Historic Preservation in Santa Monica

Historic Preservation Santa Monica

The local preservation movement began in earnest as the City of Santa Monica responded to the increased development pressures taking place in Southern California cities during the 1960s and 1970s. The City Council, following the community interest in preserving local landmarks, adopted the Landmarks and Historic District Ordinance on March 24, 1976.
City staff works closely with the Landmarks Commission to:

  • Designate Historic Resources at the local level
  • Maintain a comprehensive Historic Resources Inventory 
  • Implement state guidelines regarding historic properties
  • Distribute information on Benefits & Tax Incentives for Landmarks
  • Review applications for Certificate of Appropriateness, Certificate of Administrative Approval, Certificate of Exemption, and Certificate of Economic Hardship

Types of Designations

A historic resource may be a building, structure, site, object, district, or landscape that may be associated with historic events; associated with important historical persons; represent a rare type of historic property; or has architectural quality or importance.

Local level designations are handled by the Landmarks Commission. The City’s Landmarks Commission decides whether a property should be a designated Structure of Merit, or Landmark, and makes a recommendation to City Council on Historic District designation, based on certain required findings contained in the Landmarks Ordinance. 

Historic Resources may also be designated at Federal or State levels. Federal designation is managed by the National Register of Historic Places. Information on State level designations may be obtained through the Office of Historic Preservation.

Click here for an interactive map showing all of the City Landmarks, Structures of Merit, and Historic Districts


Landmarks are considered to have the highest level of individual historical or architectural significance. Therefore, along with contributing buildings located within historic districts, Landmarks are offered the highest protection with respect to alterations and demolitions.

List of Designated Historic Resources (Landmarks, Structures of Merit, Districts)


Structures of Merit

Structures of Merit are historic resources with a more limited degree of individual significance. This designation requires special review for demolition permits.

Historic Districts

Historic Districts are geographic areas or non-contiguous groupings of thematically related properties significant in that they contribute to the historic character of the area at a local level. Any area in the city can be designated a Historic District subject to the approval of City Council.

Historic Districts (pdf)