The new owners of the Historic Cultural Monument property at 215 South Wilton Place have until June 1 to provide Lambert Giessinger, architect at the Office of Historic Resources at the Department of City Planning, with plans to bring the damaged property into compliance with the Mills Act preservation ordinance and avoid cancellation of the house’s Mills Act Contract, according to a letter sent to the owners from the City Attorney’s office. Cancellation of the contract carries a fee of twelve and one-half percent (12 1⁄2 %) of the current, fair market value of the Property, plus attorney’s fees. City officials told the Buzz the estimated penalty in this case is approximately $225,000.
In April, the city sent a letter to the current owners, ordering them to cease construction on the home, all of which was done without permits and in violation of the Mills Act contract, which obligates the owners to secure city approval before making changes to the historic house. (The Mills Act enables homeowners who qualify to receive a property tax reduction and use the savings to help rehabilitate, restore and maintain their buildings.) According to a letter provided to the Buzz from the City, the owner’s lawyer replied that the owners were not aware of the Mills Act restrictions on property when they purchased the home in March, and if they had been aware, they would not have bought it. In addition, the attorney said his clients now understand their obligations under the Mills Act, and request that the fees be reduced.
In April, we reported that much of the home’s historic interior has been destroyed by the new owners, who were reportedly unaware that they could not make significant alterations without city approval.
The home, known as the Thomas C. Churchill residence, was built in 1907 and is located in the tight-knit neighborhood of Wilton Place, a historic district comprising 63 single family residences dating from 1907-1925. It was also designated a City of Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument in October 1992.
Neighbors notified the city of the situation when they started seeing construction activity but found not permits for the work on the city’s website.