Courtesy of Los Altos History Museum The Marini estate at 220 University Ave. is one of the local historical properties protected through the Mills Act, the topic of a Los Altos History Museum panel.

The Los Altos History Museum is scheduled to host a panel discussion, “Historic Preservation Through the Mills Act,” featuring the owners of landmark properties, 7 p.m. May 13 via Zoom.

In an effort to preserve the history of Los Altos, the city adopted the Mills Act in 1987, state legislation that provides an economic incentive program that lowers property taxes for homeowners who maintain the historical and architectural character of their qualified properties.

The Mills Act was introduced in 1972 by State Sen. James R. Mills of San Diego as a way to assist in the preservation of the Hotel del Coronado. It has since been enacted by dozens of California cities wishing to encourage the preservation of historical structures. Each city determines its own criteria and method for implementing the Mills Act, which can save eligible homeowners tens of thousands of dollars per year in property taxes.

In Los Altos, 14 structures have been designated Mills Act properties, the first of which was the Winchester-Merriman House on Edgewood Lane, built in the 1800s and the oldest residential home in the city. Another designated property is the Adams House on Pepper Avenue, built in 1906. The owner, Jon Baer, will join the panel of homeowners at the museum’s program.

“The Mills Act is a powerful carrot that has helped us restore an important historic home for future generations,” Baer said. “I have been an advocate for preserving our town’s architectural heritage and wish there was even more that could be done to encourage preservation of other significant buildings in town. My wife and I began restoration work in 1997 and have spent considerable time, energy and money to make it a showcase as well as a home to raise our family. But the effort has been worth it.”

Sean Gallegos, an associate planner with the city of Los Altos, will lead the panel discussion. As liaison to the Los Altos Historical Commission, he has shepherded several Mills Act applications through the process. Gallegos wrote the only academic paper in the United States detailing the impact of the Mills Act on California property law.

To attend the free program, sign up at losaltoshistory.org/MillsAct.