The Ocean Beach Historical Society promotes preservation by maintaining archives, promoting the “Emerging Ocean Beach Historical Cottage District” and Mills Act, adding historical records and preservation needs to the the future Ocean Beach Community Plan, and working with other community organizations on providing historical plaques and designations for important historical structures and sites in Ocean Beach. Through programs and documentation the OBHS teaches the history of Ocean Beach, guides people in preservation and weighs in on preserving historical resources.

Over the years the City has cut staff that manages historic districts and added higher fees to Mills Act recipients. This has caused a slowing down of individual house designations and the destruction of some of San Diego’s important historical buildings and sites. Because of these setbacks it is important for residents to be active in supporting historic districts, historical groups and people championing preservation. Be an active member in the OBHS help preserve and protect our community and San Diego.

Mills Act Program

Link to County of San Diego Mills Act Form

Historically designated properties enacted by CA in 1972 for property owners of qualified historic properties.

  1. Restoration & Maintenance
  2. Property tax relief

City of San Diego in 1995

Council Policy 700-46
Property tax reduction:

  1. Maintenance
  2. Restoration
  3. Rehabilitation

By 2007 there were 901 Mills Act agreements.


Due March 31st to be considered that year but designated historic the prior year.
San Diego 2008 Reform Mayor wanted:

  1. Increased accountability
  2. Manage fiscal impact of tax reduction
  3. Established fees

Increased Accountability

Monitoring program:

  1. Site visits
  2. Records maintenance
  3. Staff review of compliance every 5 years

Manage fiscal impact of tax reduction

– Threshold of $200,000 in new tax revenue reduction.
– City can exceed based on fiscal health of City.
– If not exceeded, property considered next year.


– $1,185 for historic designation process.
– $456 for Mills Act Agreement, due with application.
– $232 assessed for monitoring with initial agreement and every 5 yeas thereafter.
– $750 for enforcement of a Mills Act agreement when remedies for violations are sought.


– Visible from public right-of-way.
– Maintained consistent with U. S. Secretary of the Interior’s standards.
– Include a 10-year maintenance and rehabilitation/restoration work plan with application.
– 10 years minimum length with automatic renewal each year.

7 Responses

  1. There is much debate about the value of preserving many of the “historic” buildings still standing in OB. Missing from the above call to arms is any mention of the marginal design and cost of preserving of most potentially historic structures (45 or more years old). Many of these buildings are structurally unsound and long ago outlived a normal structure’s so-called “economic lifespan”. Most contain inefficient and often dangerous building “systems”, e.g. asbestos insullation (if any), substandard plumbing electrical and outmoded mechanical systems, etc.. Typical OB cottage structures are expensive to heat and most have been altered to compromise their historical integrity. Building owners can seldom justify expensive rennovation of antiquated systems. Replacement of outdated buildings under existing zoning limits in many casess would achieve a more pleasing design, an economic boost to other neighboring property values and a far better return on investment (I think it’s still legal to make a profit so long as wealth is shared). Replacement construction increases a property’s tax base, it adds building permit and construction trade revenues and it keeps City employees at work processing plans.

    • Mike, that is precisely our dilemma. we are looking at an uninhabitable structure that is zoned for 3 units. Much more sensible to demo and rebuild than to renovate that wreck. The former option also allows the more aesthetic placement of 3 units instead of “sticking” them in back. Are the “regulations” by the historic district (without Mills Act status) simply suggestions or do they have some kind of legally enforceable weight behind them. I am certainly not opposed to renovating, but not if it makes no sense. I’d rather buy somewhere else and leave the shack that is there to simply crumble, making your very point! Thanks.

  2. A lot of effort in Ocean Beach went into, and is ongoing, in preserving our historic cottages and local vibrant history.
    O.B. is looking better and better because people are buying historic properties and fixing them up and some applying for the Mills Act. Most people don’t pay a half million dollars or more to let there home run down. They want to live in a beach town that still looks like a beach town, they want their yards for kids, gardens, dogs and pets and for barbeques with the neighbors. They don’t all want live in high-density boxes.
    As far as construction, for some people, the historic design styles, hardwood floors, redwood framing and fine crafted design features do justify the expense and effort in revitalizing these houses.
    Many of the homes have modernized with additions, more modern interiors and additional space for families and offices, yet they have kept the facades and historical appearance in tack. Others have added apartments in back (giving themselves an so-called economic boost).
    Some contractors and craftsmen love working on historical buildings and are very proud of their work. As far as property taxes go, all the above reasons are why property values in O.B. have held well. Our unique community is a place people want to live and visit.

  3. My great uncle owned Greeson’s OB hardware. I am interested in viewing historic OB photos.

  4. We are considering buying a property in the OB historic district. It turns out to be uninhabitable. It is NOT a Mills Act property. So, is it up to the buyer/us as to what is to be done with the property (eg complete demolition and replacement) OR does the historic designation impose legally enforceable regulations on what may be done with and to this property? We have no objection to renovating, as opposed to demolishing, but NOT if a renovation is going to cost way more than the place would be worth, once the work is completed, OR if renovation consistent with historic district regulations would preclude our adding rental units (allowed by zoning) behind the main house. Thank you!

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