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What is a landmark?

In the context of communities such as Manhattan beach, a landmark might be an object or feature that is easily seen and recognized from a distance – such as the Manhattan Beach Pier. However, the term is also used to designate a building or place that is of outstanding historical, aesthetic or cultural importance, often declared and given such special status by an authorizing organization.

Manhattan Beach Conservancy

The California State Historic Landmark Preservation program is run by the CA National Parks Service. Currently in Manhattan Beach there are three CA State Historic Landmark properties:

  • Manhattan Beach Pier and Roundhouse

  • Scott House at 3004 The Strand

  • Witches Bungalow at 133 13th Street & Manhattan Avenue

Several years ago, the City of Manhattan Beach adopted a Local Historic Landmark Preservation program and shortly after adopted The Mills Act, a tax saving program for official Local Historic Landmark properties. The official designation requires that the property be over 45 years old and that the exterior of the structure looks essentially the same as it looked when it was built (especially when viewing it from the street). And the resource (the house or building) is of exceptional architectural, cultural, social, and/or historic importance to the City, as verified by a qualified architectural historian of historian.


Designation Criteria for Manhattan Beach Historic Landmarks:

The Council may designate a property, with the owner’s consent, as a historic landmark and add it to the Register of Historic Resources if it meets these requirements:

  • The property must be at least 45 years old. A historic property less than 45 years of age may qualify for local listing if the Director, Commissioner, and/or City Council determine that the resource is of exceptional architectural, social, and/or historical importance to the City, as verified by a qualified architectural historian or a historian.

  • The property must retain integrity from their period of significance, as determined by a historian. A proposed landmark need not retain all seven aspects of historic integrity (location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association), but it must retain sufficient integrity to convey the reasons for its historic, cultural or architectural significance.

  • The property must meet at least one of the following criteria:

    • It is or was once associated or identified with important events or broad patterns of development that have made a significant contribution to the social, political, cultural or architectural history of the city, region, state or nation.

    • It is or was once associated with an important person or persons who made a significant contribution to the social, political, cultural or architectural history of the city, region, state or nation.

    • It embodies the distinctive characteristics of a style, type, period, or method of construction.

    • It represents the work of a master, or possess high artistic or aesthetic values.

    • It represents the last, best remaining example of an architectural type or style in a neighborhood or the city that was once common but is increasingly rare.

    • It has yielded or has the potential to yield information important to the prehistory or history of the city, region, state or nation.

  • Neither the deferred maintenance of a proposed landmark nor its dilapidated condition shall on its own, be equated with a loss of integrity. Integrity shall be judged with reference to the particular characteristics that support the property’s eligibility under the appropriate criteria and theme of significance.


What is the Mills Act?

The Mills Act Historical Property Contact Program allows qualifying owners to receive a potential property tax reduction and use the savings to help rehabilitate, restore and maintain their buildings. The Mills Act is the single most important economic incentive program in California for the restoration and preservation of qualified historic buildings by private property owners. The mills Act Program is administered and implemented by local governments. Mills Act contracts are between the property owner and the local government granting tax abatement. Each local government established their own criteria and determines how many contracts they will allow in their jurisdiction. For answers to specific questions such as local eligibility criteria, applications procedures, and contract terms, contact the City or new commission member. Once the designation is made it stays with the house, even when it changes hands. The house cannot be demolished without a major financial penalty. But to offset that, if you also apply for the Mills Act, it travels with the property and deducts the maintenance and repairs of the house from the owner’s annual property taxes on the property.

Historic Landmark Application 

For questions about Historic Landmarks, contact Jane Guthrie from the Manhattan Beach Historical Society Board of Directors:

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