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Mills Act subsidies are improperly administered 

I thank Dan Carpenter for his rejoinder (“Dan Carpenter responds,” May 27) to my commentary on the city’s maladministration of Mills Act historic preservation tax subsidies, which go mainly for rich people’s houses (“Scrutinize Mills Act tax breaks,” May 20). By not refuting any of my substantive points, he acknowledges their substance.

Carpenter is mistaken in stating tax subsidies, “can be terminated on any property, at any time.” The contracts he approves clearly state the subsidy will continue for 10 years from the date of contractual termination. The only exception is for blatant breach of contract by a property’s owner, and this option is fraught with problems.

At 375 Chorro, where a historic house was demolished and a new one was built that still gets a preservation tax subsidy—which Carpenter says is finally being “reconsidered”—the city’s contract with the owner is so vague and poorly worded a lawyer could argue its conditions have been met. My favorite two conditions from this contract: “b) Preservation of the existing wood structure. . .” and, “d) Reconstruction of the original structure . . .” We pay our city attorney big bucks for this clarity!

If their contract is cancelled by the city for cause, the owners of 375 Chorro would be fined about $200,000. If the city council weren’t too spineless to do that, there’d be ensuing litigation, whose cost would be borne by city taxpayers. The alternative: let the unmerited tax subsidy continue for 10 years, at a cost to taxpayers of about $100,000.

I wish Carpenter and the city good luck extricating themselves from the mess they’ve created. And I’d ask again: Is a program this messed up worth continuing?

Richard Schmidt

San Luis Obispo

 

-- Richard Schmidt - San Luis Obispo

-- Richard Schmidt - San Luis Obispo

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