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Historic Preservation

Historic Preservation in Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara was one of the first communities in the United States to conceive of historic preservation as an integral element in the planning process.  Santa Barbara has a long tradition of encouraging the preservation of pre-1925 Spanish Colonial styles of architecture and enacting planning controls to limit uncontrolled growth and maintain the natural charm of the City.  The City established specific ordinances and adopted design guidelines to require architectural review controls and preservation planning.  The development of Santa Barbara from a small beachside community to a world famous tourist destination city is recognized and interpreted through our many open park spaces, beautiful architecture and unique collection of historic structures.

In 1960, City Council created the original boundaries of El Pueblo Viejo Landmark District and set restrictions upon the alteration and demolition of historic buildings.  The City subsequently adopted Santa Barbara’s first Historic Structures Ordinance in efforts to help preserve the city’s oldest Historic Adobes and City Landmarks as the significant reminders of our collective past.  Since 1978, City planning staff has worked to complete surveys of neighborhood historic resources and amend City ordinances to require screening of development applications to ensure potential historically significant resources are protected from partial or complete demolition.  The City of Santa Barbara Historic Structures Ordinance provides specific direction and methods to survey, identify, list and designate structures in order to preserve its architectural history, cultural landscapes and built-environment.   

Charged with administering the Historic Structures Ordinance, the Historic Landmarks Commission (HLC) initiates all historic designations as well as conducts primary architectural review of all historically significant structures located throughout the City.  Landmark and Structure of Merit designations allow for both recognition and protection of individual historic structures or landscape features, while Historic District designations encourage the recognition and protection of neighborhoods with distinct historic character.

In 2012, the City adopted a Historic Resources Element (HRE) that provides community preservation goals, policies and implementation strategies to identify and protect historical resources.  The adoption of the HRE guides the City’s Historic Preservation Work Program.

Preserving our historic structures allows us to retain a tangible connection to our past as well as act as an inspiration for future progress. Protecting and promoting Santa Barbara’s valuable historic resources boosts civic pride, economic prosperity and gives residents as well as visitors a visual reminder of our shared heritage.

For more information, feel free to contact Historic Preservation planning staff for assistance.

Last Updated: Mar 12, 2014