Homeowners in Anaheim’s first historic district may consider the Mills Act of 1972 the best state law ever enacted.
The Mills Act allows cities to reduce property taxes for owners of historic homes, resulting in annual savings between
24 percent to 60 percent.
So far, none of the owners of the 1,100 historic homes in the Anaheim Colony Historic District have applied for the
Mills Act tax breaks. They are awaiting City Council approval this fall to apply the law to the district.
City officials and the Historic Preservation Ad Hoc Committee, which comprises 10 historic homeowners, began
discussing plans for entering agreements with the city. Between 10 and 20 homes a year are expected to be approved
for the tax reduction.
On average, the city will lose $100 to $400 on annual property tax revenue for each property covered by Mills Act
Phyllis Mueller, the city’s neighborhood development coordinator and liaison to the ad hoc committee, said the fiscal
impact is minimal because only a small number of historic homeowners are interested in entering the agreement.
The agreement requires homeowners to maintain and restore their property in accordance with standards set by the
U.S. Secretary of the Interior.
Mueller said the monetary setbacks may be larger, however, if the owners of about 60 homes in an area of the district
undergoing redevelopment enter agreements because the Redevelopment Agency would receive less revenue.
The Anaheim White House restaurant, located outside of the historic district, is the only property in Anaheim to enter
the agreement, which the City Council approved in December 1998. The Italian restaurant is listed on the National
Register of Historic Places.
The City Council has supported the creation of the historic district, proven by its approval of the boundaries, colony
monuments and overall plans for the district.
Prompted by residents of the district, the city established the Anaheim Colony Historic District boundaries in 1997 in
an effort to preserve the homes in the area bordered by North, East, South, and West streets. The district includes the
city’s original boundaries.
In California, 53 cities have implemented the Mills Act programs as of October 1999.Orange County cities participating
include Orange, San Clemente, Laguna Beach and San Juan Capistrano.
Other cities in the San Diego and Los Angeles counties utilize the program, with San Diego city leading the way with 62
agreements. West Hollywood has 48.
Advocates of historic districts say the designation of such areas promotes community pride, increases property value and
attracts more tourists.
Since the creation of the city’s historic district and a nationwide surge in owning historic homes, more people are
looking into buying homes in the area, said Realtor Barbara Gonzalez, a member of the Historic Preservation Ad Hoc
She said in Anaheim there are 35 historic homes on the market, with prices ranging from $170,000 to $600,000, in
styles such as Spanish colonial and Pueblo revival.
“There’s a little bit of every-thing for everyone,” Gonzalez said.
All the houses in the district were built between 1890 and 1947 in 10 to 12 architectural styles.