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Preserve Your Home for Posterity

The Saratoga Heritage Preservation Commission Wants Your Home! The HPC is continually updating the current heritage inventory list and would like to add your home or historic structure to the list.

What items are listed on the heritage inventory?

As an example you might have admired the Queen Anne home on the city property off Fruitvale Avenue or perhaps the fence built of creek stones on Saratoga-Los Gatos Road near the Saratoga History Museum—all are on the current heritage list. The structure can be a fence, barn, house, gate pillars, windmill, tank house or water tower or any place or structure that has cultural significance. It could even be a heritage lane such as parts of Saratoga Avenue or a commercial building. These resources are important because heritage is what gives the community our sense of identity and belonging.

Why protect old resources?

These resources create a record that preserves the heritage of the past—whether it is because an important architect designed the building or an important person once owned the structure or where an important event took place. Future generations can look at these resources as a record of the past.

Locally do all cities have a heritage resource inventory?

Cities such as Sunnyvale, Los Altos, San Jose and many others all have a resource inventory that they actively maintain. The Saratoga Heritage Preservation Commission was organized in 1982 and created the first Heritage Resource Inventory in 1988. The inventory was published in 1993 with about 90 listings. It presently has over 100 properties in the inventory. Saratoga also has a Heritage Tree Inventory that was initiated in 2012.

What are the criteria for being on the list?

As a general rule to qualify as historic, a building must be at least 50 years old and be a good example of a particular architectural style or be associated with a person or event of local, statewide, or national historic importance.

The criteria to be on the list are standard throughout the state of California. The California standards mirror the federal requirements. However, the Saratoga Heritage Resource Inventory listings are intended to provide important information to property owners, prospective developers, and local citizens of potential historical qualities associated with buildings, sites and structures. The criteria to be on the California Register or to have national status are much more stringent.

What are the advantages of being on the Heritage Resource Inventory?

People who have pride in their home and want to see their home last through the ages will typically be on the inventory list. Many people want to purchase an older home because older homes add character to the neighborhood. They don’t want a cookie cutter looking house. By seeking historic designation, you are agreeing to keep this structure intact as part of Saratoga’s historic look. As an example, if your building is granted historic status, then this means you would not replace wood windows with aluminum ones, not cover original wood with stucco or vinyl siding, and not put an addition on the building that would visibly change the architectural style or character of the house.

Another advantage is the Mills Act which enables the home owner to receive a property tax advantage if the structure is on the list. The tax advantage can be substantial—anywhere from 60-90%. Find out more information about the Mills Act .

By getting your building historically designated, you are helping preserve Saratoga’s architectural legacy. The Mills Act is a 10-year, “endlessly renewable,” legally binding contract with the city. After your building is historically designated, you would fill out a Mills Act application and submit it to the city of Saratoga. When your Mills Act application is approved, you will be sent a contract to sign and have notarized.

Why don’t more people participate?

Some people feel that they don’t want “the government” controlling the appearance of their house. But it is only the exterior of the house that is maintained as “historic” and in many instances there are ways for a creative compromise. Not necessarily expensive, either. Many people are unaware of the advantages of being on the inventory or the criteria. Most purchased a home in a charming setting and would like to maintain that charm but don’t know the process.

How can I get my home/structure on the list?

Fill out an application form available on the City of Saratoga website  and click on Commissions and Committees; select Heritage Preservation Commission; select the Heritage Resource Application form to print. Be sure to include your name, address, and contact information. Attach a photo if you can and send it to the city. Questions? Contact Cynthia McCormick, HPC Liaison in the Planning Department at 408-868-1230.

The application process

Once the application is submitted, it will then be reviewed by the HPC. Once approved by the HPC, the item is listed on the Heritage Resource Inventory. Applications are reviewed monthly.

Where can you see the existing list of heritage resources?

You can see the entire list of Heritage Resources—listed by street online on the city website under the Heritage Preservation Commission section. Most include a photo of the home. The listing is interesting to read and you might find a home on your street included in the listing.

Who are on the Heritage Preservation Commission?

The mission is to provide the City of Saratoga guidance in order to preserve and protect the heritage resources of the community. The Heritage Preservation Commission is an all-volunteer commission appointed by the City Council. The seven-person commission is required to have two architects, engineers, builders or urban planners and a representative from the Saratoga Historical Foundation. A member of the Planning Department advises the group.

You probably have bought your house because of its look and live in a neighborhood that you enjoy. List your home for posterity so future generations can enjoy the ambience!