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Title 20 amendments jeopardize "historic" status of some neighborhoods

Wood Streets residents may lose Mills Act tax benefits for historic preservation.

A craftsman home, located in the Wood Streets District in Riverside, CA at Ramona Dr & Riverside Ave (saltycotton/Flickr)

The historical status of portions of the Wood Streets neighborhood, as well as parts of Old Magnolia, Eastside, Rockledge (the streets along Panorama in between RCC and Victoria Ave), and Arlington, may be challenged by potential amendments to Title 20 (Cultural Resources Ordinance) of the Riverside Municipal Code.

Wednesday's meeting of the Cultural Heritage Board will include a workshop to discuss Title 20, which currently recognizes four types of local designation:

  • Cultural Heritage Landmark
  • Structure of Merit
  • Historic District
  • Neighborhood Conservation Area

A Neighborhood Conservation Area (NCA) designation is similar to a Historic District designation but afforded to areas with fewer historic resources. Importantly, NCA designations allow homeowners to qualify for  Mills Act benefits which, since 1972, has provided "property tax relief to owners of historic properties for the purpose of assisting in the expense of restoration and maintenance." Riverside currently has eight NCAs, the most predominant of which is the Wood Streets neighborhood.

Wednesday's workshop results from an active collaboration between the City's Historic Preservation Officer and the Cultural Heritage Board, which has been meeting bi-weekly to discuss proposed Title 20 amendments since September 2021. In 2017, City Staff sought to begin updating Title 20 to strengthen enforcement and penalties for projects completed without a Certificate of Appropriateness based on City Council direction. Wednesday's virtual meeting is open to the public via a Zoom link.