Second Acts

A local real estate agent engages the Mills Act to revive his recently purchased historical bungalow in Redondo Beach.

 

Historical preservation is an important element in the retention of the basic character and soul of a community. Fortunately cities like our own Redondo Beach, nearby Santa Monica and others in Los Angeles County have formally adopted a significant contract called the Mills Act to help preserve historic properties in their neighborhoods.

In 1972, state Senator James R. Mills of San Diego introduced legislation to provide economic incentives for owners of historical properties. His legacy, the Mills Act, empowers local governments to grant property tax relief to owners of qualified historical properties—both owner-occupied, single-family residences and income-producing, commercial properties. 

In 1995, San Diego adopted the Mills Act to retain the legendary Hotel del Coronado located on prime real estate along San Diego Bay. To date, there are approximately 2,457 Mills Act contracts statewide, 93 in Redondo alone. Through Alex Plascencia, associate planner and liaison to the Redondo Beach Preservation Commission, local residents may inquire about the benefits of the program and whether their home qualifies. 

One such couple, Greg and Autumn Geilman, recently purchased a 1927 Spanish-style beach bungalow and applied for a Historic Landmark designation in Redondo with the help of the act. Greg, a real estate agent with RE/MAX Estate Properties, says despite his access to multiple listings in the area, finding the perfect vintage home proved to be a challenge. 

After scouring the market to no avail, they finally found their dream home—only to learn it had been swept up only days before. Luckily, one buyer’s fall from escrow became their window of opportunity. The couple has now spent the last few months reviving their bungalow’s original integrity while adding just enough upgrades for comfortable, modern living. 

“We think that historic preservation is so important, because these older homes really tell a clear story of what it was like living in the South Bay back in the day. Once a house is torn down, those stories go away,” Greg shares. “Some definitely need to be torn down, and I get that. But it’s sometimes sad to see a perfectly good property get demolished and replaced with new construction. I hope people realize the look and feel of a town can change pretty rapidly.”

While there may be only one or two properties under contract in some cities, the Mills Act remains a popular economic incentive program. Ownership and preservation of local heritage architecture in Los Angeles County has become quite trendy. In fact, Beverly Hills recently took steps to preserve architectural treasures in their own community. Bragging rights also come with property tax breaks.

Unfortunately, Manhattan Beach does not currently have such a program to protect the city’s historical structures. The small beach town is losing its character and heritage at a frightening pace. However, there are still a few iconic structures servicing in town with the Manhattan Beach Cultural Heritage Conservancy striving to make residents aware of the value the Mills Act would bring to the city.

            

While the couple restored many of the home’s original features, like the fireplace and the apron sink in the kitchen, they added a few new flourishes, such as the console with turquoise wash basin. Wanting an archway in the hall, they discovered one already existed, covered up by a previous owner. “Our vision of the house lined up with the original builder,” shares Greg.

 

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