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Exploring the Mills Act in San Diego


Preserving historical architecture is a vital aspect of maintaining a city's unique charm and character. In San Diego, a city renowned for its diverse architectural heritage, the Mills Act plays a crucial role in safeguarding and revitalizing historic homes. In this blog post, we'll delve into the significance of the Mills Act, its benefits, and showcase examples of homes in San Diego that have benefited from this preservation program.


What is the Mills Act? The Mills Act is a California state law that allows local governments to enter into contracts with property owners of qualified historic properties. These contracts provide property tax reductions in exchange for the preservation and maintenance of the property's historical and architectural character. The Act is named after James Mills, a former state senator who championed the cause of historic preservation.


Benefits of the Mills Act:

  1. Property Tax Reduction: One of the most significant advantages of the Mills Act is the potential reduction in property taxes. This financial incentive enables property owners to allocate funds toward the preservation and restoration of historic features.

  2. Community Character: Preserving historic homes maintains the cultural and architectural heritage of a community, enriching the overall character of neighborhoods.

  3. Economic Impact: Historic preservation contributes to local economies by attracting tourism, promoting heritage-related events, and enhancing property values.

Examples of Mills Act Homes in San Diego:


Marston House: 3525 Seventh Ave, San Diego, CA 92103

Built in 1905, the Marston House exemplifies the Arts and Crafts architectural style. Located in Balboa Park, it is a prime example of a property benefiting from the Mills Act. WEBSITE


William Templeton Johnson Residence: 4388 Ampudia St, San Diego, CA 92103

This iconic residence was designed by renowned architect William Templeton Johnson in 1920. The Mills Act has played a pivotal role in maintaining its historic elegance.



The Britt-Scripps House: 406 Maple Street, San Diego, California, 92103 A stunning Queen Anne-style mansion built in 1887, the Britt-Scripps House has been lovingly preserved under the Mills Act.



Villa Montezuma: 1925 K St, San Diego, CA 92102

A striking Victorian mansion built in 1887, Villa Montezuma showcases ornate architectural details and historical significance. The Mills Act has played a vital role in preserving this unique property.


Horton Grand Hotel: 311 Island Avenue San Diego, California 92101 This historic hotel, originally constructed in the mid-1800s, is a testament to San Diego's past. It has been meticulously preserved under the Mills Act, blending historical charm with modern amenities. WEBSITE


Whaley House: 2476 San Diego Ave, San Diego, CA 92110 Often referred to as one of the most haunted houses in America, the Whaley House is a well-preserved Greek Revival-style home built in 1857. It continues to benefit from the Mills Act, captivating visitors with its rich history. WEBSITE

Louis Bank of Commerce Building: 835 5th Avenue, Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego, CA 92101 Constructed in 1888, this building once housed a bank and now stands as an important historical landmark in San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter. Its restoration under the Mills Act showcases the city's commitment to preserving its downtown heritage.


Mills Act Agreement


The 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.


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.


The 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.


Who should I contact if I want to place my property under the Mills Act?

Each city has its own ordinance and different criteria to determine if a particular property qualifies. Please contact the following departments to get further information: • City of San Diego Historical Resources Board 619-235-5224 • City of Chula Vista Planning Department 619-409-5465 or 619-585-5621 • City of Coronado Community Development Department 619-522-7326 • City of Escondido Planning Department 760-839-4553 • City of La Mesa Community Development Department 619-667-1177 • City of National City Planning Department 619-336-4310 • County of San Diego Planning & Development Services Historical Properties 858-694-3656

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