Historic Properties and the Mills Act Subject of History Museum Program

By April 27, 2021Press Releases

LOS ALTOS, CA (April 27, 2021) – To preserve the history of the town, in 1987, the City of Los Altos adopted the Mills Act, a California state law providing an economic incentive program that lowers property taxes for homeowners who maintain the historical and architectural character of their qualified properties. In a Zoom event titled “Historic Preservation Through the Mills Act,” Los Altos History Museum will hold a panel discussion with local Mills Act participants on Thursday, May 13 at 7pm.

The Mills Act was introduced in 1972 by State Senator James R. Mills of San Diego as a way to assist in the preservation of the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego Harbor. It has since been enacted by dozens of California cities wishing to encourage the preservation of historic structures within their town. Each town determines its own criteria and method for implementing this program, which can save home owners tens of thousands of dollars a year in property taxes if eligible.

In Los Altos, fourteen structures have been designated as Mills Act properties, the first being the Merriman Winchester House on Edgewood Lane built in the 1800s, making it the oldest residential home in the city. Another early designated property is the Adams House on Pepper Avenue, built in 1906. The owner, Jon Baer, will join the panel of homeowners at the Museum’s program.

“The Mills Act is a powerful carrot that has helped us restore an important historic home for future generations. I have been an advocate for preserving our town’s architectural heritage and wish there was even more that could be done to encourage preservation of other significant buildings in town,” Baer said.  “My wife and I began restoration work in 1997 and have spent considerable time, energy and money to make it a showcase as well as a home to raise our family.  But the effort has been worth it.”

Sean Gallegos, an associate planner with the City of Los Altos, will lead the panel discussion. As the liaison to the Los Altos Historical Commission, he has shepherded through several Mills Act applications. Gallegos wrote the only academic paper in the United States detailing the impact of the Mills Act on California property law.

To attend the free program, sign up at losaltoshistory.org/MillsAct.

Los Altos History Museum began in 1977 with the opening of the J. Gilbert Smith House historic farmhouse, built in 1905. In 2001, the Los Altos History Museum opened its modern building next door, which houses the Museum’s collections, permanent and changing exhibits, store and administrative offices. The Museum and its grounds are available for rent during evenings and weekends. Its collections are owned by the City of Los Altos and are managed by an independent nonprofit organization, whose staff and volunteers are responsible for all programs and operations.

The Museum is open Friday through Sunday, from noon-4pm. Admission is free. The J. Gilbert Smith House remains temporarily closed. The gardens, outdoor agricultural exhibits and picnic area are accessible beyond Museum hours. For more information, visit: losaltoshistory.org, email hello@losaltoshistory.org, or phone 650.948.9427 x14.

Media Contact: Marketing@losaltoshistory.org

Los Altos History Museum: Elisabeth I. Ward, 650.948.9427 x10, eward@losaltoshistory.org