City Council Approves Mills Act Contract for The Wallis

It is the second property in Beverly Hills approved for the historic property tax reduction program, this one highlighting the designs from the original post office built in 1933.

Beverly Hills Post Office, circa 1934. Credit: Katy Sweet and Associates
Beverly Hills Post Office, circa 1934. Credit: Katy Sweet and Associates
Heralding the old Beverly Hills Post Office as "an outstanding example of an adaptive reuse of historic property," the city council approved its second Mills Act contract of the year on Thursday, Dec. 5 for the property.

Now transformed as the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, which aims to be a cultural and artistic epicenter for Beverly Hills, the former post office is designated as a local landmark, originally designed in 1933 by master architect Ralph C. Flewelling. It's on its third address at 9390 Santa Monica Blvd.

"I think what we sometimes overlook is that these buildings were built during the deepest darkest depths of the Great Depression, where hope in the future was pretty hard to find," said Cultural Heritage Commission Chairman Richard Waldow, also acknowledging the magnificence of City Hall.

"They're really tangible evidence of the faith and vision of the future that the people of Beverly Hills had, to rise up out of the Depression and become something really great, which is exactly what's occurred," he added.

The Mills Act program provides a property tax reduction for qualifying homeowners, with priority will be given to public theaters, buildings designed by a master architect or listed on a state/national historic preservation register, applications that are submitted early, as well as buildings characterized by a uniqueness. 

In exchange under the contract, the property owners agree to use the tax savings for preservation and restoration efforts. The contract is for a 10-year period with an automatic yearly extension, and property taxes over the contract period will decrease annually. Under the rehabilitation plan, the estimated costs are just more than $1 million.

Per the commission's request, and to the enthusiastic agreement by those at The Wallis, there is already collaboration happening between the performing arts center and the school district to show a public benefit. Crouch noted the school district and officials at The Wallis are in ongoing discussions. Both sides requested to the council to not place a dollar amount on the "public benefit" expectation.

With the city's annual Mills Act contract having a capped revenue loss of $50,000 during the original pilot program, city council members noted about placing a capped revenue loss for the school district as well.

The City Council approved a Mills Act contract for the Saban Theatre in September, and there are no other applications pending.

On Dec. 5, the City Council also discussed and acted on renewing the Mills Act contract for another three years.


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