Historic Preservation

The City already owns one of Monterey’s largest collections of historic buildings, and we continue to look for new opportunities to be good stewards of our rich history. For example, Monterey was the Spanish and Mexican capital of California from 1774 to 1846 and was the (official) sole port for international trade for many years during that time. Our City was also the site of the California Constitutional Convention and on October 13, 1849 the delegates signed the Constitution in our very own Colton Hall.

Since the early part of the 20th century, Monterey citizens have strongly supported historic preservation, beginning with the preservation of the Custom House and Colton Hall. Monterey has preserved more original Mexican era adobes than any other city in California.

Our downtown is a National Historic Landmark District, the highest level of national recognition. In addition, there are two National Register Historic Districts on the Presidio of Monterey, 32 buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and 46 Monterey historic buildings and the drawings are filed in the National Archives, Washington, D.C.

To help guide and encourage historic preservation efforts in Monterey, the City has completed a Historic Master Plan, and a Historic Ordinance. In addition, the City is surveying areas of the City for historic buildings that are potentially eligible for historic designation.

Historic Zoning
The "H" zone consisting of either H-1 or H-2 zoning is applied to the most important historic buildings in Monterey. The purpose of the "H" zone is to preserve the exterior of designated buildings and in some cases to preserve building interiors. Some examples of structures in the City with historic zoning include: Colton Hall, Custom House, The First Brick House, and the Cooper Molera Adobe.

Chapter 38 - Article 15- Historic Zoning Ordinance

"H-1" zoning is intended to identify and protect the most important historic resources in the City, generally including properties with statewide, national, or international historic significance where that significance would be recognized outside of the City. The City recognizes its responsibility for preserving these resources for a national and international public, and the H-1 zone may be established without owner consent in order to fulfill that responsibility. The H-1 zone includes a strong series of incentives to support and encourage preservation of the historic resources.

"H-2" zoning is intended to identify and protect historic resources in the City that would be recognized as resources with local historic importance and their historic importance would not generally be recognized outside the immediate area of the Monterey Peninsula. The City encourages the preservation of these resources with a strong set of incentives; however, the ultimate decision to rezone and ultimately to preserve them is left to the property owner.

"H" Zoning Eligibility and Benefits

Any building, property or object with historic significance is eligible for historic zoning. To qualify for historic zoning, a building must be at least 50 years old and must meet one or more criteria for designation. The criteria which make a building eligible for designation are: historic event, person, design or information potential.

Additional Land Uses
The property owner may apply for apartment land uses in the R-1-H (single-family historic) zone, for office uses in the R-3-H (multi-family historic) zone and for retail commercial uses in the C-0-H (commercial office-Historic) zone.

State Historic Building Code
The Historic Building Code allows relief from many Building Code provisions, as long as life safety is maintained. For example, a stairway which is 6 inches too narrow would have to be replaced for change of use in a non-historic building, but could be retained in an "H" zoned building. The Historic Building Code also allows alternative solutions to handicap access requirements.

City grants are available to restore "H" designated buildings and prepare historic preservation programs on occasion. Historic designation also allows a property owner to apply for state and federal grants.

Tax Relief
Owners of historic buildings in the community can reduce their property taxes through a program offered by the City. Please refer to the Mills Act Overview.


Historic Preservation Report
A Historic Preservation Report is a plan for maintenance of the historically important elements of a historically zoned building and site. It also specifies the relationship between historic elements and non-historic buildings on a site. A Historic Preservation Report is required before major changes can be made to a designated building or features of site. Once adopted, many improvements can be approved by staff with no delay in processing.

Historic Permit
A historic permit is required to make any change to a historic building site, or designated historic interior. Staff may approve changes without a historic permit if the improvement conforms to the adopted Historic Preservation Report.

Demolition of historic buildings is not allowed unless the building is a serious health safety hazard or there are significant findings documenting the reasons for demolition.

Associated Documents
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Historic Preservation Documents16 documents

  • National Historic Landmark District & Downtown Area Historic Context Statement & Recon Survey
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  • Historic Master Plan
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  • Master Historic Survey List
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  • Alta Mesa Historic Context Statement And Reconnaissance Survey
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  • Cannery Row Intensive Surveys, Part 1
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  • Cannery Row Intensive Surveys, Part 2
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  • Lower Old Town Reconnaissance Survey, Part 1
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  • Lower Old Town Reconnaissance Survey, Part 2
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  • Lower Old Town Reconnaissance Survey, Part 3
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  • Introduction to the Mills Act
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  • Mills Act Overview
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  • Oak Grove Reconnaissance Survey
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  • New Monterey Context Statement & Reconnaissance Survey
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  • Upper Old Town Reconnaissance Survey
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  • Secretary of the Interior's Standards
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  • National Register Bulletin 15
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