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Architectural Review

The Architectural Review and Environmental Compliance Unit administers the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives Program and provides architectural review based on conformance with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties (Standards), technical assistance, and consultation for projects seeking federal tax incentives.

The California Office of Historic Preservation is the point of contact within the state for property owners wishing to use the rehabilitation tax credit.  OHP may also be able to provide technical guidance before a project begins to make the process as expeditious and economical as possible.

Internal Revenue Code Changes in the 20% Historic Tax Credit

On December 22, 2017, Public Law No: 115-97 (Pub. L. 115-97) was signed and enacted, amending the Internal Revenue Code to reduce tax rates and modify policies, credits, and deductions for individuals and businesses.  Pub. L. 115-97 (Sec. 13402) modifies the 20% Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit as well as provides certain transition rules.  These and other changes to the Internal Revenue Code may affect a taxpayer's ability to use the 20% Historic Tax Credit.  Pub. L. 115-97 also repeals the 10% Rehabilitation Tax Credit for non-historic buildings.  The text of Pub. L. 115-97 is available at

Applicants requesting historic preservation certifications by the National Park Service as well as others interested in the use of these tax credits are strongly advised to consult an accountant, tax attorney, or other professional tax adviser, legal counsel, or the Internal Revenue Service regarding the changes to the Internal Revenue Code related to Pub. L. 115-97.

New Mailing Address for NPS Technical Preservation Services

Please note that NPS Technical Preservation Services, which reviews the federal historic preservation tax incentive program applications, has just completed their office relocation.

Phone numbers and email addresses have remained the same. A new fax number will be assigned shortly.

The NPS Technical Preservation Service's new mailing address is:

                    National Park Service
                    Technical Preservation Services
                    1849 C Street NW,  Mail Stop 7243
                    Washington, DC 20240

2017 Tax Incentive Report Available

The 2017 Annual Federal Tax Incentives for Rehabilitation Report, listing all Tax Incentive projects by state, is available online.  California ranked nineteenth in the nation in terms of certified expenses.

For a complete report of 2017 and earlier Tax Credit projects, visit the Certified California Tax Incentive Projects page.

Tax Credit Application Submittal Guidance

Don't let this happen to you or your client: the return of a tax credit application due to a technical mistake or incomplete form. The information, hyperlinks and checklist provided in Completing a Successful Tax Credit Project Application will practically guarantee that your tax credit application will not be returned due to common yet preventable errors. Download this guidance today!

Tax Credit Application Checklist (this checklist also is provided in the guidance document)

Don't let this happen either: The return of an application because the photos and other documentation don't meet the National Park Service criteria.  Download guidance for NPS Documentation submittals.

Additional Submittal Guidance

Photo Submittals

Due to the uneven quality of photo submittals, OHP can only accept individual, unbound, 4" x 6" or larger color photos on glossy photo stock, properly labeled on the back or photo margin ONLY. Any other format will be returned. Refer to Park Service criteria above for the approved format.

Design-Build Issues

OHP has recently been experiencing lack of Standards compliance due to the use of Design-Build mechanical installations which were not coordinated with tax credit review.

Use of the Design-Build process risks the loss of tax credits due to lack of proper review.  Make the design team aware of character-defining features of the project and the need for review of any impact to those features.

Seismic Retrofits Exclusion from Assessment

A letter from the State Board of Equalization of July 2010 summarizes the changes to the new construction exclusion for seismic safety improvements, which can be found on our Disaster Preparedness Planning web page, at the bottom with Resources.

Safety Assessment Program (SAP) Evaluator Training Available

The Safety Assessment Program utilizes volunteers and mutual aid resources to provide professional engineers and architects and certified building inspectors to assist local governments in safety evaluation of their built environment in an aftermath of a disaster. The program is managed by Cal OES with cooperation from professional organizations. Cal OES issues registration ID cards to all SAP Evaluators who have successfully completed the program requirements. Training for this program is now eligible for Homeland Security Grant Program funding.

Local free training classes sponsored by CalOES for the disaster Safety Assessment Program are made available on a periodic basis.  It will certify licensed architects, engineers, construction managers and others for evaluating properties post-disaster.  Non-licensed participants are welcome to attend as well and will be given a certificate identifying them as qualified coordinators.

To review which classes are being offered currently, visit the SAP CalOES website.

NPS Forms and Pay Portal for Tax Credit Review

Revised Application


The National Park Service Technical Preservation Service (TPS) revised the Historic Preservation Certification Application in 2014. A primary change in the application is that applicants must now state whether or not they are the fee-simple owner of the property discussed in the application. If an applicant is not the fee-simple owner, the applicant must attach a written statement from the owner stating that the owner is aware of the application and has no objection to it. The application also requests email addresses for the applicant and project contact, which will be used in electronic invoicing and payment.


New Electronic Application Forms
In addition, TPS developed a more fully functional, electronic fillable and savable PDF forms to go with the revised application. The narrative text boxes on the Part 1 and Part 2 forms are no longer limited; they will expand to accommodate all text. The forms and instructions for Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Amendment/Advisory Determination – are available on the TPS website at


Payment of Review Fees
All Part 2 and Part 3 applications will be billed by TPS and payment will be made through, the US Department of the Treasury’s electronic payment system. Upon receipt of a Part 2 or Part 3 application, TPS will generate an invoice. Where email addresses are provided, the invoice will be sent electronically. Invoices for applications without email addresses will be mailed via the United States Postal Service.  Applicants will pay the fee through, by credit card or ACH bank payment. Please note that the email addresses will be used only for billing; all certification decisions will still be delivered in hard copy via USPS.


What have the Federal Historic Tax Incentives done for California?

Left: Fox Oakland Theatre (Certified 2010); Center: 529 Normal Ave., Chico (Certified 2012); Right: 450 Sutter St., San Francisco (Certified 2011)

Over one and a half billion dollars have been spent in California over the past 10 years on certified historic tax projects (20% Historic Preservation Tax Credits) across the state. The Certified Expenses from the 2007 Federal Fiscal Year through the 2016 Federal Fiscal Year have added up to $1,658,649,374 (total project expenditures are even higher when all other non-eligible costs are added.

Certified Expenses for Federal Fiscal Years 2007 to 2016

 The 121 certified historic preservation tax projects in these years have been located in 20 counties, with the top county double-digit totals beings: Los Angeles (34), Marin (21), San Diego (21), and San Francisco (14). Additional counties include: Alameda with 7 projects; Contra Costa and Sacramento Counties with 4 projects each; Napa, San Luis Obispo, and Solano Counties with 2 projects each; and, Butte, Humboldt, Merced, San Benito, Santa Cruz, Shasta, Siskiyou, Stanislaus, and Yolo Counties with 1 project each.

 Certified Projects per County for Federal Fiscal Years 2007 to 2016

The top California projects over $40,000,000 during the past 11 years:

2005 Ferry Building, San Francisco $97,700,000
  General Petroleum Building, Los Angeles $44,000,000
2007 Subway Terminal Building, Los Angeles $55,175,744
2009 Ford Assembly Plant, Richmond $54,900,000
  Pacific Electric Building, Los Angeles $52,612,555
  Piers 1-1/2 and 3, San Francisco $47,320,695
  Fort Baker, Sausalito (20 buildings) $40,798,472
2010 Fox Oakland Theatre, Oakland $79,500,000
2011 Presidio Public Health Service Hospital, San Francisco $75,034,443
2013 Central YMCA, San Francisco $57,000,000
  Pier 15, San Francisco $180,170,000
2014 The Forum, Inglewood $78,723,091
2015 Lincoln Place, Venice $128,200,000

Just as important are the smaller projects (in terms of certified expenses during the past 12 years) under $400,000:

2004 429 Normal Avenue, Chico  $160,000
2006 429 W. Third Street, Chico  $69,474
2008 640 West 8th Street, Long Beach  $84,804
  Ah Louis Store, San Luis Obispo  $262,683
2010 CDW Historic Lawn Way Beach House, Capitola  $233,232
2012 529 Normal Avenue, Chico  $298,543
2014 Mom and Pops Saloon, San Juan Bautista  $126,000
2015 Thompson House, Richmond  $350,000

The federal historic tax credits continue to stimulate their local communities and economies and enrich our lives in significant ways. They create jobs and are good for neighborhoods, the local economy, and the environment.

In California, the Mills Act can be linked with the 20% historic preservation investment tax credit provided by the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives Program and the Tax Reform Act of 1986. Federal affordable housing tax credits may also be utilized with these incentives to offset rehabilitation costs. Over a half billion dollars of private investment in California’s historic buildings is due in a large part to this program. Preservation tax incentives used on under-utilized or abandoned hotels, offices, stores, schools, warehouses, and factories give new uses that maintain their historic character and revitalize the property.

Annual Reports and PowerPoint presentations of all certified tax projects in California since 2005 are available at OHP's Certified California Tax Incentive Projects web page.

Compatibility vs. Differentiation: A Discussion about Standard 9

As the result of a recent workshop on Integrity of Historic Resources, interest in the topic of compatibility vs. differentiation has been raised. In response to this interest, OHP is offering links to articles discussing the subtleties of meeting Standard 9 of the Secretary of the Interior's Standards, " work shall be differentiated from the old, and shall be compatible with the massing, size, scale, and architectural features to protect the historic integrity of the property and its environment."

The articles below are linked by permission from Traditional Building magazine. The roundtable on "Compatibility vs. Differentiation" moderated by Steven Semes published in February 2011 captures the difference in thinking on compatibility with Standard 9.

The follow-up article by Steven Semes in April 2011 highlights John Sandor's viewpoint during that Roundtable as a further avenue for discussion.

Readers are invited to share other articles on this or other topics of interest with OHP to further the preservation community's understanding of preservation, design and conformance to the Secretary of the Interior's Standards.

"Compatibility vs. Differentiation" by Steven Semes, Traditional Building February 2011

"After the Roundtable: Moving Forward in Preservation" by Steven Semes, Traditional Building April 2011

Secretary of the Interior's Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties

SOIS for the Treatment of Historic Properties  [pdf - 2 pgs legal size]