Buying A Historic House
A property that is historically-protected offers both benefits and some restrictions
City of Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monuments:
When a building has been declared a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument (HCM), it joins a select few homes and other properties (fewer than 1,000 throughout L.A.) that the City recognizes as unique landmarks. There are a number of benefits, including the elimination of certain retrofitting requirements normally required upon resale of a property. In addition, the owners of any Los Angeles HCM may be eligible to enter into a Mills Act historical properties contract that can reduce property tax obligations (see below). You also may be eligible to utilize the State of California building code for historic structures, rather than some local Los Angeles building ordinances, when you are rehabilitating your historic property. If you are considering adaptive reuse options, HCMs also may receive special considerations, including potential parking reductions in some cases.
HCMs are considered restricted properties. You may not engage in any interior or exterior work on the house, building or the parcel/lot itself without building permits that have been approved by the City of Los Angeles Planning Department’s Historic Resources division.
Contributing Structures, National Register of Historic Places Historic District:
The federal government has a program where some older neighborhoods are officially recognized as protected historic districts. Each property within a designated district is either contributing or non-contributing. The City of Los Angeles policy is to require review and environmental clearance for proposed exterior work on contributing structures in a National Register District. Demolition or major alteration is not generally approved.
Individually-listed National Register landmark:
Generally speaking, when a property is individually listed on the National Register, stricter review guidelines apply, and changes to both interior and exterior spaces are more restrictive.
Mills Act Historical Properties Contracts:
In the City of Los Angeles, both individual Historic-Cultural Monuments and Contributing Structures in designated HPOZs may be eligible to enter into a Mills Act Historical Property Contract, which can reduce County property taxes by 25 percent or more. In return, the property owner must have all proposed interior and exterior work reviewed by and approved by the City. The Mills Act requires a separate application process, and the payment of certain fees.
Occasionally a property is also located within a Specific Plan area. In West Adams, the North University Park Specific Plan, which has its own Design Review Board and specific land use requirements, includes certain restrictions as well as certain benefits for historical properties. Please contact the City’s Community Planning Bureau at 213-978-1167 for more information.
The Getty Conservation Institute has prepared a handbook entitled “Incentives for the Preservation and Rehabilitation of Historic Homes in the City of Los Angeles.” Click here to download the pdf brochure.
The City of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles City Planning Department have created informational brochures on historic properties. Click here to download the pdf brochure on Caring for Your Historic Home.
Click here to download the pdf brochure on Historic Preservation Overlay Zones.