Architectural Review Board Approvals

The architectural review process assures that Building Design, Signage, Landscaping, or other developments contribute to the preservation of Santa Monica's reputation as a place of beauty, spaciousness and quality.

Architectural Review Board (ARB) approval is required for new construction, additions or remodel of an existing building, in all zones except R1. The Board has discretionary review over structures, major contour grading, landscaping, parking lots, mechanical equipment screening, and signs within the City of Santa Monica. Final approval of the Board must be obtained by the applicant prior to issuance of a building permit. Some applications may be eligible for staff approval.

The applicant, representative or legal owner familiar with the project must be present at the Architectural Review Board meeting.


Administrative/ Staff Approvals

Some applications may be eligible for staff approval if the fall into the following categories:

Building Design

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  • Additions to structures or accessory structures if behind the main structure or within a courtyard, and not visible from the street
  • Additions visible from the street that are:
    • Outside the Downtown Community Plan (DCP), less than 1,000 SF and consistent with the existing structure
    • Within the DCP, less than 5,000 SF and consistent with the existing structure
  • Rooftop screening
  • Façade remodels outside of the Main Street Neighborhood Commercial District and the Promenade
    • If located on Main Street or the Promenade alterations must be consistent what's currently there.
  • Awnings with no signage not backlit


  • Landscaping less than 750 SF visible from the Public Right-of-Way.
    • Landscaping in any amount in courtyards, behind buildings or otherwise not visible from the Public Right-of-Way can be approved at a staff level.
  • If property is on the Historic Resources Inventory (HRI), changes must be minor and insignificant (no substantial façade remodels, for example).



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  • All signs that comply with the Sign Code can be approved by staff per Permitted Signs: SMMC 9.61.170
  • Some properties on the Third Street Promenade qualify for additional upper-level signs, portable (A-Frame) signs, and signs on outdoor dining barriers per Bayside Conservation: SMMC 9.61.200.
  • Any requests that don't comply with the Sign Code cannot be approved by staff must be reviewed by the Board.


Please note:

  • Conditions can be applied to staff approvals.
  • Applications can be denied. 
  • Administrative approvals are not appealable.



Applications & Forms



Design Guidelines