A proposal to drastically increase city fees related to protecting historic properties may be detrimental to preservation efforts, according to a three-page letter sent this week to the City Council by the Glendale Historical Society.
Last week, the City Council considered hiking the processing fee for a so-called Mills Act application to about $10,500 from the current $1,250. The Mills Act is a federal program that reduces property taxes on historic homes.
Councilman Ara Najarian, who suggested the increase, said at the time that those who will receive property-tax deductions should not also receive a city subsidy because the actual cost of processing the application is roughly $10,500.
Councilwoman Laura Friedman called for boosting the fee up to $3,000, while Mayor Zareh Sinanyan proposed a $5,000 compromise.
In addition, a city report included a proposal to increase the fee for applying for historic districts, a city rule that provides blanket protections to properties within a certain area, from $2,083 to $6,500.
"We are deeply concerned that such steep fee increases for applications involving historic properties will have a chilling, not to say crushing, effect on the City's historic district and Mills Act programs and that these fees are not warranted given the public benefits that the preservation of historic properties confers upon Glendale and its residents," Greg Grammer, the society's president, wrote in the May 28 letter.
Glendale officials have long touted their dedication to historic preservation. The city celebrated the designation as a landmark of its 100th historic property last year, and Glendale currently has six historic districts, encompassing more than 850 properties. Of the properties on the city's historic register, more than 50 receive a tax discount from the Mills Act.
Grammer also noted that Glendale's current fees for Mills Act applications are higher than neighboring Pasadena, Burbank and Los Angeles. The historic district application fees are also more expensive than Pasadena and Burbank, although Los Angeles charges about $138,000 for the service, unless the process is initiated by city officials.
"Glendale's proposed fee increases do not adequately recognize that historic properties are special, that they contribute to the beauty, the reputation and the welfare of the city in unique ways and thus are well worth the costs the city shares as a matter of policy to foster them," Grammer wrote.
The council is scheduled to vote on the proposed fees — and the overall city budget for next fiscal year, which begins July 1 — on June 3.