Historic Preservation Frequently Asked Questions



How do I know if my property is “historic”?

The City maintains a local inventory of over 1,400 properties throughout the City that are classified as “historic”. In general, these properties are mostly in one of Anaheim’s downtown historic districts or are over 50 years old and have architectural features or a history that are significant to Anaheim’s local history.

 To review the list of Anaheim’s historic structures, click here.

What regulations am I required to follow on my historic property?

If you own a historic property in Anaheim, we recommend that you retain and preserve the historic features. When an owner of a historic property applies for a building permit, historic preservation staff will review the proposed plans and contact the owner to notify them that they have a historic property and provide recommendations on how to preserve its historic features. The owner may decide to follow these recommendations or move forward with their project as planned.

For design guidance on how to retain the historic features on your historic property, check out pages 32-53 of The Citywide Historic Preservation Plan.

Can I demolish my historic building?

In most cases a demolition permit cannot be pulled for a historically-classified structure until after a 60-day Notice of Intent to Demolish is received by the Planning and Building Department and the 60 day period has passed. Also, if a building is under a Mills Act Contract with the City, it may not be demolished.

Does Anaheim have any incentives for owners of historic properties?

Owners of historic properties may apply to the City’s Mills Act program. In exchange for the preservation of the exterior features of historic properties, owners may apply for a possible reduction in property taxes.

For more information on eligibility and the application process, visit the Mills Act webpage.

Why should I maintain the historic features of my property?

By maintaining the historic features of your property you are helping to preserve the City’s rich history and historic streetscapes. You can also increase the value of your property and the surrounding neighborhood. It also makes your property eligible for the City’s Mills Act program.

Why should I keep my old windows? 

Older windows are frequently sacrificed in the name of energy efficiency, rather than being maintained and repaired. In addition to eroding the character and integrity of a historic building, replacing older windows can negatively impact the environment. There are a number of other energy efficiency retrofitting options, such as adding insulation to attics and walls, and weather-stripping existing windows.

For more information, see our flyer: 10 Reasons to Repair Your Old Windows.


Is there a fee for the Mills Act Program in Anaheim?

There is no fee to apply for the Mills Act program.  However, initial expenses may include the cost to restore elements of the property in order to qualify for the program.  Also, if a Mills Act Contract is awarded, the property owner will be required to purchase and display a bronze Mills Act plaque on their property.


How are my property tax savings calculated if I am awarded a Mills Act Contract?

There are a number of factors that contribute to a property tax savings calculation. For an explanation of how your property tax will be calculated and an estimate of how much you may save under the Mills Act Program, you may call the Mills Act contact at the Orange County Assessor’s Office at (714) 834-2959.

When would I receive my property tax reduction?

Mills Act Contracts are awarded and recorded by the end of the calendar year.  Tax savings are seen on the following year’s tax bill. For example, if you are approved for the 2015 Mills Act Class your Contract would be recorded in December of 2015 and you would see your tax savings on your 2016/2017 tax bill.

What if I ever want to cancel my Mills Act Contract?

Mills Act Contracts may be canceled by the owner at any time. The owner will need to submit a letter to City Historic Preservation staff, explaining their desire to end the Contract.  The Mills Act Contract has a term of 10 years and automatically renews at the end of each year.  Once the owner cancels their Contract, they will remain under Contract for the rest of the 10 year term.  During that time, the owner will still be responsible for maintaining the historic integrity of their property, but their tax savings will gradually decrease.

How is the program enforced? 

All Mills Act Contracts are enforced through annual inspections, which evaluate everything visible from the public right-of-way.  Mills Act property owners are notified of the inspection results by mail and told if they are in compliance or if there are outstanding issues that need to be resolved. 

What happens if I sell my Mills Act property?

Mills Act Contracts remain with the property.  When a property with a Mills Act Contract is sold, the new owner will automatically assume all the rights and responsibilities of the Mills Act Contract. New owners are encouraged to contact City Historic Preservation staff in order to receive a copy of the Mills Act contract and ask any questions they have about the program. It is important that sellers of Mills Act properties disclose the Mills Act requirements to the new property owners, as well as any unfinished maintenance items from their 10-Year Maintenance Plan, as the new owners will be required to comply with the same requirements of the program.

 What happens if I do not fulfill my obligation under the Mills Act?

Historic Preservation staff strive to work with property owners to stay in compliance with their Mills Act Contracts and to get back into compliance if any items require attention.  However, if a property continues to remain out of compliance after a series of attempts by staff to remedy the situation, State law allows the City to cancel the owner’s Mills Act Contract and fine the owner 12.5% of the fair market value of the property.

Am I guaranteed a Mills Act Contract if I complete all the items described to me at my initial consultation and listed on my consultation follow-up letter?

No.  When a property owner applies for a Mills Act Contract, a Contract is never guaranteed, even if they complete every item described to them throughout the application process.  A final decision is based on a final inspection and information gathered regarding the historic integrity of the property.   

What color can I paint my building?

The City does not regulate paint colors for Mills Act properties. However, we do recommend against using very bright colors and suggest researching historic paint colors that would be appropriate for the style of your building. The Anaheim Heritage Center has a number of references on paint colors for different architectural styles. You may want to call them to set up a time to review the materials. They can be reached at (714) 765-6453 and are located at 241 S. Anaheim Blvd., at the Muzeo.

What can I do with my front yard to save water?

Drought-tolerant landscaping is allowed on Mills Act properties, but visible artificial turf is not permitted. Any original walkways or porches should also be preserved. It is recommended to submit conceptual designs and images for historic preservation staff review prior to making any major landscaping modifications. For ideas on how to make your front yard more drought-tolerant, click on the image below.