Why Preservation Matters at the Local Level

Historic resources are important community assets:

  • they provide tangible links to the community's historical and cultural heritage
  • they help create each community’s special character and identity
  • they represent investments in energy, time, money, and raw materials 
  • the maintenance, rehabilitation, and adaptive reuse of older buildings creates economic benefits locally and are sustainable and green practices

Wise assets management involves:

  • respecting their value
  • prolonging their life
  • effectively using them to derive multiple benefits
  • acting in a stewardship role

OHP promotes a comprehensive approach to historic preservation at the local level which:

  • Is based on federal and state standards for identification, evaluation, registration, and treatment of historical resources
  • Integrates preservation planning into the broader context of overall community land use planning and development processes
  • Is responsive to the particular needs and resources of each community
  • Provides economic incentives for historic preservation
  • Benefits from informed public participation


OHP’s Local Government and Environmental Compliance Unit offers guidance and assistance to city and county governments in the following areas:

  • Drafting or updating historic preservation plans and ordinances
  • Developing historic context statements
  • Planning for and conducting architectural, historical, and archeological surveys
  • Developing criteria for local designation programs, historic districts, historic preservation overlay zones (HPOZs), and conservation districts
  • Developing and implementing design guidelines using the Secretary of the Interior's Standards
  • Developing economic incentives for historic preservation
  • Training local historic preservation commissions and review boards
  • Meeting CEQA responsibilities with regard to historical resources


OHP also administers the Certified Local Government Program (CLG).  OHP distributes at least 10% of its annual federal Historic Preservation Fund allocation to CLGs through a competitive grant program to assist CLGs in preservation planning activities.

Mills Act

The Mills Act Property Tax Abatement Program is the single most important preservation incentive program in California. Mills Act contracts are between the property owner and the local government granting the tax abatement. Each jurisdiction individually determines the criteria and requirements for participation. Not all local governments participate in the Mills Act Program. Questions regarding the specific terms of Mills Act contracts should be addressed to the local government within whose jurisdiction the property is located.

Resources for Local Governments

Law and the Historic Preservation Commission: What Every Member Needs to Know

Top Ten List of Incongruous Behaviors

For the Record: The NAPC Short Guide to Parliamentary Procedure

Local Preservation Ordinances: Making them Work for Your Community

Building a Defensible Record

All the World's a Stage: How to Conduct a Preservation Commission Meeting

Cultural Resources and CEQA Compliance: Guidelines for City and County Planners

When Historic Properties are Threatened

Assessing Economic Hardship Claims Under Historic Preservation Ordinances

Demolition by Neglect

Protecting Potential Landmarks through Demolition Review

Establishing a Demolition by Neglect Ordinance

Economic Benefits of Preservation: "Sustainability, Smart Growth, and Historic Preservation"

The National Trust for Historic Preservation - How to Fund Your Preservation Project