In a move most likely sparked by the possible demolition of the Koffee Pot building at 4th & Alamitos as well as the famous (though not a designated landmark) donut at 7th & Bellflower soon to be displaced, the City Council voted to move forward on trying to restore the Mills Act.
The Mills Act Historical Property Contract Program is a little known 1972 law state law —adopted by Long Beach in 1993 and later abandoned in 2006 due to alleged discrepancies in the program—that basically allows certain historic properties to enter into a “preservation contract” with local governments. In other words, it provides tax relief to the owners of historically significant properties in order to provide them with monies to maintain the integrity of that property.
“We have so many neighborhoods with properties of historical significance that are in need of rehabilitation,” said mayoral hopeful and 5th District Councilmember Gerrie Schipske. “The City of Los Angeles has a very detailed website and a very aggressive program on the Mills Act because they’ve effectively reach out to owners of [historical] properties. They’re encouraging them to partake in the program because they understand how it benefits certain neighborhoods.”
To qualify, a property must be listed on one of two lists or designated as one of two markers: the National Register of Historic Places or the California Register of Historical Resources; or as a California Landmark or a local landmark. Long Beach is home to over 100 landmark properties—including the beloved Hot Cha/Koffee Pot building.
Director of Long Beach Development Services Amy Bodek noted that they are in the process of auditing the 30 single-family contracts—which include individual condos in places such as the Villa Rivera, causing the aforementioned discrepancies—that are currently under the Mills Act. She noted it is more a “physical audit,” that is to see if actual rehabilitation occurred, versus a financial audit. Following the audit, which Bodek said should be completed by summer, the City will bring an updated ordinance the Cultural Heritage Commission and City Council.
“I do not support the idea that we should reinstate the program immediately,” Bodek said. “The point of the audit is to clean up the existing language and reinstate a new program… Once we complete the audit and find the value that has been derived [from the existing program], then we will approach changing the municipal code.”
Schipske, however, was not thrilled with further holding back the reinstating process considering the exorbitant time—eight years—it has taken to reevaluate the value of the program after its discontinues. Schipske was not alone in her criticism, with multiple councilmembers echoing her dissent.
“I’ll use the example of Rose Park,” Lowenthal said. “Rose Park is not what it is used to be. Through the hard work and sweat of homeowners—with or without the Mills Act—property values have gone up… I think we can make the apparent lost revenues through increased property value [should we reinstate the Mills Act].”
The motion to reinstate the program after the audit was passed unanimously with mayoral candidate and current Vice Mayor Robert Garcia abstaining.