Historic Preservation

Historic Preservation

Incentives for Owners of Historic Properties

Riverside County CourthouseBecause the preservation of historic buildings is an important public benefit, the City, State, and Federal governments have developed some incentives that can assist in the restoration, maintenance and rehabilitation of cultural resources.

To get more information on an incentive, just click on a button:



This competitive grant program is open to owners of historic properties for historic rehabilitation, restoration or other projects. Any individuals, corporations, non-profits and public agencies that own historic properties within the city limits of Riverside are eligible to apply. Grant money comes from the City’s Historic Preservation Fund. The Committee approves and denies grant proposals for the conservation, preservation, restoration, and rehabilitation of Cultural Resources consistent with the purpose of Riverside Municipal Code Chapter 20.30, Preservation Incentives.

The Historic Preservation Fund Committee oversees the Fund and can award grants up to $25,000 under the current guidelines. The Committee consists of five members serving two-year terms: two Cultural Heritage Board appointed members, the Mayor’s Nominating and Screening Committee appoints the City Council representative and two City residents affiliated with separate Riverside-specific historic preservation organizations.

In the first two years of the grant program, the Committee awarded 40 grants totaling a little over $618,000 and all of those funds are committed and no funds are currently available. Due to lack of available funds, applications are not currently being accepted. If funds become available in the future, the date of the Committee meeting and the application period will be announced.

You can help continue the work of the Historic Preservation Fund by purchasing Riverside’s Landmark Legacy, an exquisite coffee table book that elegantly celebrates the history of Riverside through its historic Landmarks. All money raised through sales of the book goes into the Historic Preservation Fund. The book is currently on sale for $40 and is available at the Planning Counter in City Hall.

Forms to Apply


TudorOn December 21, 2004 the City Council adopted the Mills Act Program for Riverside. The Mills Act is state legislation, enacted in 1972, to provide property tax relief to owners of historic properties for the purpose of assisting in the expense of restoration and maintenance. To qualify, a historic property must be listed on a national, state, county, or city register. Although it is applicable to historic income producing properties, it is the single most important economic incentive program available in California for owner occupied historic residential buildings, particularly single-family homes. A Mills Act program is developed in accordance with California Government Code, Article 12, Sections 50280-50290 and California Revenue and Taxation Code, Article 1.9, Sections 439-439.4.

Under the program, property owners receive a significant reduction in local property taxes in exchange for their promise to actively participate in restoring, rehabilitating, repairing and preserving their properties. Participants enter into a perpetual 10-year contract with the City. Contracts are automatically renewed each year and are transferred to new owners when the property is sold. The act provides for inspections, as needed, by city, county, or state officials. Penalties may be imposed for breach of contract or failure to maintain the historic property.

Actual property tax savings are calculated by the County Assessor’s Office using a state-mandated reassessment formula based upon “capitalization of income” rather than simple “market value.” Mills Act participants may realize a property tax savings of averaging about 50% each year depending on property value, net operating income, and other variables.

The City accepts applications during the month of June every year. The internal review process is completed by late fall, when qualified applications are forwarded to City Council for consideration. Approved contracts are forwarded to the County Assessor. Tax credits are effective the following fiscal tax year, when restoration work, according to the contract, may commence. For more information, please contact Senior Office Specialist Pangy Crosby, Mills Act Coordinator, at (951) 826-5430

See Forms to apply

In order to promote quality rehabilitation, restoration and new construction projects, Planning Department fees are waived for the design review of cultural resources or for new construction within historic districts. Fee reductions are also available for the relocation of qualified historic single-family residences.


The City promotes recognition of locally-designated Landmark properties with bronze display plaques. The City has developed a specific plaque design, and works with the owner on what the plaque needs to say. Check with the City to find out if any funding is available to help pay for your Landmark plaque, and to find out how the plaque can be installed. Property owners sign an agreement committing to displaying and maintaining their plaque.


The Historic Preservation Specialist in the Planning Department can provide technical assistance to property owners, architects, and contractors to ensure that historic resources are appropriately maintained, repaired, rehabilitated, or restored, and that new construction is compatible with adjacent historic buildings. The Planning Department also has a variety of technical literature and hand-outs available free of charge. These include Citywide Residential Historic District Design Guidelines and Rehab Riverside Right.


Sponsored by the City of Riverside Redevelopment Agency, this not-for-profit corporation administers a variety of housing rehabilitation programs for low and moderate-income homeowners within the city. For more information call RHDC at (951) 341-6511.


The Zoning Code has a provision that allows the owner of a historic home to use that home for an office, retail business, or a bed-and-breakfast without the need to rezone the property to a commercial or office zone. To take advantage of this, the owner must apply for and obtain a Minor Conditional Use Permit (MCUP).

The MCUP process includes notification of neighborhood property owners, an analysis of the suitability of the property for the proposed use, and consideration of any potential compatibility problems with neighboring properties. The residence must be officially designated as a historic resource (Structure of Merit or Landmark) by the City before an MCUP can be applied for. Contact the Planning Department if you are interested in taking advantage of this provision.

Within the Downtown Specific Plan area a new use can be established in an existing historic building without the necessity of providing parking in accordance with the Zoning Code. To qualify for this, the buildings must have a historic designation (Structure of Merit, Landmark, or Contributor to a historic District). The Downtown Specific Plan area is roughly bounded by the Riverside Freeway, Locust Street, the Tequesquite Arroyo, and First Street, with extensions to the 60 Freeway along Main and Market Streets. Contact the Planning Department for more details.


Owners of designated cultural resources are eligible to use the State Historical Building Code (SHBC). The SHBC recognizes the unique construction problems inherent in historical buildings and offers alternative building regulations for their rehabilitation, preservation, restoration, or relocation in order to retain character-defining architectural elements and features.
The SHBC applies to both the interior and exterior of a building. The City uses the SHBC as part of the historic preservation design review process. Application of the SHBC to interiors is typically at the request of a property owner. While interpretation of the SHBC is carried out at the local level, appeals can be made to the State Historical Building Safety Board. City staff in the Planning Department offers assistance to property owners in applying the SHBC.


The California Heritage Fund grant program is funded under the State Neighborhood Parks, Clean Water, Clean Air and Coastal Protection Bond Act of 2000. Grants may be used for acquisition, rehabilitation, restoration or interpretation projects and are available for any product, facility or project designed to preserve a historic resource that is listed in or determined eligible for listing in the National or California registers.

Entities that may receive funds are cities, counties, districts and local agencies formed for park purposes, nonprofit organizations, and recognized California Indian Tribes. The program requires a 50% match from the grantee. The program is administered by the State Office of Historic Preservation, and there are two grant funding cycles per year. State Office of Historic Preservation Grants & Funding


Income-producing historic buildings that are listed in or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places may qualify for a federal income tax credit of 20% of the cost of rehabilitation. A tax act project requires certification by the National Park Service that the work meets the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Treatment of Historic Properties. The State Office of Historic Preservation reviews all applications for rehabilitation tax credits. Owners of some of Riverside's most important commercial buildings, including the Mission Inn, have received tax credits for their rehabilitation projects.


A charitable tax deduction for donating a facade easement to a nonprofit or publicly supported organization is available to owners of properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places. In exchange for a charitable deduction on federal income taxes, the property owner authorizes the nonprofit organization to review exterior alterations to the building thereby assuming responsibility for protecting the historic and architectural integrity of the property. Facade easements are recorded on the property deed in perpetuity. Although it is desirable to donate a facade easement to a local organization, preservation of non-profits from other cities offer this program to owners of historic buildings throughout the country. National Park Service Federal Tax Incentives


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