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About Us

aboutmontereyThe City of Monterey is a waterfront community where citizens, community organizations, businesses, military partners, nonprofit organizations, and city government work together to ensure that the community retains its hometown identity, high quality of life, and natural beauty.  Home to 29,874 residents (U.S. Census Bureau, 2021), Monterey is the third-largest city in Monterey County.

Monterey is at the heart of the Monterey Peninsula, serving as the region’s business, financial, government, and services core with urban amenities common to a city of much larger size.  Monterey is home to the region’s community college (Monterey Peninsula College), hospital (Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula), largest shopping center (Del Monte Center), largest business park (Ryan Ranch), Monterey County Fairgrounds, the U.S. Army Garrison Presidio of Monterey (home of the Defense Language Institute), Naval Support Activity Monterey (home of the Naval Postgraduate School), Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, Cannery Row, and Monterey Bay Aquarium. Monterey’s waterfront is second-to-none, featuring Municipal Wharf No. 2 (serving as the region’s commercial fishing hub), Old Fisherman’s Wharf (attracting 3.9 million visitors per year), the Coast Guard Pier, Breakwater Cove, and U.S. Coast Guard Station Monterey.

At the same time, the city provides a small-town atmosphere and distinct neighborhoods that range from historic adobes to mid-century modern abodes. Monterey is proud of its 16 neighborhoods, stretching across the City’s 8.62 square miles, each with their own distinct character and neighborhood association.  Monterey’s neighborhoods feature a variety of offerings: multi-family housing and mixed-use projects, walkable to markets and business districts, beachfront neighborhood tracts, large suburban homes, and living among the Monterey pine forests. 

The Monterey Regional Airport is located less than 10 minutes from historic Downtown Monterey, offering over 40 daily flights to Los Angeles, Dallas, Denver, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Portland, San Diego, Seattle, and points beyond. 

The City of Monterey maintains and offers a variety of community amenities and services, including the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreational trail, over two miles of beaches, a harbor and marina, two wharves, the Monterey Sports Center with two indoor pools, the world-class Monterey Conference Center, California’s first public library, four community centers, 36 dedicated parks and open spaces, three fire stations, one police station, multiple parking facilities and garages, over 100 miles of public streets, the Veterans Park Campground, and El Encinal Cemetery.

First incorporated in 1850 and with its present charter adopted in 1925, Monterey is a charter city and operates under the Council-Manager form of government. The Mayor and City Council are responsible for establishing policy and providing direction to the City Manager. The Mayor and City Council appoint the City Manager, who serves as the city government’s Chief Executive Officer, as well as the City Attorney, who serves as the City’s legal counsel.  The Mayor is elected at-large. The Councilmembers are elected based on four districts and serve staggered four-year terms. The Mayor presides at City Council meetings.

The Monterey City Council meets the first and third Tuesday of each month at Few Memorial Hall of Records on the historic City Hall campus at Colton Hall. Council meetings are televised on Cable Channel 25, streamed live on, and replayed at various times on both mediums.

The Monterey City government also takes pride in its level of community engagement and participation. The City boasts several boards and commissions including the Architectural Review Committee, Historic Preservation Commission, Board of Library Trustees, Measures P & S Oversight Committee, Museums and Cultural Arts Commission, Neighborhood and Capital Improvement Program (NCIP) Committee, Parks and Recreation Commission, Planning Commission, and Appeals Boards.  In addition to committee participation, the City of Monterey hosts a variety of Town Hall meetings and its representatives regularly participate in neighborhood and business association meetings.

The Native Rumsien people lived in Monterey for thousands of years before Euro-Americans landed on its shores. The Indigenous People who settled in what is now Monterey were drawn by the abundance of fish and wildlife and other natural resources. The mild weather of the Central Coast, along with the bounty of the bay made this area an important part of the Rumsien life. Several of their village sites have been identified within the confines of Monterey. 

Spanish explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo is credited as the first Euro-American to see the bay on November 17, 1542, which he named La Bahia de los Pinos (Bay of Pines). Sixty years later, in December 1602, Sebastián Vizcaíno became the first European to set foot on the shores of the bay which he officially renamed "Monte Rey Bay", in honor of the Viceroy of New Spain who had ordered his expedition. Under a large oak tree overlooking the bay, near what is now Artillery and Pacific Streets, he and his crew of 200 celebrated mass in honor of their safe journey. 

One hundred and sixty-eight years later, Franciscan Father Junípero Serra held mass on June 3, 1770 at the same location. Serra joined an expedition led by Captain Gaspar de Portolá to establish a Presidio at Monterey. The Royal Presidio and Mission San Carlos de Borromeo de Monterey, were established as Monterey’s first buildings. A year later Father Serra moved the mission to Carmel, which offered a better agricultural and political environment. The Presidio remained in Monterey as the seat of government.

In 1776, Spain named Monterey as the capital of Baja (lower) and Alta (upper) California. That same year, Captain Juan Bautista de Anza arrived from Sonora with the first colonists for Spanish California; most of them bound for San Francisco. Monterey’s soldiers and their wives lived at the Royal Presidio (located where the San Carlos Cathedral now stands) and struggled to create a pueblo and raise families.

In 1818, in an effort to destroy Spain’s presence in California, Argentinean revolutionary privateer, Hipólito Bouchard attacked Monterey. After the only known land and sea battle fought on the West Coast. Bouchard sacked the town before departing. The damage from Bouchard’s raid was quickly repaired and during the next decade, residents began to expand outside the Royal Presidio, building homes, creating streets, and inaugurating businesses that would establish the foot-print of modern Monterey.

In April 1822, the people of Monterey learned that Mexico had won its war for independence from Spain; California pledged allegiance to the Mexican Government. While Spain had discouraged foreigners to trade with California, Mexico opened the area to international trade. Monterey became California’s port of entry.

The Custom House was enlarged after 1827 to accommodate the expanding commercial activities in Monterey. Originally started in 1814, the Custom House is considered the oldest public building in California. 

In 1842, in response to the growing American presence in California, the United States established a consulate in Monterey. Thomas Larkin was appointed the first and only American Consul to California. His home, located at Pacific and Jefferson Street, is the origin for the architectural style renowned as "Monterey Colonial."

In July 1846, during the Mexican-American War, Commodore John Drake Sloat’s Pacific squadron arrived in Monterey Bay. On July 7, his troops landed and raised the American flag, claiming California for the United States. This began a period of American occupation that lasted until 1848 when the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed, making all of Alta California part of the United States. This acquisition included the land now known as California, Utah, Nevada, parts of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming.

In Monterey, U.S. Navy Chaplain Walter Colton was appointed to serve as Monterey’s first American Alcalde, a position defined as Mayor and Judge, but which included many more duties. One of his many accomplishments was the design and supervision of the construction of Colton Hall, the first public building constructed under the American flag. Opened March 8, 1849, Colton Hall was originally built to serve as a public school and town meeting hall, but has proven to be much more.

In 1849, California’s military governor called for a constitutional convention to be held in Monterey’s Colton Hall. On September 1, 48 delegates from ten districts arrived in Monterey to debate and write California’s first constitution. Unlike other states at the time, the California Constitution was bilingual, prohibited slavery, and afforded married women the right to hold separate property. The Constitution was ratified on October 13, voted on in November of that year and sent to Congress in January 1850. San José was chosen as the seat for the first Legislature. (The official definition of a State Capital is where the Legislature sits; therefore Monterey never was the State Capital.)

On September 9, 1850, the U.S. Congress voted to admit California as the thirty-first state of the Union.

While awaiting word on Statehood, the state legislature formed counties and set up local governments as agreed on in the Constitution. Monterey served as the county seat until 1873, when Salinas took over that role. Since Colton Hall was opened in 1849 it has served as the County headquarters, court house, a public school from 1873 to 1896, city offices, police courts, library, hospital, rationing office and today, as a museum. The building has been in public use since it opened, and is operated by the City of Monterey.

The City of Monterey was first incorporated in 1850. Monterey’s first residents were Native Americans. Later, they were joined by Spanish explorers, followed by Mexican settlers and American pioneers, followed by Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, and Italian fishermen.  In 1850, Chinese fishing families crossed the Pacific in junks and settled at Point Alones ("China Point"). They established Monterey's first fishing industry, with over 600 Chinese fisherman working in the area by 1853. By the 1870s, the area became the largest, most diverse Chinese settlement in the country. On May 16, 1906, a disastrous fire of suspicious origin swept through the Chinese settlement, destroying virtually every major structure. 

Monterey became a thriving fishing community in the early to mid 1900s, exporting millions of pounds of abalone, shrimp, squid, and sardines annually.  By the 1940s, Monterey was known as the “Sardine Capital of the World.” Before World War II, Sicilian and Japanese-American fisherman dominated the fishing industry, with the majority of fishing companies on Fisherman’s Wharf owned by Japanese-Americans.  

Cannery Row, memorialized in John Steinbeck’s book of the same name, was a gathering place of diverse cultures.  Sicilian women, ranging in age from teens to middle-aged, made up a third of cannery workers in the 1930s and 1940s.  Mexican, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Chinese, and Dust Bowl migrants also made up the workforce.  Today, a smaller commercial fishing fleet continues to operate from Municipal Wharf No. 2, which is managed by the City.

Due to its strategic location, historically, Monterey has been a key military outpost. In 1902, the 1st Squadron of the 9th Cavalry arrived, 425 men who were among the first black soldiers to be stationed in California. Known as the Buffalo Soldiers, they were instrumental in building the Presidio of Monterey.  While military needs have changed since the Presidio of Monterey was first established, the presence of the Defense Language Institute at the U.S. Army Garrison Presidio of Monterey, the Naval Postgraduate School and Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center (FNMOC) at Naval Support Activity Monterey, and U.S. Coast Guard Station Monterey, all located within the city limits, continues Monterey’s legacy of military tradition.

Today, Monterey continues to boast  a diverse cultural population which has earned  it the designation of “Language Capital of the World”™ with the presence of both the Defense Language Institute and Middlebury Institute for International Studies at Monterey.
Monterey Facts - also see 2020 census data

About Monterey

At a Glance
Monterey at a Glance

Region California Central Coast
Residents 30,218 per 2020 US Census data
Parks 35
Beaches 3
Hotel Rooms ~4,700
Golf Courses 2
Sports Center 1
Community Centers 4
Trees 15 landmark trees, Tree City USA 35+ years
Libraries 2
Schools K-12, College, Graduate 10 +
Conference Center 1
Discovered and Named 1602
Founded 1770
First Incorporated 1850
Adopted Present Charter 1925
Elevation 0 to 683 feet
Land Area 8.62 square miles
Water Area 3.47 square miles
Average Mean Temperature 56.5º F
Miles of City Streets 106
Community Profile
Monterey is approximately 115 miles south of San Francisco and 350 miles north of Los Angeles. Monterey is on the central California coast, just minutes away from Carmel-by-the-Sea and Pebble Beach.

Monterey was founded on June 3, 1770 and incorporated on May 30, 1850. Monterey served as California's first capital and hosted California's first Constitutional Convention in historic Colton Hall, where on October 13, 1849, our original state constitution was signed. In the 1930's and 40's, Monterey became the center of a thriving fishing industry and the sardine capital of the world. Today, a smaller commercial fishing fleet continues to operate from the City's harbor marina at Wharf 2.

Military Presence
Due to its strategic location, Monterey has historically been a key military outpost. While military needs have changed since the Presidio of Monterey was first established, the presence of the Defense Language Institute, the Naval Postgraduate School and Fleet Numerical continues Monterey's legacy of military tradition.

Form of Government
Monterey is a Charter City which operates under a City Council/City Manager governmental structure.

Monterey covers 8.62 square miles and has a population of 30,218 (2020 Census); population increases to nearly 70,000 during the tourist season. Visit the Area Statistics tab for details.
Area Statistics
Monterey is a small residential city with a diverse population. Monterey's first residents were Native Americans and later Spanish explorers, Mexican settlers, American merchants, Japanese and Italian fisherman.

Population: 30,218
Median Age: 37.8
Source: US Census 2020 data

Median Household Income: $80,694
Education: 52.8% bachelor's degree or higher


Employment Rate: 54.5%
Main Industry for Civilian Employed: Educational services, health care and social services 27.5%
Occupation for same: management, business, science, and art occupations 7,267


Total Household Units: 13,787
Total Households: 11,872
Own Home: 35.8%
Rentals: 64.2%

While housing costs tend to be slightly higher in Monterey than other areas, the City of Monterey also has several affordable housing programs which aim to meet the needs of low, moderate, and workforce-income level households. For more information regarding these programs, please contact Housing Programs Office at (831) 646-3995.

Monterey's mild year-round climate and beautiful scenery attract tourists to the area throughout the year.
  • mild, temperate weather year round
  • cool summer months
  • warm "Indian Summer" weather in the fall
  • average summer temperature is 59.5 degrees
  • average yearly rainfall is 18.33 inches

Weather Resources
Why is Monterey is known as the "First City"?
Monterey Firsts
  • First Mass Performed in California (1602)
  • First Foreign Ships to Visit Spanish California (1786)
  • First California Condor Known to Science Described and Observed (1792)
  • First Building Designed by an Architect in California (Royal Presidio Chapel, 1794)
  • First Custom House in California (1827 and only Custom House until 1845)
  • First Printing Press in California (1834)
  • First French Consulate in California (1843)
  • First Jury Trial (1846)
  • First Official Raising of the American Flag (1846)
  • First American Public Building in California (Colton Hall constructed from 1847 to 1849)
  • First Theater in California (1846)
  • California's First Constitution and Constitutional Convention (1849)
  • California's First Capital (of Spanish province of Alta California, 1770)
  • California's First Newspaper (The Californian, 1846)
  • California's First Brick House (1847)
  • California's First Public Library (Monterey, 1849)
  • California's First Pre-Fab Framed house (1850)
  • California's First Marketed Cheese (1859)
  • Destination of the First Oil Pipeline in California (1904)
  • First California State Historical Monument (1938)
  • California’s First Scenic Highway (1965)