mills Act program. Generally, the property owner is required to maintain and preserve the site in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior's Standards. All other local regulations on historical sites in the City of San Diego Municipal Code also apply.

If I sell my property, does the new owner have to apply again to obtain the Mills Act?

If you own a property that has been designated as historical by the Historical Resources Board and you have a Mills Act agreement recorded on your property, the Mills Act benefits go with the land. That way, new owners "inherit" the agreement's benefits and responsibilities.

Is the Mills Act available to all local individual historically-designated structures and those in established local historical districts?

Yes, except within redevelopment areas. The Mills Act is not uniformly allowed for all buildings in these areas, especially not for commercial structures. You should check with the staff of the particular redevelopment area to find out if they will approve a Mills Act agreement.