Saturday, March 3, 2018

San Diego Historical Homes: How to get the "Mills Act" Historical Designation

We live in a pretty little home that has received the "Historical Designation" here in San Diego.
When we were house shopping, we had hoped to find a home that either was eligible for the historic designation or already had it. I did do a lot of research on the matter and wanted to document some of that here.

People often ask me how to get the designation. In short, you hire a professional who researches your home and it's eligibility and they handle the application with the city. There are a couple architects and other firms that do this here and if you google I am sure you can find them

But the city also provides a lot of background information about how to apply. You can learn all about it here:
San Diego Historic Preservation FAQ

I often recommend  that if your house seems "very eligible", consider doing the research and making the application yourself. Now, I have never done this, but it seems worth considering! And no matter what happens, you might learn some things about your home.

 Here are some tips that are not spelled out in the FAQ above:

Was your home built by a Master Builder?
The city keeps a list of "Master Builders". These are recognized builders and if one of them built your home it is a good start to being found "historical":
Biographies of Established Master Builders

If your house was built by one of these "Masters" and another home very similar to your home has been approved, you may be able to use much of the information from the approved home's application.

Has your home been surveyed already?
There are also old surveys of the homes in the city, like this one of North Park, that list homes that may be of historic interest:
2004 North Park Historical Survey
That survey lists most of the homes in North Park, and hints at whether the homes are "contributing or "non-contributing".

You can also check the 2011 North Park Historical Survey

And there are lots of other surveys here:
San Diego Historic Contexts and Surveys

Is your home just like one that already has been approved?
And here is the actual list of homes already approved:
San Diego Historical Register as of 2014
(There may be more recent versions of this available)

How to find the "Full Nominations" (Applications) and "Final Resolutions" for homes that have already received the Historic Designation?
If you find that your home is just like another home that has already been "designated" you can look up the the application.
Here is the California Historical Resources Inventory Database

Here is a home I have randomly picked from the database above:
Look at the wealth of information available! I'd suspect that if your house looked just like that and was built by the same builder you could likely use most of that application to write your own application for your home.
You can also see what professional firms have done successful applications by looking at the applications for the homes already designated. If I was hiring a firm to do this for me, I'd use one of those.

Have fun researching your home! And always consider hiring a professional to do the application, it is probably a lot easier.

PS: On what structures to include in your application:
Be careful what you include in your application for the "Historical Designation". You can choose what buildings and other features are included in the application and you may choose to leave out items. For instance, you may wish to apply for your house, all the hardscape (walkway, driveway) and the separate garage. But after the designation, then you may not be able to change your walkway, or make your garage into a residential unit! So you may wish to only apply for the main residential structure.