Viewshed Ordinance Planning Office Work Plan

BOS Agenda Date '.December 17, 2002

County of Santa Clara


Environmental Resources Agency
Planning and Land Development




ERA15 121702

Prepared by: Bill Shoe

Planner III

Reviewed by: Mike Lipman
Financial and

Administrative Services


December 17, 2002


Board of Supervisors

Tim Chow

Director, Environmental Resources Agency

SUBJECT: Planning Office Work Plan - Viewshed/Greenbelt Component Supplemental


Consider recommendations relating to Planning Office Work Plan Supplemental Information

Possible actions:


Accept report of additional information and background concerning Viewshed and

Greenbelt Areas Protection component of Planning Office Work Plan.

Board of Supcn-isors: Don.ald F. Gat^, Blaiaca Alvarado, Peic McHugh, James T. Beall J.--., Uz ICniss

Counw Executive: Rjchard Wittenberg


BOS Agenda Date :December 17, 2002

b. Accept Planning Office Work Plan Addendum as presented in November 19, 2002 Board

c. Direct staff to address viewshed concerns in the proposed Planning Office Work Program
for 2003 as a higher priority.

No fiscal impact on the County General Fund


At the November 19, 2002 meeting of the Board of Supervisors, the Board continued item #52

(Planning Office Work Plan - Addendum). At the request of Board staff, the Planning Office
was to provide additional information regarding the Planning Office s Work Plan at the
December 17, 2002 meeting of the Board of Supervisor’s,

a. The initial priorities for Viewshed and Greenbelt preservation in the Work Plan identified in

the November 19, 2002 Board transmittal represent an initial step of this component of the
work plan,

b. A comprehensive countywide endeavor to implement viewshed/greenbelt protection, would
require much more time and resources, and would be subject to certain constraints and


1 Work Plan "Addendum" Priorities

In a letter of November 18, 2002, environmental groups such as Committee for Green

Foothills expressed eoncem that the priorities stated in the ’’Addendum" report were intended

Board of Suix:rvisora; Do.n.aId F. Gage, Blanca Alvarado, Pete McHugh, James T, Beall Jr.. Liz

County Executive; Richard Wittenberg


BOS Agenda Date :December 17, 2002

to represent the sum total of efforts by the Planning Office to carry out the Work Plan in
relation to viewshed and greenbelt protection. The Supervisors expressed similar concerns that

the Addendum transmittal priorities would displace or preclude future efforts to address
viewshed protection in a more comprehensive way.

In response, staff did not intend that these "Addendum" priority items be construed as the sum
total or end of all efforts to carry out the Work Plan concerning viewshed protection. Instead,
staff viewed the priorities identified in the November 19 transmittal as a logical set of actions

to begin significant work in this area, based on the wording of Item 10-19 of the Work Plan
from January 2002, with additional efforts to be undertaken as existing work is completed.
Staff regrets this misunderstanding.

2. Constraints and Considerations for Comprehensive Countywide Viewsheds/Greenb^

At the time the Board approved the Planning Office Work Plan in January 2002,the Board

expressed concern for whether there were adequate staff resources to undertake the amount of
work indicated. Staff stated that adequate staff resources were available to carry out the work

program, assuming current staffing levels could be maintained. During this year, a numbertoof

vacant planner positions have remained unfilled for extended periods of time in response
the County's worsening fiscal situation. In addition, there have been unanticipated work
demands, such as the response to the Croy Road fire, and to San Jose's intense interest in a

joint study concerning the South Almaden Valley Urban Reserve(SAVUR), which have had
to be addressed. {Note: At this time, the City of San Jose is taking a different approach to the

matter of land use in the SAVUR that will no longer require the joint study. Involvement with

the San Jose Coyote Valley Specific Plan, in contrast, will gradually increase over what is
expected to be a two year process}.

Furthermore, several existing legislative initiatives have been prolonged due to various
factors, such as the lot line adjustment ordinance revisions, the comprehensive Zoning
Ordinance Revision project, and the Stanford Open Space/Field Research zoning district

enactment. Given all these constraints, the Planning Office has focused primarily to date on
those new items for the Work Plan that the Board initially approved has having highest

priority, the LGAF Study, Williamson Act Policies and Ordinance Review, and the Riparian
Board of Supervisors: Donald F. Qase, Blanca .Alvarado, Pete
County Executwc: Richard Wittenberg

James T. Beall Jr., Liz [vniss

BOS Agenda Date :December 17, 2002

Protection Ordinance initiative.

^ Onst and staffing imnlications of enacting new Design Review Requirements

Enacting and implementing a major, comprehensive initiative to impose design review

requirements or similar viewshed and greenbelt protection measures would be very time
consuming, controversial (see below), and result in the need for additional experienced staff to
administer the increased zoning administration workload. For example, if the geographic area

to which "-d". Design Review zoning were to be merely doubled, staff would expect that the
number of applications related to design review would proportionally increase. Each design

review application requires a referral process, staff evaluation, field visit, noticing and public
hearing, follow up reports and paperwork documenting the decision, and usually an inspection
prior to completion of the building permit process to enforce the conditions imposed. There is
currently one full time position devoted primarily to conducting these processes and public

Even if some or most of the ongoing costs of additional staff were covered by the fees

imposed for such applications, the expectation for the coming two fiscal years is that staff
reductions may be required, not additions. If new design review requirements were to be

imposed over the entire hillsides visible from the valley floor, the area affected would likely
be at least 5 to10 times greater than that for which design review is currently in place. Board
of Supervisors staff resources would also be affected, in that there would likely be an increase
in the number of design review-related appeals to the Planning Commission and Board of

4. F.npietinp New Design Review Districts would be Controvers.ial

Design review requirements are strenuously opposed by most of those property owners

directly affected. Recent experience with the County's imposition of"-dl". Design Review
zoning in the west valley hillsides (1997) and of"-d2". Design Review zoning in the hillsides
of Milpitas (1999), are typical. In each case, numerous community meetings, public hearings,
and other forms of community outreach were required. Property owners were individually
noticed. The enactment process was prolonged greatly over that originally anticipated, taking

up two years. During the process, property owners were vehemently opposed to design


Board of Supervisors: DonaJd F. Gage, Blanca .Alvarado, Pete McHugh, James T. Beall Jr., Lis Kniss

Countv Executive: Richard Wittenberg

BOS Agenda Date :December 17, 2002

5. "Pilnt" Program Approach

The value of the "pilot" program approach outlined in the original Work Plan language for

Viewsheds/Greenbelts is that it includes both priority-setting studies by staff and the use of

pilot initiatives with such jurisdictions as Morgan Hill, which afford the possibility of(a)
establishing with stakeholders, including cities, shared values expectations, and objectives for
viewshed and greenbelt protection,(b) determining optimal means of protection, including
possible design review regulations, and (c) determining their true effectiveness and costs
before proceeding to possibly enacting similar measures countywide.



Board of Supervisors: Donald F. Gage, Blanca Alvarado, Pete McHugh, James T. Beall Jr., Lis Kniss

County Executive: Richard Wittenberg


Memorandum providing supplemental information on the planning office work plan viewshed/greenbelt component


James T. Beall, Jr.

Content Type


Resource Type





District 4


Tim Chow, Director of Environmental Resources Agency




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