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Oakland's wealth of historic buildings and neighborhoods is matched by few other California cities. These artifacts reflect the city's rich multicultural history, from earliest times to the present. The materials and workmanship used are impossible or costly to obtain today. Still, they serve as our homes, workplaces, and community centers. How can we protect our historic assets, while moving forward with today's needs?
- Historic Preservation Element
- Landmarks and Preservation Districts
- Mills Act
- Surveys and Rating System
- Rehab Right
Historic Preservation Element
In 1994 the City of Oakland adopted a Historic Preservation Element as part of its General Plan. The Element is based on two broad "Goals": to "use historic preservation to foster economic vitality and quality of life" and to "prevent unnecessary destruction of properties of special historical, cultural, and aesthetic value." The Element spells out these goals through policies and actions that govern how the City will treat "Designated Historic Properties" (DHPs: landmarks, districts, and Heritage Properties) and "Potential Designated Historic Properties" (PDHPs).
The City has adopted these policies because it believes historic preservation offers many important benefits:
- Urban revitalization
- Employment opportunities
- Cost-effective affordable housing
- Economic development opportunities
- Community identity and image
- Educational, cultural, and artistic values.
Landmarks and Preservation Districts
Landmarks are the most prominent historic properties in the city. They may be designated for historical, cultural, educational, architectural, aesthetic, or environmental value. They are nominated by their owners, the City, or the public and are designated after public hearings by the Landmarks Board, Planning Commission, and City Council. Since the program began in 1973 about 150 individual landmarks and preservation districts have been designated, out of nearly 100,000 buildings in Oakland. These buildings, sites, and features range from City Hall to the home of blues legend Brownie McGhee, from the Old Survivor Redwood Tree to the Grand Lake Theater and Roof Sign. Click here, to read more about Landmark designations.
- Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board
- List of Designated Landmarks, Heritage Properties, and Preservation Districts
- Landmark, S-7/S20 Preservation Combining Zone, and Heritage Property Application Form
The Mills Act assists property owners in reaping the benefits of historic rehabilitation and preservation. It can reduce taxes for historic properties, if the owners volunteer to repair and maintain the historic character of their property.
For more information, download the Mills act brochure:
Mills Act Documents & Resources
- (MODEL) MILLS ACT AGREEMENT
- Secretary of Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation
- Minimum Property Maintenance Standards
- Mills Act Application
- Mills Act: (Sections 50280-90 of the California Government Code and Article 1.9, Sections 439 - 439.4 of the California Revenue and Taxation Code)
- Mills Act Calculator
Property owners should consult legal counsel and/or a financial adviser before entering into a Mills Act agreement. The city makes no warranties or representations about the accuracy or validity of the Mills Act Property Tax Calculator - it is merely an information tool that applicants may use (at their sole risk), which does not substitute/replace legal counsel or a financial adviser.
Surveys and Rating System
The Oakland Cultural Heritage Survey (OCHS) is a general survey of every visible building in Oakland. It contains estimates on building age and possible historical or architectural interest. The survey also includes detailed research and evaluation for many specific buildings and neighborhoods. The OCHS staff maintain:
- an extensive library of information on historic properties and districts in Oakland
- Oakland Historic Property listings
A reconnaissance or "windshield survey" of the entire city was completed in 1997. Field surveyors from the City Planning Department drove every street and rated every visible building with a preliminary estimate of its age and its possible historical or architectural interest. In addition, many buildings and neighborhoods have been researched and evaluated in more detail ("intensive survey") by the Planning Department's Cultural Heritage Survey project. All this information is available to the public as well as to city staff.
For more information or to view the survey, contact Betty Marvin, Planner at the Oakland Cultural Heritage Survey, (510) 238-6879 or visit the Historical and Architectural Rating System page.