Understanding City Meetings
Learn how to participate in the civic process


The City of Carmel-by-the-Sea welcomes your participation at City meetings. The following information will help you understand and participate in your City’s government.  Included are descriptions of the types of City meetings, Agenda Items, City Actions, and the opportunities available for the public to address the Council or a Board or Commission.   

Opportunities for the public to address the City Council are provided under the Public Appearances, Consent, Orders, and Public Hearing sections of the agenda.  If you wish to address the governing body during a section opportunity will be provided to the public to address the Council, Board or Commission.  State law prohibits the Council from taking action on any item not listed on the agenda.  

If you are unable to attend a meeting and would like your thoughts heard, written communications may be sent to the City Clerk.

Meeting Types

  • Regular Meetings regularly each month and are held in accordance with the Ralph M. Brown Act. 
  • Closed Session Meetings are held for specific purposes such as litigation or personnel matters as allowed under State law.  Closed Sessions are not open to the public.
  • Special Meetings are held in accordance with the Ralph M. Brown Act.  Agendas are available prior to the meeting in the City Clerk’s Office. 
  • Workshops/Study Sessions provide an opportunity for the City staff to report to the City Council on a variety of items and issues.  Study Sessions are open to the public.  Check with the City Clerk’s office or City web pages for times and locations. 
  • Tours of Inspection are on-site inspection of all properties listed on the agenda, generally items being heard as Public Hearing items. Members of the public are welcome to participate in the tour.

Agenda Items

There are different sections of a City meeting agenda for different types of items. Sections on an agenda may include: 

Public Appearances

Provides the public with an opportunity to address the Council on any item that is within the jurisdiction of the City Council and which does not appear on the agenda. The Council may not take action on an item presented during Public Appearances. The public may address the Council on items appearing on the agenda during the public comment period for that particular item. 

Extraordinary Business

Provides the public or other agencies with an opportunity to present information or items of concern to the City Council. Proclamations are documents that recognize an individual or proclaim or acknowledge an event or specific activity of interest to the community.

Consent Agenda

Items on the Consent Agenda are typically routine in nature and are considered for approval by the City Council with one single action.  The City Council or members of the audience who would like an item removed from the Consent for purposes of discussion may request removal at the time the Mayor asks if there is anyone interested in removing items.


Items of orders are those which require Council discussion and/or decision but do not legally require a Public Hearing.  Councilmembers are permitted to ask questions of staff and the principals before the Mayor invites citizens to provide input.

Public Hearings

Public Hearings are held on matters required by law or items of significance for which public input is desired.  The Mayor begins a Public Hearing by asking for presentations from staff and from the proponent or applicant involved in the matter under discussion.  Following questions from the City Council, the Mayor will open the hearing to the public for input from citizens.  Following the close of the Hearing, the City Council takes action on the subject of the Hearing.

City Council Actions

The City Council takes action in three different ways:

  • Ordinances are laws adopted by the City Council which usually amend the Municipal Code.  Most ordinances appear on two consecutive City Council Agendas.  An ordinance is usually introduced at the first meeting and adopted at the second meeting.  Most ordinances become effective 30 days after adoption.
  • Resolutions express decisions, opinions, or actions by the City Council but do not amend the Municipal Code or other City laws.
  • Approval of documents provided for review purposes such as Minutes, Check Register and Monthly Reports. 

Submitting Materials or Documents

You may submit material to the City Clerk’s office by the Thursday before a Council meeting for distribution to the Council in advance of the meeting.  This gives Councilmembers time to review the information provided.  If you have any questions regarding copies or procedures, call the City Clerk’s office at (831) 620-2016.

Any supporting materials (at least 10 copies) which you wish to present at the Council meeting should be given to the City Clerk before addressing the Council.  Any material submitted becomes part of the public record and will not be returned.