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Historic Preservation – frequently asked questions

What is the Historic Resources Commission (HRC)?

In August of 1998, the Santa Ana City Council approved an ordinance, which created the Historic Resources Commission. The HRC was established to recognize and preserve historic structures important to the protection of the rich historic heritage of the City of Santa Ana. This nine-member board will advise and make recommendations regarding historic properties; recommend to the City Council policies and regulations related to the protection, reuse, and rehabilitation of historic structures; and foster public awareness of historic and architectural resources throughout the City.

When does a property require HRC review?

In addition to the creation of the HRC, the City Council also created a list of historically significant properties called the Santa Ana Register of Historical Properties. Any property on the local Register proposing an exterior alteration (painting excluded), relocation, or demolition of the historic structure must first have that request reviewed by the HRC. The HEMA application must be completed and submitted to the Planning Division to schedule the required HRC public hearing. At the public hearing, the HRC will evaluate the merits of the proposal, consider public input, and provide appropriate comments for the project prior to taking action on the proposal.

What is the Santa Ana Register of Historical Properties?

Commonly referred to as the local Register, the Santa Ana Register of Historical Properties was approved and adopted by the City Council in November 1998. The local register is a comprehensive inventory of historic structures and properties that exemplify the rich cultural heritage of Santa Ana.

Why is the local Register important?

The local register identifies historic and architecturally significant properties, which have been determined to be important cultural resources to the City of Santa Ana. Based upon the significance of the contribution that these structures provide to the City, the City Council has deemed that special efforts shall be made to preserve these structures for the benefit of the community for years to come. As a result, anyone wishing to propose an exterior modification, relocation, or demolition of any structure on the local Register must first have that request reviewed by the Historic Resources Commission (HRC) and the City Council.

How does a property get added to the local Register?

In order to add a property to the local Register, a Historic Property application with applicable submittal requirements must be completed and submitted to the Planning Division. Additionally, the property must meet at least one of the criteria for significance listed on Page 2 of the application. The Planning Division will then schedule a public hearing before the Historic Resources Commission. At the public hearing, the HRC will evaluate the merits of proposal, consider public input, and provide appropriate comments for the project prior to formulating a recommendation.

What is a Historic Property Preservation Agreement (HPPA) or the Mills Act?

In 1972 California State legislators adopted the Mills Act, granting local governments the authority to grant property tax relief to owners of “qualified” historic properties. To pursue this historic preservation tax credit incentive program, an owner of a qualified historic property must enter into a Historic Property Preservation Agreement with the City of Santa Ana. Under this contract agreement, the property owner agrees to protect, preserve, and maintain the property in accordance with specific preservation standards and other conditions in exchange for property tax credits.

How does a property owner pursue a preservation agreement or Mills Act Agreement?

A preservation agreement with the City of Santa Ana is required in order to enjoy the tax credit benefits authorized by the Mills Act. The HPPA application with submittal requirements are to be completed and submitted to the Planning Division. The Historic Property Preservation Agreement will be in the form of a contract, which must be reviewed and approved by the City of Santa Ana Historic Resources Commission and the City Council.

What are the key points of the Mills Act?

Once approved, a formal preservation contract agreement is to be in effect for a minimum of ten years, automatically renewed every year, and automatically transferred to new property owners when the property is sold or exchanged. Should the property owner maintain the property in accordance with the terms of the contract, the property owner is eligible to receive tax credit benefits through the Mills Act program. As property values and tax rates vary, the exact savings will also vary from property to property. For more information, the Mills Act program brochure is available for illustrative purposes .

What is my tax savings from the Mills Act contract?

Different property owners with Mills Act contracts may receive different property tax reductions depending on how long they have owned the property and the property's existing assessed value. The City does not control or set the assessed value of property under the Mills Act contract. This value and the ultimate property tax paid by the property owner is determined by the Orange County Assessor, using a formula that is established by the state Mills Act legislation. If you have specific questions about the potential assessed value of your property under a Mills Act contract, please contact the Orange County Assessor - Special Properties Division at (714) 834-2727.

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