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Carmel-by-the-Sea, California

Carmel-by-the-Sea, California
Official seal of Carmel-by-the-Sea, California
Location of Carmel-by-the-Sea in Monterey County, California
Location of Carmel-by-the-Sea in Monterey County, California
Carmel-by-the-Sea is located in California
Location in California
Carmel-by-the-Sea is located in the United States
Location in the United States
Coordinates: 36°33′19″N 121°55′24″W / 36.55528°N 121.92333°W / 36.55528; -121.92333
CountryUnited States
IncorporatedOctober 31, 1916[1]
 • MayorDave Potter[2]
 • State SenatorJohn Laird (D)[3]
 • State AssemblyRobert Rivas (D)[3]
 • U.S. Rep.Jimmy Panetta (D)[4]
 • Total1.06 sq mi (2.75 km2)
 • Land1.06 sq mi (2.75 km2)
 • Water0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)  0%
Elevation223 ft (68 m)
 • Total3,220
 • Density3,034.87/sq mi (1,171.46/km2)
Time zoneUTC-8 (Pacific)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-7 (PDT)
ZIP codes[7]
Area code831
FIPS code06-11250
GNIS feature IDs1658224, 2409987

Carmel-by-the-Sea (/kɑːrˈmɛl/),[8] commonly known simply as Carmel, is a city in Monterey County, California, located on the Central Coast of California. As of the 2020 census, the town had a total population of 3,220, down from 3,722 at the 2010 census. Situated on the Monterey Peninsula, Carmel is a popular tourist destination, known for its natural scenery and rich artistic history.

The Spanish founded a settlement in 1797, when Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo was relocated by St. Junípero Serra from Monterey. Mission Carmel served as the headquarters of the Californian mission system, until the Mexican secularization act of 1833, when the area was divided into rancho grants. The settlement was largely abandoned by the U.S. Conquest of California in 1848 and stayed undeveloped until Santiago J. Duckworth set out to build a summer colony in 1888. When the Carmel Development Company was formed in 1902, Carmel came to grow and prosper as an art colony and seaside resort, which incorporated in 1916.


Carmel-by-the-Sea is in an area permeated by Native American, Spanish, Mexican and American history. Most scholars believe that the Esselen-speaking people were the first Native Americans to inhabit the area of Carmel, but the Ohlone people pushed them south into the mountains of Big Sur around the 6th century.[9]

Spanish and Mexican eras

Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, established in 1770, was the headquarters of the Californian mission system from 1797 until 1833.

The first Europeans to see this land were mariners led by Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo in 1542, who sailed up the California coast without landing. Another sixty years passed before the Spanish explorer, Sebastián Vizcaíno discovered for Spain what is now known as Carmel Valley in 1602. It is thought that he named the river running through the valley Rio Carmelo in honor of the three Carmelite friars serving as chaplains for the voyage.[10]

The Spanish did not attempt to colonize the area until 1770, when Gaspar de Portolá, along with Franciscan priests Junípero Serra and Juan Crespí, visited the area in search of a mission site. Portolà and Crespí traveled by land while Serra traveled with the Mission supplies aboard ship, arriving eight days later. The colony of Monterey was established at the same time as the second mission in Alta California and soon became the capital of California, remaining so until 1849.[11][12] From the late 18th through the early 19th century most of the Ohlone population died out from European diseases (against which they had no immunity), as well as overwork and malnutrition at the missions where the Spanish forced them to live.

The village of Carmel in 1794.

Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo was founded on June 3, 1770, in the nearby settlement of Monterey, but was relocated to Carmel Valley by Junípero Serra due to interactions between soldiers stationed at the nearby Presidio and the native Indians.[13]

In December 1771, the transfer was complete as the new stockade of approximately 130x200 became the new Mission Carmel. Simple buildings of plastered mud were the first church and dwellings until a more sturdy structure was built of wood from nearby pine and cypress trees to last through the seasonal rains. This too, was only a temporary church until a permanent stone edifice was built.[13] In 1784, Serra, after one last tour of all the California missions, died and was buried, at his request, at the Mission in the Sanctuary of the San Carlos Church, next to Crespí, who had died the previous year. Serra was buried with full military honors.[13] Carmel Mission contains the state's first library.[14]

When Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821 Carmel became Mexican territory.[15]

Early American era

Mission San Carlos in 1839.

Carmel became part of the United States in 1848, when Mexico ceded California as a result of the Mexican–American War. In the 1850s, "Rancho Las Manzanitas", the area that was to become Carmel-by-the-Sea, was purchased by French businessman Honoré Escolle. Escolle was well known and prosperous in the City of Monterey, owning the first commercial bakery, pottery kiln, and brickworks in Central California. His descendants, the Tomlinson-Del Piero Family, still live throughout the area.[16][17]

William Martin of Scotland arrived in Monterey in 1856 by ship with his family. His son, John Martin (1827-1893), bought land around the Carmel River from Lafayette F. Loveland in 1859. He built the Martin Ranch on 216 acres (87 ha) that went as far as the Carmel River to the homes along Carmel-by-the-Sea. The ranch became known as the Mission Ranch because it was so close to the Carmel Mission. They farmed potatoes and barley and had a milk dairy.[16][18]

In 1888, Escolle and Santiago J. Duckworth, a young developer from Monterey with dreams of establishing a Catholic retreat near the Carmel Mission, filed a subdivision map with the County Recorder of Monterey County. By 1889, 200 lots had been sold. The name "Carmel" was earlier applied to another place on the north bank of the Carmel River 13 miles (21 km) east-southeast of the present-day Carmel.[19] A post office called Carmel opened in 1889, closed in 1890, re-opened in 1893, moved in 1902, and closed for good in 1903.[19][20] Abbie Jane Hunter, founder of the San Francisco-based Women's Real Estate Investment Company,[21] first used the name "Carmel-by-the-Sea" on a promotional postcard.[22][23]

Modern era

Californio real estate developer Santiago J. Duckworth conceived of Carmel in 1888, which he initially intended to found as a Catholic seaside retreat.

In 1902, James Franklin Devendorf and Frank Hubbard Powers, on behalf of the Carmel Development Company, filed a new subdivision map of the core village that became Carmel. They asked Michael J. Murphy to help build the houses. From 1902 to 1940, he built nearly 350 buildings in Carmel.[24] The Carmel post office opened the same year.[19] In 1899, Fritz Schweninger (1867-1918) opened the first bakery on Ocean Avenue, called the Carmel Bakery, which stands in its original location today.[25][26] In 1910, the Carnegie Institution established the Coastal Laboratory, and a number of scientists moved to the area. Carmel incorporated in 1916.[19] August Englund served as Carmel's first police chief and one-man police department, dedicated to ensuring the safety and security of Carmel for nearly 20 years.[27]

In 1905, the Carmel Arts and Crafts Club was formed to support and produce artistic works. After the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the village was inundated with musicians, writers, painters and other creatives, all arriving to the growing artists' colony after their bayside city was utterly devastated. These new residents were offered home lots – ten dollars as a down payment, little or no interest, and whatever they could afford to pay on a monthly basis.[28][unreliable source?] In 1906, the San Francisco Call devoted a full page to the "artists, writers and poets at Carmel-by-the-Sea",[29] and in 1910 it reported that 60 percent of Carmel's houses were built by citizens who were "devoting their lives to work connected to the aesthetic arts." Early City Councils were dominated by artists, and several of the city's mayors have been poets or actors, including Herbert Heron, founder of the Forest Theater, bohemian writer and actor Perry Newberry, and actor-director Clint Eastwood, who served as mayor from 1986 to 1988.

The Carmel Arts and Crafts Club held exhibitions, lectures, dances, and produced plays and recitals at numerous locations in Carmel, including the Pine Inn Hotel, the Old Bath House on Ocean Ave, the Forest Theater, a small building in the downtown area donated by the Carmel Development Company, and finally, purchasing their own lot on Casanova Street, where they built their own clubhouse in 1907.[30] By 1914, the club had achieved national recognition.[30]

Carmel became an hub for artists and writers in the early 20th century. Pictured are George Sterling, Mary Austin, Jack London, and Jimmie Hopper at Carmel Beach, c. 1905.

In 1911, the town became host to what became an ongoing tradition of presenting plays by Shakespeare with a production of Twelfth Night, directed by Garnet Holme of UC Berkeley and featuring future mayors Perry Newberry and Herbert Heron, with settings designed by artist Mary DeNeale Morgan. Twelfth Night was again presented in 1940 at Heron's inaugural Carmel Shakespeare Festival, and was repeated in 1942 and 1956.[23]

In 1915, Carmel lacked recognition as a tourist destination. During the Panama–Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, various items showcasing Carmel were featured in the Monterey County exhibit within the California Building. This exhibit included natural and industrial products of this part of the state.[31] As part of Carmel's involvement in the Exposition, the Junipero Serra or The Padres performance from the Forest Theater took place on July 30–31, 1915, within the Court of the Universe. This pageant, written and directed by Perry Newberry, was a tribute to Father Junipero Serra and featured prominent citizens of Carmel in its cast, such as Frederick R. Bechdolt and Grant Wallace. Around twenty-five thousand individuals attended these performances. This exposition marked an important moment in the early development of Carmel-by-the-Sea.[32]

La Playa Hotel, founded in 1913, is one of Carmel's oldest establishments.

In 1925, Paul Aiken Flanders built the Flanders Mansion and used his home as a model for the Hatton Fields subdivision.[33][34] The City of Carmel purchased the Flanders Mansion and adjoining 14.9 acres (6.0 ha) in 1972, from the Flanders heirs for US$275,000 (equivalent to $2,003,103 in 2023). It has become part of the 34-acre (14 ha) Mission Trail Nature Preserve. Part of this property is now the Rowntree Native Plant Garden at 25800 Hatton Road.[35]

In 1932, the city developed the Devendorf Park that occupies the block of Ocean Avenue and Junipero Street. The city park is Carmel's central gathering place for outdoor events. [36]


Carmel Bay viewed from the beach.

Carmel is located on the Monterey Peninsula, situated on the southern portion of Monterey Bay, on the Central Coast of California.

Carmel Pinnacles State Marine Reserve, Carmel Bay State Marine Conservation Area, Point Lobos State Marine Reserve and Point Lobos State Marine Conservation Area are marine protected areas in the waters around Carmel. Like underwater parks, these marine protected areas help conserve ocean wildlife and marine ecosystems.

Carmel-by-the-Sea is situated in a moderate seismic risk zone, the principal threats being the San Andreas Fault, which is approximately thirty miles northeast, and the Palo Colorado Fault which traces offshore through the Pacific Ocean several miles away. More minor potentially active faults nearby are the Church Creek Fault and the San Francisquito Fault.[37]


View from Carmel Point.

Carmel-by-the-Sea experiences a cool summer Mediterranean climate (Köppen climate classification Csb) normal in coastal areas of California. Summers are typically mild, with overcast mornings produced by marine layer clouds which can bring drizzles that typically give way to clear skies in the afternoon.

September and October (Indian summer) offer the most pleasant weather of the year,[38] with an average high of 72 °F (22 °C). The wet season is from October to May.

Average annual rainfall in Carmel-by-the-Sea is 20 inches (500 mm) per year, and the average temperature is 57 °F (14 °C).

Climate data for Carmel-by-the-Sea
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Mean daily maximum °F (°C) 60.1
Mean daily minimum °F (°C) 43.0
Average precipitation inches (mm) 4.19
Source: [39]

City planning

Carmel is known for its eclectic mix of California architectural styles, including Mission Revival, Spanish Colonial Revival, Storybook, Mid-century modern, and more.

The town has historically pursued a vigorous strategy of planned development to enhance its natural coastal beauty and to retain its character, which the city's general plan describes as "a village in a forest overlooking a white sand beach". Carmel-by-the-Sea was incorporated in the year 1916 and as early as 1925 the town adopted a clear vision of its future as "primarily, essentially and predominantly a residential community" (Carmel-by-the-Sea City Council, 1929). The city regularly hosts delegations from cities and towns around the world seeking to understand how the village retains its authenticity in today's increasingly homogeneous world.

New buildings must be built around existing trees and new trees are required on lots that are deemed to have an inadequate number.[40]

The one-square-mile village has no street lights or parking meters.[41] In addition, the businesses, cottages and houses have no street numbers.[42] (Originally, the early artists who were the first builders of the homes in the town, named their houses, rather than having numerical addresses.) Due to this situation, the Postal Service provides no delivery of mail to individual addresses. Instead, residents go to the centrally located post office to receive their mail. Overnight delivery services do deliver to what are called geographical addresses, such as "NE Ocean and Lincoln" (Harrison Memorial Library) or "Monte Verde 4SW of 8th" (Golden Bough Playhouse). The format used for geographical addressing lists the street, cross street, and the number of houses from the intersection. For example, in the case of "Monte Verde 4SW of 8th", the address translates to a building on the west side of Monte Verde Street four properties south of the 8th Avenue intersection.

Planning has consistently recognized the importance of preserving the character of these major sociocultural and public facilities: Sunset Center, Golden Bough Playhouse, Forest Theater, Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo, Tor House and Hawk Tower, Harrison Memorial Library, and Carmel City Hall.


Historical population
U.S. Decennial Census[43]


The Carmelite Convent of Our Lady and St. Teresa of Ávila

The 2010 United States Census[44] reported that Carmel-by-the-Sea had a population of 3,722. The population density was 3,445.5 inhabitants per square mile (1,330.3/km2). The racial makeup of Carmel-by-the-Sea was 3,464 (93.1%) White, 11 (0.3%) African American, 8 (0.2%) Native American, 111 (3.0%) Asian, 6 (0.2%) Pacific Islander, 45 (1.2%) from other races, and 77 (2.1%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 174 persons (4.7%).

The Census reported that 3,722 people (100% of the population) lived in households, 0 (0%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 0 (0%) were institutionalized.

There were 2,095 households, out of which 254 (12.1%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 831 (39.7%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 138 (6.6%) had a female householder with no husband present, 50 (2.4%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 81 (3.9%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 20 (1.0%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 934 households (44.6%) were made up of individuals, and 471 (22.5%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 1.78. There were 1,019 families (48.6% of all households); the average family size was 2.39.

The cenotaph of St. Junípero Serra.

The population was spread out, with 381 people (10.2%) under the age of 18, 114 people (3.1%) aged 18 to 24, 544 people (14.6%) aged 25 to 44, 1,355 people (36.4%) aged 45 to 64, and 1,328 people (35.7%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 59.2 years. For every 100 females, there were 77.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 76.9 males.

There were 3,417 housing units at an average density of 3,163.1 per square mile (1,221.3/km2), of which 1,182 (56.4%) were owner-occupied, and 913 (43.6%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 5.3%; the rental vacancy rate was 8.8%. 2,198 people (59.1% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 1,524 people (40.9%) lived in rental housing units.

Arts and culture

Performing arts

The Forest Theater, founded in 1910, is one of the oldest outdoor theaters in the Western United States.

In 1907, the town's first cultural center and theatre, the Carmel Arts and Crafts Clubhouse, was built. Poets Austin and Sterling performed their "private theatricals" there.[30]

By 1913, The Arts and Crafts Club had begun organizing lessons for aspiring painters, actors, and craftsmen.[45] Some of the most prominent painters in the United States offered instruction for beginners and advanced students, including William Merritt Chase, Xavier Martinez, Mary DeNeale Morgan, C. P. Townsley, Matteo Sandona, C. Chapel Judson, and James Blanding Sloan. It was Sloan and his wife who organized Carmel's first international film festival.[46] In 1924, the Arts and Crafts Hall was built on an adjacent site. This new facility was renamed numerous times including the Abalone Theatre, the Filmarte, the Carmel Playhouse and, finally, the Studio Theatre of the Golden Bough. The original clubhouse, along with the adjoining theatre, burned down in 1949. The facilities were rebuilt as a two-theatre complex; the theater opened in 1952 as the Golden Bough Playhouse.[30] A photo of the fire from 1949 was still on file 60 years later at the rebuilt theatre illustrating the loss to the city's culture and history.

In 1910, the Forest Theater, one of the first outdoor theaters west of the Rockies, was built, with poet Mary Austin and actor/director Herbert Heron leading the endeavor. The property was deeded to the City of Carmel-by-the-Sea in order to qualify for federal funding and, in 1939, the site became a Works Progress Administration (WPA) reconstruction project. After several years, the site re-opened as The Carmel Shakespeare Festival, with Herbert Heron as its director and, with the exception of the World War II years of 1943–44, the festival continued through the 1940s.

Sunset Center, home of the Carmel Bach Festival

Theatrical activities in the town grew to such a proportion that between 1922 and 1924, two competing indoor theatres were built – the Arts & Crafts Hall and the Theatre of the Golden Bough, designed and built by Edward G. Kuster and originally located on Ocean Avenue. In 1935, after a production of By Candlelight, the Golden Bough was destroyed by fire. Kuster, who had previously bought out the Arts and Crafts Theatre, moved his operation to the older facility and renamed it the Golden Bough Playhouse. In 1949, after remounting By Candlelight, the playhouse again burned to the ground. It was rebuilt and reopened in 1952.[45]

In 1931, the Carmel Sunset School constructed a new auditorium, complete with Gothic-inspired architecture, with seating for 700. Often doubling as a performing arts venue for the community, the facility was bought by the City of Carmel-by-the-Sea in 1964, renaming the venue the Sunset Theatre. In 2003, following a $22 million renovation, the Sunset Center re-opened with the 66th annual Carmel Bach Festival, hosting such renowned artists as Lyle Lovett, k.d.lang, Wynston Marsalis, and the Vienna Boys' Choir.[47]

The Golden Bough Playhouse, home of the Pacific Repertory Theatre.

In 1949, the first Forest Theater Guild was organized. For most of the 1960s, the outdoor theater lay unused and neglected, with the original Forest Theater Guild having ceased operations in 1961.[48] In 1968, Marcia Hovick's Children's Experimental Theater leased the indoor theater and continued until 2010. In 1972, a new Forest Theater Guild was incorporated and continues to produce musicals, adding a film series in 1997.[48]

In 1984, Pacific Repertory Theatre initiated productions on the outdoor Forest Theater stage, reactivating Herbert Heron's Carmel Shake-speare Festival in 1990 which, in 1994, expanded to include productions at the Golden Bough Playhouse.[49] Pacific Repertory Theatre (PacRep), a regional theatre company, is the only year-round professional (Equity) company in the Carmel area.[50] One of the eight major arts institutions in Monterey County,[51] it was founded in 1982 by Carmel resident Stephen Moorer as the GroveMont Theatre. Its name was changed to Pacific Repertory Theatre in 1994 when the company acquired the Golden Bough Playhouse, a two-theatre complex housing both the Golden Bough and the Circle Theatres.


George Sterling helped establish the arts colony in Carmel and is credited with making the town famous.[52]

In 1905, poet George Sterling came to Carmel and helped to establish the town's literary base. He was associated with Mary Austin, as well as Jack London, who also spent considerable time in the Carmel and Monterey area. In San Francisco, Sterling was known as the "uncrowned King of Bohemia" and, following the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906 many of his literary associates followed him in his move. He is often credited with making Carmel world-famous. His aunt Missus Havens purchased a home for him in Carmel Pines where he lived for six years.

Sterling wrote to his long-time literary mentor, Ambrose Bierce;

"Well, you can see why I must raise vegetables. Belgian hares, hens and the fruit of their wombs, squabs and goldfish, 'keep a bee,' raid mussel reefs, and cultivate a taste for rice – not to mention cold water and 'just one girl.' I'm determined to get into black and white unnumbered multitudes of lines that romp up and down in my innards, eight a-breast."[23]

Tor House and Hawk Tower was built by poet Robinson Jeffers in 1919 and served as his home until 1999.

In 1905, novelist Mary Austin moved to Carmel.[53] She is best known for her tribute to the deserts of the American Southwest, The Land of Little Rain. Her play, Fire, which she also directed, had its world premiere at the Forest Theater in 1913. Austin is often credited as suggesting the idea for the outdoor stage.[54]

In 1914, poet Robinson Jeffers (1887–1962), and his wife, Una (1884–1950), found their "inevitable place" when they first saw the Carmel-Big Sur coast south of California's Monterey Peninsula. Among the many contributors to the lore of Mary Austin and Robinson Jeffers was the Carmel landscape photographer Morley Baer, whose photographs, published in two books, complemented their writings.[citation needed]

The Seven Arts Building, built in 1925 by poet Herbert Heron.

Over the next decade, on a windswept, barren promontory, using granite boulders gathered from the rocky shore of Carmel Bay, Jeffers built Tor House as a home and refuge for himself and his family. It was in Tor House that Jeffers wrote all of his major poetical works: the long narratives of "this coast crying out for tragedy," the shorter meditative lyrics and dramas on classical themes, culminating in 1947 with the critically acclaimed adaptation of Medea for the Broadway stage, which featured Dame Judith Anderson in the title role.[citation needed] He called his home Tor House, naming it for the craggy knoll, the "tor" on which it was built. Carmel Point, then, was a treeless headland, almost devoid of buildings. Construction began in 1918.[citation needed]

In 1920, the poet-builder began his work on Hawk Tower. Meant as a retreat for his wife and sons, it was completed in less than four years. Jeffers built the tower entirely by himself. He used wooden planks and a block and tackle system to move the stones and to set them in place. Many influential literary and cultural celebrities were guests of the Jeffers family. Among them were Sinclair Lewis, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Langston Hughes, Charles Lindbergh, George Gershwin and Charlie Chaplin. Later visitors have included William Everson, Robert Bly, Czesław Miłosz and Edward Abbey.

Visual arts

The Carmel Art Association, founded in 1922, is noted for its history in the promotion of Californian art.

In 1906, San Francisco photographer Arnold Genthe joined the Carmel arts colony, where he was able to pursue his pioneering work in color photography. His first attempts were taken in his garden, primarily portraits of his friends, including the leading Shakespearean actor and actress of the period, Edward Sothern and Julia Marlowe, who were costumed as Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Of his new residence, he wrote, "My first trials with this medium were made at Carmel where the cypresses and rocks of Point Lobos, the always varying sunsets and the intriguing shadows of the sand dunes offered a rich field for color experiments."[23]: p88-90 

According to the Library of Congress, where over 18,000 of his negatives and prints are on file, Genthe "became famous for his impressionistic portrayals of society women, artists, dancers, and theater personalities."[55]

Renowned photographer Edward Weston moved to Carmel in 1929 and shot the first of numerous nature photographs, many set at Point Lobos, on the south side of Carmel Bay. In 1936, Weston became the first photographer to receive a Guggenheim Fellowship for his work in experimental photography. In 1948, after the onset of Parkinson's disease, he took his last photograph, an image of Point Lobos.[56] Weston had traveled extensively with legendary photographer Ansel Adams, who moved to the Carmel Highlands in 1962, a few miles south of town.[57]

Carmel Beach; Guy Rose, c. 1925

Gray Gables, at Lincoln and Seventh was the birthplace of the Carmel Art Association,[46] founded by artists Josephine M. Culbertson and Jennie V. Cannon. This small group supported art, primarily through the auspices of the Carmel Arts and Crafts Club until 1927, when a meeting took place, and the group elected Pedro Joseph de Lemos as president and committed to building an exhibition gallery to display their works. Their first show with 41 artists took place in October of the same year in the Seven Arts building of Herbert Heron. The permanent gallery was completed in 1933 at its present location on Dolores Street. In the early 1930s the tiny group claimed four members who had attained membership in the National Academy of Design.

G. H. Rothe, the Mezzotint painter, lived for a time in Carmel and built two studios there in 1979.[58]


The Carmel Bach Festival began in 1935 as a three-day festival of concerts, expanding to 3 weeks until the 2009 Season which, due to economic concerns, was reduced to 2 weeks.[59] The Festival is a celebration of music and ideas inspired by the historical and ongoing influence of J.S. Bach in the world. For over 80 years the Festival has brought the music of the Baroque and beyond to communities of the Monterey Peninsula.[60][61]

The Sunset Arts Center was the venue for a concert by world-renowned jazz pianist Erroll Garner on September 19, 1955. Unknowingly the concert was being discreetly recorded but when Martha Glaser, Erroll's Manager, found out she obtained the tapes and the famous Concert by the Sea album was produced.


Harrison Memorial Library, built in 1928 in a Spanish Colonial Revival style by Michael J. Murphy.

Carmel is a general law city governed by a mayor and four city council members.[62][63] The current mayor is Dave Potter.[63] Elected councilmembers are Carrie Theis, Jeff Baron, Bobby Richards and Jan Reimers.[64] Chip Rerig is the newest City Administrator.[65][66]

The City of Carmel-by-the-Sea has established a "sphere of influence" that includes the communities of Carmel Woods, Hatton Fields, Mission Fields, Mission Tract, Carmel Point, and Carmel Hills. These neighborhoods are officially parts of unincorporated Monterey County, which provides most primary services, including law enforcement, street repairs, and public transit. Except for several shopping areas at the mouth of Carmel Valley, these satellite areas contain few, if any, businesses and serve primarily as bedroom communities to Carmel-by-the-Sea and the greater Monterey Peninsula.[67]


World War I Memorial Arch

There are no street addresses, and no home mail-delivery, in Carmel-by-the-Sea (by contrast with adjacent, "county-Carmel" residential districts).[68] Carmel-by-the-Sea residents may obtain the use of a U.S. Postal Service mailbox, free of charge, upon submitting annual proof of Carmel-by-the-Sea residence.

For non-mailing purposes (other than payment of property taxes, when parcel numbers are used), an individual property is identified on a geographical-location pattern (a fictitious example follows): Sealion 5 NW Sea Otter. In this example, the property is the 5th house on Sealion Street, northwest of Sea Otter Street. Given Carmel's geographic orientation, this is the 5th house on the side of Sealion St. closer to the Pacific Ocean.

This unconventional mail system often leads to banks addressing their first mortgage statements undeliverably to the house's geographical location.

Unusual laws

La Ribera Hotel (today known as the Cypress Inn), built in 1929.

Though often mistakenly thought of as an urban legend, the municipal code prohibits wearing shoes having heels taller than 2 inches (5.1 cm) or with a base of less than 1 square inch (6.5 cm2) unless the wearer has obtained a permit for them. While the local police do not cite those in violation of the ordinance, this seemingly peculiar law was authored by the city attorney in 1963 to defend the city from lawsuits resulting from wearers of high-heeled shoes tripping over irregular pavement distorted by tree roots. Permits are available without charge at City Hall.[69]

Argyll Campbell served as city attorney of Carmel from 1920 to 1937. He was responsible for drawing up many of Carmel's first zoning laws and ordinances. Campbell backed zoning ordinances that limited the business district and restricting the size of residential houses and lots. No sidewalks in the residential area, no streetlights, no commercial development on the beach, preservation of the native trees, one or two stories height limitation, no chain restaurants, and no billboards. These ordinances have helped preserve Carmel's character as a village.[23]

County, state, and federal representation

Carmel Fire Station, built 1937.

On the Monterey County Board of Supervisors, Carmel is represented by Supervisor Mary Adams.[70]

In the California State Assembly, Carmel is in the 29th Assembly District, represented by Democrat Robert Rivas.[3] In the California State Senate, Carmel in the 17th Senate District, represented by Democrat John Laird.[3]

In the United States House of Representatives, Carmel is in California's 19th Congressional District, represented by Democrat Jimmy Panetta.


Carmel is served by the Carmel Unified School District,[71] which operates nearby schools including Carmel High School, Carmel Middle School, Tularcitos Elementary School [72] and Carmel River School.


The Goold Building, home of the Carmel Pine Cone from 1970 to 2000.
Draper Leidig Building, built 1929.

The Californian

The Californian,[73] formerly The Carmel Sun,[74] was published weekly in 1936-1937 by E.F. Bunch in Carmel-By-The-Sea.[75]

Carmel Valley Sun

Stan Hall, a former United Press International editor, bought the Carmel Valley Sun after moving to Carmel Highlands in 1988, later renamed the paper the Carmel Sun and published it weekly, closing the paper in 1994.

Carmel Pine Cone

The Carmel Pine Cone is the town's weekly newspaper and has been published since 1915, covering local news, politics, arts, entertainment, opinions and real estate. [76]


In February 2009, the town was used as a prime location for the 24-day film shoot of The Forger.[77]


Shops on Ocean Avenue.

Carmel-by-the-Sea is a quiet town and does not have any big roads. The biggest by a wide margin is Cabrillo Highway, generally called "Highway 1", which at the northern border of town becomes a limited-access freeway where it enters Monterey at exit 399. The freeway goes north toward San Francisco, connecting to U.S. Highway 101.

South of Carpenter Street in the northeast corner of Carmel, Highway 1 changes from a freeway to a two-lane surface road with many at-grade intersections, some signalized, as it remains through town and for a long distance south of Carmel. The city has no other traffic lights.[78] Some have proposed turning the intersection with Carpenter Street into an interchange as exit 398, but no official proposals have been made. South of Carmel, the highway follows the scenic Big Sur coast before eventually reaching bigger cities such as Santa Barbara and Los Angeles far south of Carmel. However, avoiding the Big Sur Coast and taking the 101 freeway to these cities is much faster, and Highway 1 frequently closes along the Big Sur Coast during rainy season due to mudslides, occasionally for months at a time due to the damage. These landslides usually do not happen near Carmel, however.

Carmel's other major street is Ocean Avenue, which serves as the town's main business district and goes straight from Highway 1 to the beach. An entrance gate to the 17 Mile Drive, a scenic road along the Monterey Bay coast, is located just inside Carmel's northern city limits.

Local transportation is provided by Monterey–Salinas Transit. Amtrak Thruway provides connections to intercity train service in Salinas.

Notable people


Business leaders[edit]

Political leaders, politicians, civil service, activists[edit]


Researchers, scholars[edit]


Visual artists, designers[edit]

Writers, novelists, journalists[edit]


See also


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Further reading

  • Carmel-by-the-Sea City Council Resolution no. 98, 1929
  • Carmel-by-the-Sea Municipal Code Chapter 8.44 Permits For Wearing Certain Shoes
  • Helen Spangenberg, Yesterday's Artists on the Monterey Peninsula, published by the Monterey Peninsula Museum of Art (1976)
  • Herbert B. Blanks, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (Report). City of Carmel-by-the-Sea. 1965
  • John Ryan, Kay Ransom et al., City of Carmel-by-the-Sea General Plan prepared for the town of Carmel-by-the-Sea, Clint Eastwood, Mayor, by Earth Metrics Inc., San Mateo, California pursuant to requirements of the State of California (1984)
  • Kay Ransom et al., Environmental Impact Report for the Carmel-by-the-Sea General Plan, Prepared for the town of Carmel-by-the-Sea by Earth Metrics Inc., Burlingame, California (1985)
  • Marjory Lloyd, History of Carmel (1542–1966), 1966
  • Seismic Safety Element of the General Plans of Carmel, Del Rey Oaks, Monterey, Pacific Grove and Seaside, William Spangle & Associates, September 29, 1975
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Carmel-by-the-Sea, California
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