take pride in our secular history, cultural diversity, and democratic
discovery of adobe structures by construction workers in 2003 and
2004 reiterates the urgency to preserve sites of archaeological
and historical significance. The uncovering of these adobes is of
keen interest to historians, archeologists, preservation societies,
the media and the public, locally and statewide.
foundations and the roof tiles of the Perez adobe home were discovered
on November 26, 2003. Another adobe structure was found next to
the Perez adobe on February 23, 2004. Experts haven't yet confirmed
whether this is the foundation of a potentially new adobe or the
extension of the Perez home.
adobe foundations are adjacent to a vacant land parcel subject to
a proposed two-story 6-unit housing development in 2004. How will
significant archaeological and historical features be recognized
and preserved, and new housing projects be realized?
Perez adobe foundation has been reburied beneath a concrete sidewalk
and part of the asphalt roadway. Despite having been reburied, the
Perez adobe foundation could possibly be threatened by trenching
for public utilities, which will proceed as part of the proposed
development in a Villa de Branciforte neighborhood.
sites of historical significance can be accomplished by the creation
of mitigation policies that reduce the risks of destroying or damaging
significant archeological remains during the construction of new
housing. Preservation does not mean that new housing projects cannot
PRESERVATION: WHAT'S IN IT FOR YOU?
Roger DeBaun Owen
Every American community with its share of historic buildings, historic
homes and neighborhoods, and prehistoric or historic archaeological
sites, can offer its citizens an array of attractive tax benefits,
as well as access to historic preservation grants and low interest
loans. Private property owners, lessees, and public agencies are
eligible for various preservation incentives.
in historic preservation consistently shows positive returns for
income-producing properties, and growth in property values of historic
homes. Grant funding may be available for preservation, study and
even acquisition of archaeological sites. Low interest loans are
available for certified rehabilitation of certified historic structures
listed on the National Register of Historic Places, or included
within a certified Historic District.
tax benefits are available with or without formal recognition as
a "historic" building: the structure's age alone can qualify
its owner for federal investment tax credits. Other incentives are
provided directly by State and local governments, and vary by state,
community and type of project.
following overview details the historic preservation incentives
available to owners and lessees of historic buildings and cultural
resources sites in California.
majority of benefits consist of favorable tax incentives for historic
preservation rehabilitation by private property owners. These include
a 10% investment tax credit on rehabilitation expenditures for any
income-producing building constructed before 1936, or a 20% investment
tax credit for "certified rehabilitation of certified historic
structures" listed on the National Register of Historic Places,
or located within a certified Historic District.
these programs effectively, a property owner can write off 20% of
the investment as a tax credit, over and above normal allowable
expense items. The buildings can be used for industrial, commercial
or rental residential purposes. Additional and/or separate investment
tax credits are available for historic buildings that are used for
low-income housing. The credit is 9% per year for 10 years if no
other Federal subsidies are used, or 4% per year for 10 years if
the project involves Federal subsidies or tax-exempt bonds.(1)
Public and private property owners of buildings listed on the National
Register of Historic Places investing in historic preservation can
also qualify for Federal Historic Preservation Grants, on a "funds-available"
basis. The State Historic Preservation Officer can assist local
governments in becoming certified to participate in this program.
of full or partial interested in historic properties to a public
agency or non-profit (503c) organization are eligible for deduction
as a charitable contribution, even if the building is not depreciable.
This applies to buildings, structures other than buildings, or a
remnant of a building (such as a façade), and may include
the land as well as the building or structure. (2)
that is owned by a tax-exempt entity, or governmental body, and
that is predominantly used by a long-term lessee (taxpayer) in an
unrelated trade or business, which is subject to Federal income
tax, is eligible for the rehabilitation tax credits. Thus, if a
private sponsor leases a historic building from the city, and then
subleases the property to private and/or unrelated public groups,
the original lessee can utilize the tax credits as though it owned
the building (subject to various restrictions, of course).
tax credits for both rehabilitation expenditures and low income
housing can be used in combination - the "best deal in town",
according to the accounting firm of Sheppard, Mullin, Richter &
Hampton. (2) By combining the two, a private property
owner or long term lease holder can gain tax write-offs equal to
a one time tax credit of 20% of certified rehabilitation costs (on
top of normal deductible expenses) plus another 40% write-off over
Block Grant funds used for restoration of historic buildings can
be scheduled more flexibly than for non-historical buildings. The
formula that applies to non-historical buildings requires that interior
rehabilitation work would account for 60% and the exterior work
40% of the total expenditure. For historic buildings, the City can
apply up to 60% for exterior rehabilitation, i.e., to encourage
preservation of intricate facades and other architectural features,
which are more expensive to restore than in non-historic buildings.
State of California offers a property tax reduction incentive for
historic preservation. A "Mills Act Contract" provides
for a 50% reduction in property taxes for historic properties, whether
they are income producing or not. In redevelopment areas, the State
offsets the resulting revenue loss, reimbursing the property tax
to the cities. Thus, the city gains from the rehabilitation and
revitalization of historic commercial and residential areas, which
contributes to local employment and economic development, and the
deferred property tax revenue can be recaptured. All California
cities and counties have the option of establishing a Mills Act
municipalities have considerable flexibility in designing local
preservation programs and incentives. These can range from subsidizing
preservation loans to use of special-purpose bond issues. The City
of Sacramento has completed a statewide survey of such programs,
which presents a representative range of options. (4)
California Historical Building Code allows cities to offer special
treatment for historic preservation projects. For example, the allowable
density for a historic building can be greater than would otherwise
be the case, and the number of off-street parking spaces can be
reduced. The standards for certain "redundant" safety
improvements can also be relaxed. For example, one-hour fire resistive
construction is not required as long as sprinklers are used; ceiling
and building height limits (minimum and maximum) can be waived;
and archaic materials or methods of construction can be retained,
rather than replaced. (5)
DeBaun Owen is principal consultant for R.D. Owen & Associates,
a Santa Cruz based consulting firm specialized in integrated science
engineering and policy solutions in land use, historic preservation
and environmental planning projects. Recently listed in the "Heritage
Registry of Who's Who," Roger has more than 25 years experience
in land use planning and environmental mediation. His firm has completed
numerous projects for U.S. based and foreign corporations, government
agencies, interest groups and private property owners. Roger is
a member of the advisory committee of the Villa de Branciforte Preservation
Society and can be reached at his office at (831) 420-0609 or via
email at email@example.com.
"Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives. Tax Aspects
of Historic Preservation Frequently Asked Questions and Answers,"
Mark Primoli, Internal Revenue Service, National Parks Service,
October 29, 2000; "Preservation Tax Incentives for Historic
Buildings," National Parks Service, 1987.
"Rehabilitation Tax Credits, Easements and Other Preservation
Incentives," William F. Delvac, Sheppard, Mullin, Richter &
Hampton, Proceedings of 1987 Rural Preservation Conference, Hanford,
California, October 15, 1987.
"Mills Act Property Tax Abatement Program," California
Office of Historic Preservation, Technical Assistance Series, Article
12, Office of Historic Preservation, March 1, 2000.
"Incentives Program for Historic Preservation," Vincent
Marsh, Preservation Officer, City of Sacramento, California, 2000.
"California Historic Building Code," 1998 Edition, Published
by the International Conference of Building Officials, May 1, 1998.
information can be found in the following publications:
Historic Preservation Act of 1965," Public Law 89-665, STAT.,
915 U.S.C. 470, as amended by Public Law 91-243, Public Law 94-458,
Public Law 96-199, Public Law 96-244 and Public Law 96-515.
of Historic Properties" (36 CFR Part 800), Federal register,
Vol. 51, No. 169, September 1986.
Register of Historic Places (36 CFR Part 60).
Register of Historic Places (36 CFR Parts 60 and 63), Proposed rule,
Federal Register, Vol. 51, No. 150, August 5, 1986.
of Federally-Owned and Administered Archaeological collections"
(43 CFR Part 7), Federal Register, Vol. 43, No. 4, January 6, 1984.
California Environmental Quality Act Statutes and Guidelines,"
Office of Planning and research, Office of Permit Assistance, Sacramento,
Health and Safety Code, Section 7050.5.
Public Resource Code, Section 5097.
OPTIONS FOR PROTECTING NEIGHBORHOODS
Ross Eric Gibson
When residents feel the special character of their neighborhood
is threatened, there are three formats available for the protection
or improvement of a neighborhood's traditional character: Historic
District; Historic Conservation District; Neighborhood Guidelines.
each of these formats, neighborhood workshops can help determine
elements regarded as most important to this specific area for guidelines.
Historic District requires a cluster of landmarks listed on either
a local Historic Buildings Inventory, a State Landmarks Directory,
or the National Register for Historic Places. By defining the style-or-styles
this group of structures represents, guidelines are created to require
new in-fill development to be compatible with adjacent styles, scale
(height limits, set-backs), and the density of neighborhood. Street-scape
guidelines can include if desired, so that Public Works improvements
such as lamp-posts, sidewalks, street trees, etc., also compliment
the defined character of the neighborhood.
This doesn't provide added regulations for owners of historic homes,
as those homes are supposedly already listed, and therefore subject
to historic guidelines with-or-without an Historic District,
Regulations: An historic listing protects the primary façade(s)
visible from specified locations (usually from the street, and sometimes
from an important vista). Changes not noticeable from those locations
(such as interior structural changes or additions to secondary facades
or rear sections) are generally allowed, but must go through historic
review historic review for compatibility of design or materials.
Listed landmarks must avoid substituting inappropriate materials
that diminished their property's historic look. (This mostly means
avoiding vinal windows and rain gutters, exposed-aluminum window-casing
or pop-in pane-dividers, Sears metal-grapevine porches, etc.) Minor
items such as these can usually be reviewed at the planning counter
without a commission hearing.
homes in an Historic District and new construction can use modern
materials and follow normal remodeling, expansion, and development
procedures, with the provision that plans submitted to the Planning
Department be reviewed for compatibility with the defined aesthetic
and scale of the Historic District.
Historic Conservation District
is a lesser Historic District category, for when there is either
not a sufficient number of listed landmarks to constitute an historic
district, or when the older building stock is collectively notable,
but not individually distinguished. The guidelines are more to maintain
or improve the general integrity of the neighborhood.
or Altered: This classification may also be appropriate for areas
of historic importance that are missing many of their original landmarks,
or whose historic building stock has been inappropriately modernized.
The term "Historic Resource" is sometimes used to identify
altered landmarks that are prime candidates for restoration, but
that do not presently meet landmark standards.
in the case of lost or altered landmarks, an Historic Overlay District
might be regarded as a Starter District, to bring back the ambiance
of an important area, or restore buildings that would normally not
qualify for consideration. If carried out in an appropriate manner,
an Historic Resource can be upgraded to a Landmark, and an Historic
Overlay District can be upgraded to an Historic District.
Planning District Guidelines
third form of neighborhood protection is establishing guidelines
for a specifically defined Planning District. These have been used
for historic areas, non-historic neighborhoods, and even new communities
wishing to hold to specific aesthetic and development ideals. Unlike
the other two districts, this is managed by a Planning or Zoning
Commission. However, listed historic properties within this district
will still be subject to review by an Historic Commission, the same
as before this planning district was established.
drawback to excluding an Historic Commission from review in this
planning district, is that Planning and Zoning Commissions do not
necessarily need aesthetic or design expertise to apply their regulations,
leading to disputes over what exactly constitutes aesthetic compatibility?
An Historic Commission is the only body exclusively focused on aesthetic
compatibility issues. To do without this expertise, the guidelines
must be quite specific in what is and is not appropriate.
Eric Gibson is a historic architectural consultant, and historian
specialized in the Santa Cruz history. Ross Eric is a member of
the City of Santa Cruz Historic Preservation Commission, and has
been advising the City of Santa Cruz on several issues related to
historic preservation. He is currently working on the compilation
of an extensive study about the homes and early inhabitants of the
Branciforte Avenue in Santa Cruz. Ross Eric is a member of the advisory
committee of the Villa de Branciforte Preservation Society.
Copyright 2003 by Ross Eric Gibson. The Villa de Branciforte Preservation
Society was granted permission to reprint this article. Permission
from the author is mandatory for any reprints.