Local Preservation Policy

The preservation of historic buildings enhances the quality of life in Santa Monica.  It improves the quality of the built environment, encourages respect and appreciation for the community’s history and culture, maintains the character of the City, and contributes to the City’s economic stability.

The City of Santa Monica is committed to historic preservation.

It was not always so. Preservation politics began to change in earnest as the Santa Monica Centennial approached in 1973, and the City Council created the Historical Site Committee. This commitment is reflected in the programs and policies of the Santa Monica including: a Landmarks and Historic Districts Ordinance in 1976, three major historic resources surveys and two survey updates conducted since 1982, an established Landmarks Commission, and the recognition of the City by the State Office of Historic Preservation as a Certified Local Government.  A Historic Preservation Element became part of the City’s General Plan in 2002.  Click the link to see the City of Santa Monica’s “Historic Preservation Element.”

Below you will find a description of the commissions and boards responsible for the quality of Santa Monica’s built environment.


Landmarks Commission

The Landmarks Commission, established in 1975, is a City Council-appointed volunteer group of residents and other qualified individuals. The Commission works to protect the places that reflect the City’s cultural, social, economic, political and architectural history; safeguards the City’s historic, aesthetic and cultural heritage; and promotes the use of landmarks and historic districts for the education, pleasure and welfare of the people.

The Commission’s responsibilities include: designating  landmarks and historic districts; conducting studies and evaluations of applications for designation of landmarks and historic districts; regulating and controlling the alteration, restoration, construction, removal or demolition of any landmark; maintaining a current listing and description of designated Structures of Merit, Landmarks and Historic Districts; providing for a suitable, sign, plaque or other marker, at public or private expense, on or near a Landmark or Historic District indicating the designation; and participating in the environmental review procedures called for under the Santa Monica Municipal Code (SMMC) or under the California Environmental Quality Act by providing such comments as the Commission deems appropriate.

The Landmarks Commission consists of seven members. Commissioners shall serve four-year terms, be residents of the City and over 18 years of age. Of the seven members, at least one shall be a registered architect; at least one shall be a person with demonstrated interest and knowledge, to the highest extent practicable, of local history; at least one shall be an architectural historian; and at least one shall be a California real estate licensee.  No Santa Monica City employee may serve as a member of any Board or Commission.

For a list of current Commission members and their contact information, click here.

The Landmarks Commission meets the second Monday of each month in City Council chambers at City Hall.  Meeting agendas are available online a few days before the meeting at the city’s website.

For more information about the Santa Monica Landmarks Commission, their meeting schedule and agendas click here.


Planning Commission

The Santa Monica Planning Commission, established in 1946, is a City Council appointed volunteer group consisting of seven residents, architects and business professionals – none of whom are paid office or government employees.  The Commission works to promote the health, safety and general welfare by encouraging the most appropriate use of land; provides adequate open spaces for light and air; prevents undue concentrations of population; lessens congestion on streets; facilitates adequate provisions for community utilities and facilities such as transportation, water, sewage, schools, parks and other public requirements; and, designates, regulates and restricts the location and use of buildings, structures and land for residents, commerce, trade, industry and other purposes.

The Commission has the power to adopt, amend or repeal the City’s Master Plan for the physical development of the City;  exercise control over land subdivisions as is granted to it by the governing body of the City and by the laws of the State of California; make recommendations concerning proposed public works and for the clearance and rebuilding of blighted or substandard areas within the City; and exercise such functions with respect to zoning as may be prescribed by ordinance.

For a full list of current Commission members and their contact information, click here.

The Planning Commission meets on the first and third Wednesday of each month at 7:00 P.M. in the City Council Chambers, City Hall, 1685 Main Street, Santa Monica, California.

For more information about the Planning Commission, their meeting schedule and agendas, click here.


Architectural Review Board

Established in 1974, the Santa Monica City Architectural Review Board acts to preserve existing areas of natural beauty, cultural importance and assure that buildings, structures, signs or other developments are in good taste, good design, harmonious with surrounding developments, and in general contribute to the preservation of Santa Monica’s reputation as a place of beauty, spaciousness and quality.  The Board works to prevent the development of structures or uses which are not of acceptable exterior design or appearance, are of inferior quality or likely to have a depreciating effect on the local environment or surrounding area by reason of appearance or value; eliminate conditions, structures, signs or uses which by reason of their effect tend to degrade the health, safety or general welfare of the community; and provide a continuing source of programs and means of improving the City’s overall appearance.

The Board consists of seven members serving four-year terms.  At least two of the members shall be professional licensed architects.  Other members shall be individuals who, as a result of their training, experience, and attainments, are qualified to analyze and interpret architectural and environmental trends and information, to be responsive to the social, aesthetic, recreational and cultural needs of the community.  Other expertise including conservation, recreation, design, landscaping, the arts, urban planning, cultural-historical preservation, and ecological and environmental sciences shall be presented on the Board.

For a list of current Board members and their contact information, click here.

The Architectural Review Board meets on the first and third Monday of each month at 7:00 P.M. in the Council Chamber, City Hall, 1685 Main St., Santa Monica, California

For more information about the Architectural Review Board, their meeting schedule and agendas, click here.


City Council

The Santa Monica City Council prioritizes preservation planning tasks and activities on a citywide basis.  The City Council is made up of seven members elected at-large for staggered four-year terms.

The City Council regularly meets at 5:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month in Council Chambers, located at City Hall, 1685 Main Street, Santa Monica. The City Council may hold additional special meetings, as needed.

All City Council meetings are open to the public, and members of the public may comment on any item listed on the agenda. Public comment may be made in person at the City Council meeting, or prior to the meeting via regular U.S. mail, e-mail, or by fax.

For a list of City Council members and their contact information, click here.

For more information about the City Council, their agendas, minutes and staff reports, click here.