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Architectural Review

The Architectural Review and Environmental Compliance Unit administers the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives Program and provides architectural review based on conformance with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties (Standards), technical assistance, and consultation for projects seeking federal tax incentives.

The California Office of Historic Preservation is the point of contact within the state for property owners wishing to use the rehabilitation tax credit.  OHP may also be able to provide technical guidance before a project begins to make the process as expeditious and economical as possible.

Safety Assessment Program (SAP) Evaluator Training Available

New!The Safety Assessment Program utilizes volunteers and mutual aid resources to provide professional engineers and architects and certified building inspectors to assist local governments in safety evaluation of their built environment in an aftermath of a disaster. The program is managed by Cal OES with cooperation from professional organizations. Cal OES issues registration ID cards to all SAP Evaluators who have successfully completed the program requirements. Training for this program is now eligible for Homeland Security Grant Program funding.

Local free training classes sponsored by CalOES for the disaster Safety Assessment Program are now being made available.  It will certify licensed architects, engineers, construction managers and others for evaluating properties post-disaster.  Non-licensed participants are welcome to attend as well and will be given a certificate identifying them as qualified coordinators.

To review which classes are being offered currently, visit the CalOES website.

Guidance for Flawless Tax Credit Application Submittals

Don't let this happen to you or your client: the return of a tax credit application due to a technical mistake or incomplete form. The information, hyperlinks and checklist provided in Appendix A: How to Complete a Successful Tax Credit Project Application will practically guarantee that your tax credit application will not be returned due to common yet preventable errors. Download Appendix A today!

Seismic Retrofits Exclusion from Assessment

A letter from the State Board of Equalization of July 2010 summarizes the changes to the new construction exclusion for seismic safety improvements, which can be found on our Disaster Preparedness Planning web page, at the bottom with Resources.

Maydestone Deep Energy Retrofit Report Now Available

The Maydestone Deep Energy Retrofit Report has been released by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD). The report describes the energy conservation features installed, and compares their simulated performance to their actual performance. This technical report informs developers, preservation professionals, engineering consultants and the general public of the feasibility and success of an energy retrofit on a historic rehabilitation. See the full description and download the report on our Sustainability page.

2013 Tax Incentive Report and Statistics Available

2013 Federal Annual Tax Credit Report
The 2013 Annual Federal Tax Incentives for Rehabilitation Report is out along with the companion Statistical Report listing all Tax incentive projects by state is available online.  California ranks second in the nation in terms of certified expenses.

New NPS Forms and Pay Portal for Tax Credit Review

Revised Application

TPS has released the revised Historic Preservation Certification Application. The primary change in the application is that applicants must now state whether or not they are the fee-simple owner of the property discussed in the application. If an applicant is not the fee-simple owner, the applicant must attach a written statement from the owner stating that the owner is aware of the application and has no objection to it. The application also requests email addresses for the applicant and project contact, which will be used in electronic invoicing and payment.

New Electronic Application Forms
In addition, TPS has developed more fully functional, electronic fillable and savable PDF forms to go with the revised application. We heard your feedback about the limited functionality of the 2011 forms and have invested in a fully functional version for program users. The narrative text boxes on the Part 1 and Part 2 forms are no longer limited; they will expand to accommodate all text. The forms – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Amendment/Advisory Determination – are attached for your use and are also available on the TPS website at

Applications on previous versions of the forms should not be accepted after May 15, 2014. As of May 16, all certification applications received in SHPO offices must use the 2014 forms. The cover sheet of each section must be the TPS-provided form and must bear the applicant’s original signature. Applicants and consultants who have developed their own versions of the narrative pages may continue to use their versions.

Payment of Review Fees
As of May 16, all fees for review of applications will be paid through TPS will no longer accept the credit card prepayment form, and it is no longer available on the TPS website. Forms included in applications received prior to or on May 15 may be submitted to TPS, and any forms received after that date should be shredded.
All Part 2 and Part 3 applications will be billed by TPS and payment will be made through, the US Department of the Treasury’s electronic payment system that was “soft-launched” a few months ago. Upon receipt of a Part 2 or Part 3 application, TPS will generate an invoice. Where email addresses are provided, the invoice will be sent electronically. Invoices for applications without email addresses will be mailed via the United States Postal Service. These are the only delivery systems we will use; we will not fax invoices. Applicants will pay the fee through, by credit card or ACH bank payment. Please note that the email addresses will be used only for billing; all certification decisions will still be delivered in hard copy via USPS.

Compatibility vs. Differentiation: A Discussion about Standard 9

As the result of a recent workshop on Integrity of Historic Resources, interest in the topic of compatibility vs. differentiation has been raised. In response to this interest, OHP is offering links to articles discussing the subtleties of meeting Standard 9 of the Secretary of the Interior's Standards, " work shall be differentiated from the old, and shall be compatible with the massing, size, scale, and architectural features to protect the historic integrity of the property and its environment."

The articles below are linked by permission from Traditional Building magazine. The roundtable on "Compatibility vs. Differentiation" moderated by Steven Semes published in February 2011 captures the difference in thinking on compatibility with Standard 9.

The follow-up article by Steven Semes in April 2011 highlights John Sandor's viewpoint during that Roundtable as a further avenue for discussion.

Readers are invited to share other articles on this or other topics of interest with OHP to further the preservation community's understanding of preservation, design and conformance to the Secretary of the Interior's Standards.

"Compatibility vs. Differentiation" by Steven Semes, Traditional Building February 2011

"After the Roundtable: Moving Forward in Preservation" by Steven Semes, Traditional Building April 2011

What have the Federal Historic Tax Incentives done for California?

Left: Fox Oakland Theatre (Certified 2010); Center: 529 Normal Ave., Chico (Certified 2012); Right: 450 Sutter St., San Francisco (Certified 2011)
Over one and a half billion dollars have been spent in California over the past 10 years on certified historic tax projects (20% Historic Tax Credits) across the state.  The Certified Expenses from the 2004 Federal Fiscal Year through the 2013 Federal Fiscal Year have added up to $1,753,564,380 (total project expenditures are even higher when all other non-eligible costs are added).  During this time California was number one in the country in 2005 with a high of $281,177,846 in Certified Expenses. That year California even exceeded the states that have a state-level historic tax credit.

The 129 tax projects in these years have been located in 21 counties, with the top county double-digit totals being: Los Angeles (42), Marin (21), San Diego (19), and San Francisco (16). Additional counties include Alameda with 4 projects; Butte, Contra Costa, Napa, and Sacramento with 3 projects each; Merced, San Luis Obispo, and Yolo Counties with 2 projects each; and Fresno, Humboldt, San Joaquin, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Siskiyou, Solano, Sonoma and Stanislaus Counties with 1 project each.

The top California projects over $40,000,000 during the past 10 years:

2005 Ferry Building, San Francisco $97,700,000
General Petroleum Building, Los Angeles $44,000,000
2007 Subway Terminal Building, Los Angeles $55,175,744
2009 Ford Assembly Plant, Richmond $54,900,000
Pacific Electric Building, Los Angeles $52,612,555
Piers 1-1/2 and 3, San Francisco $47,320,695
Fort Baker, Sausalito (20 buildings) $40,798,472
2010 Fox Oakland Theatre, Oakland $79,500,000
2011 Presidio Public Health Service Hospital, San Francisco $75,034,443
2013 Central YMCA $57,000,000
Pier 15 $180,170,000

Just as important are the smaller projects (in terms of certified expenses during the past 10 years) under $400,000:

2004 429 Normal Avenue, Chico  $160,000
2006 429 W. Third Street, Chico  $69,474
2008 640 West 8th Street, Long Beach  $84,804
Ah Louis Store, San Luis Obispo  $262,683
2010 CDW Historic Lawn Way Beach House, Capitola  $233,232
2012 529 Normal Avenue, Chico  $298,543

The federal historic tax credits continue to stimulate their local communities and economies and enrich our lives in significant ways. They create jobs and are good for neighborhoods, the local economy, and the environment.

Annual Reports and PowerPoint presentations of all certified tax projects in California since 2005 are available at OHP's Certified California Tax Incentive Projects web page.

For more information on the tax credit program please contact us at or


In California, the Mills Act can be linked with the 20% historic preservation investment tax credit provided by the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives Program and the Tax Reform Act of 1986. Federal affordable housing tax credits may also be utilized with these incentives to offset rehabilitation costs. Over a half billion dollars of private investment in California’s historic buildings is due in a large part to this program. Preservation tax incentives used on under-utilized or abandoned hotels, offices, stores, schools, warehouses, and factories give new uses that maintain their historic character and revitalize the property. For example:

The Pisgah Home District in Los Angeles is an example of an innovative tax incentive project that combined funding to rehabilitate existing buildings, while building new units, for moderate and low-income housing, and for community and social services.

Buildings 200, 201, and 202 at the San Diego Naval Training Station are a good model of how a grouping of functionally-related buildings, located on a base conversion property, can be utilized to provide new facilities for both non-profit and commercial uses.

The Judson Rives Building in Los Angeles is an example of a tax incentive project that transformed a multi-story office building into rental loft units, some with added balconies, and other amenities.

The Railway Express Agency Building in Sacramento is an excellent example of how a derelict abandoned industrial building can be rehabilitated for office and commercial use and help revitalize a tired area of a city.

Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties

SOIS for the Treatment of Historic Properties  [pdf - 2 pgs legal size]