Report on Strategy #3: Ensure Environmentally-Safe and Aesthetic Hillside Developement

Growth & Development

Rural Unincorporated Area Issues & Policies

Strategy #3:

Ensure Environmentally-Safe and Aesthetic Hillside Development

The vast majority of lands in County jurisdiction outside cities are hillside lands with
Range and its eastern
slopes varying between approximately 10-75%. The
the Santa Cruz Mountains and

foothills flank the Santa Clara Valley on the east,

foothills flank the valley lands on the western side of the County. Within these areas,
development through subdivision and through single-site approvals has occurred over
time under evolving land use controls. Each development is evaluated with regard to
the particular geologic and seismic hazards that may exist, fire hazards, slope
constraints and access issues, and septic system suitability, among other development


The policies, regulations, and ordinance provisions that govern aspects of private
development have evolved over time to address issues raised by various development
projects, both individually and collectively. The Grading Ordinance,for example, was

instituted in 1964, with modifications in 1972 to address emerging environmental and
land use-related issues, with subsequent revisions again in 1978 and 2002. Regulations

for single building sites as part of the County Ordinance Code were also amended in
1990 to address issues discussed in the General Plan relating to development of land
over 30% average slopes.

This sub-section of the Growth & Development Chapter for Rural Unincorporated Area

Issues and Policies is intended to provide context, explanation, and clarification of
County policies for rural hillside development concerning grading and terrain
alteration issues, development proposed on steep slopes over 30%, ridgeline

development issues, and related matters. It serves as an overview of some of the more
generally encountered hillside development issues and as a basis for development
regulations, particularly, the use of Design Review zoning districts. Grading Approvals,
Single Building Site Approvals, Site Approvals on slopes exceeding 30%, and
subdivision approvals. Each type of process plays a role in ensuring safe,
environmentally sensitive, and aesthetic development.

In recent years, the amount of rural hillside development has been relatively stable.
Building activity varies with economic cycles. Since 1995, total rural35area
to 125 new homes

permit activity for new homes has ranged between approximately

per year. The average for the last ten years has been approximately 60-65 per year.
Given the visibility, site characteristics, location, and sensitivity of hillside development

issues, a moderate number of new homes or structures can have a disproportionate
aesthetic effect, depending on size, design, and visual impacts.

parcels in the rural
Single-family residences remain the most commonOrdinance
use of existing
allowable use
and hillside areas. They are defined in the Zoning
permitted as a matter of right on most existing legal lots. Subdivision regulations,
single building site approvals, geologic review, and grading permit requirements are
necessary prerequisites of safe and properly-designed land development. Design


Growth & Development
Rural Unincorporated Area Issues & Policies

Review complements other forms of land use approvals, provides flexibility, and allows
for a level of discretionary review and approval of conditions to mitigate visual and
other impacts of development.

Design Review has been a procedure employed by many cities for some time, either for

architectural review of new development in urban residential neighborhoods, or to
address hillside development. Santa Clara County established Design Review zoning in
the late 1980s, specifically to provide a form of discretionary approval to encourage
excellence of development, secure the purposes of the zoning ordinance and general

plan, and to ensure ai\ reasonable steps were taken to mitigate adverse impacts of

development,including visual impacts.

Initial application of "-d. Design Review Zoning Districts" was limited to certain areas
of development, such as along the Santa Teresa Ridge or Los Gatos hills, or as a specific
condition of subdivision approval. It has also been required for development within 100
feet of named scenic roads, which previously was subject to Architecture & Site

In 1994, the County adopted the current General Plan, and addressed a number of

general environmental and scenic resource protection goals for hillside areas. The
revised General Plan included an implementation recommendation to identify areas of
greatest sensitivity to visual impacts of development and the application of design
review requirements,including but not limited to hillsides, ridgelines, scenic
transportation corridors, and other areas.

In the mid-1990s, the County revised the Design Review regulations of the Zoning
Ordinance to make provision for Design Review combining districts with distinctive

subscripts, such as-dl,-d2,
goals, policies, and standards, enumerated with numerical
the establishment of the "-dl"

and so forth. The first such use of the provision was

district for the west valley hillsides in 1997. The "-d2" district was established for the
and collaborative
Milpitas hillsides in 1999. Each was an outcome of discussions
planning studies between affected cities and the County, as well as extensive

community input.

With respect to hillside areas, the County General Plan has long emphasized that the
hillsides surrounding the urbanized area should not be subject to urban levels of
development. A related goal is that the generally natural appearance of the hillsides
should be preserved as much as possible through allowance for low density residential
use, acquisition of public parks and open space lands, and mitigating visual impacts of
development. The term "viewshed" has evolved in planning vocabulary to describe the
hillsides that ring the urbanized area of the valley floor. Over time, the focus of General
Plan policies has made it a priority to conserve as much as possible those hillsides
immediately visible from the valley floor, where the vast majority of the urban
population resides.

Consequently, land use regulations such as Design Review have historically been
applied for the most part to the hillsides up to and including the first ridge, such as
along the Santa Teresa Hills, Milpitas hillsides, and similar areas. In the west valley
hills, the "-dl" Design Review district was originally applied to lands visible from

Growth & Development
Rural Unincorporated Area Issues & Policies

certain defined vantage points within the cities of Monte Sereno, Cupertino, Los Gatos,

and Saratoga. It extends slightly further up into the hillsides, but not fully to the Santa
Cruz Mountains summit area bounding Santa Cruz County.

In 2002, the Board established the Viewshed and Greenbelt Study as a legislative

initiative, directing that a more comprehensive application of Design Review for hillside
protection be evaluated, along with a review of the adequacy of existing standards.
Prior to that date, only a small percentage of the hillsides immediately visible from the
valley floor had Design Review zoning. With the completion of the viewshed planmng
study. Design Review zoning is proposed to apply to all areas of the primary viewshed
most immediately visible from the valley floor. These lands generally include areas of
highest visibility within approximately 1-2 miles of the valley floor.
Another key aspect of planning and land use controls is to apply reasonable standards
and requirements, afford necessary flexibility for private land use and development,
and ensure consideration of private property rights. To address these issues, the

County has proposed for consideration;
(a) expanded small project exemptions,

(b)simplified procedures for moderate sized homes through a tiered review system
up to 5,000 sq. ft.),
(proposed Tier 1 administrative review for primary residences
(c) exempting basement floor area from floor area definitions,
(d)modified regulations and guidelines to provide greater allowance for "desi^that
friendly" features, such as porches, dec^,eaves and other architectural designs
mimmize visual impacts, reduce apparent bulk, and provide articulation

With regard to the largest and potentially most visible new homes and structures in the
primary viewshed areas, a "Tier 3" level of review is proposed. In addition to review of
siting alternatives that would reduce the visibility of such large structures, this level of

review would include a Planning Commission hearing,instead of administrative, or
staff-level public hearings.

Policies and Implementation
R-GD 15

Goals and policies of the General Plan recognize the development constraints, issues,
and sensitivity of the hillsides of Santa Clara County for new development. The goals
of the General Plan, outlined in the Open Space Action Program, are to prevent further
urban uses and development outside cities, conserve wildlife habitat, avoid natural
hazards, and preserve the generally natural appearance of the hillsides as much as

R-GD 16

Design Review Zoning Districts, including Design Review Guidelines, shall apply to
primary viewshed areas most immediately and directly visible from the valley floor,
lands up to and including the first ridge, or those within approximately one to two
miles distance from the edge of the valley floor.


Growth & Development
Rural Unincorporated Area Issues & Policies
R-GD 17

Design Review Zoning Districts may be differentiated to effect distinctive goals,
policies, and standards, as appropriate.

R-GD 18

Application of design review guidelines, landscaping standards, retaining wall design

requirements, and related matters should reasonably relate to the goals of the General
Plan and Zoning Ordinance, address the impacts of a project, and take into account the
size of the structure, and the site-specific characteristics involved.

[Note: see Attachment B of the staff reportfor proposed Zoning Ordinance amendments related
to Design Review].


With nearly every hillside development, there is a certain amount of grading necessary
for creating a building pad, contouring roads or driveways, or excavation to situate a
residence or structure within a hillside location. Grading policies have evolved from

the basic regulation of engineering aspects to include erosion controls, drainage and
water quality issues, impacts to neighboring properties, environmental impacts, and

Where no other land use approval is required, a Grading Approval functions much as
does building site approval, evaluating the location of a proposed structure, the
amounts and extent of proposed grading, and the interplay of siting other necessary

improvements,such as access roads and septic systems.

County Grading Ordinance regulations are vitally important for a variety of reasons:(a)
to ensure the integrity of structures in graded areas;(b) to minimize potential dangers to
neighboring properties;(c) to minimize or avoid environmental damage,erosion, and
other impacts, with appropriate mitigations; and (d)to enable grading only if consistent
with an approved or allowable land use. Inherent in these and related goals is a
concern that grading outcomes fit with the natural conditions of the land as much as

possible, avoid unnecessary alteration and expense, and complement or improve the
aesthetics of land development.

Where permit requirements are not followed or ignored, unregulated grading can cause
slope and structural failure, major erosion, landslides, detrimental effects on immediate
neighbors, and other environmental impacts. Some of the most egregious examples
have resulted in major loss of vegetation and trees, stream damage, and adverse road

For many years. County grading policies have been articulated only in terms of the
basic findings necessary for approval of a grading permit. These are stated within the
and in the County's Standards
Grading Ordinance, part of the County Ordinance Code, and
terrain alteration issues
and Policies Manual for Land Development. As grading
have become more critical over time, grading policies and findings need to be

augmented and articulated through the General Plan.

Growth & Development
Rural Unincorporated Area Issues & Policies

The findings necessary for grading approvals are as follows:

(a) proposed grading must be related to a presently permissible land use on the

(b) the proposed grading is necessary for establishment and conduct of the use, and,
for the use and causes
(c) the design, scope, and location of the grading is appropriatethe

disturbance to the terrain and natural features of

The thrust of these findings is that only the minimum grading and terrain alteration

should be approved to enable reasonable use and development of a property. Excessive

grading is both unnecessarily expensive to perform and maintain, and increases the
potential impacts to the environment, necessitating more significant mitigation efforts.
Where grading is involved, experience has shown that the principles of avoidance and

prevention of impacts is less costly to the public and private property owners.
Policies and Implementation

Grading and terrain alteration to conduct lawful activities and use of property should

the natural landscape and resources, minimize erosion impacts, protect scenic
resources, habitat, and water resources. Grading should not exacerbate existing natural

hazards, particularly geologic hazards.

R-GD 20

For grading, terrain alteration, or other work that is subject to a grading permit, the
grading approval shall be required concurrently with any other required land use
authorization or discretionary, conditional permit review process. Grading approval
shall not precede other requisite land use or development approvals, including building
permit issuance.

R-GD 21

The amount, design,location, and the nature of any proposed grading may be approved
only if determined to be:
(a) appropriate, justifiable, and reasonably necessary for the establishment of a
allowable use;,

(b) the minimum necessary given the various site characteristics,constraints, and
potential environmental impacts that may be involved, and,
(c) that which causes minimum disturbance to the natural environment, slopes, and
other natural features of the land.

R-GD 22

Proposals to balance cut and fill amounts where such grading would exceed that which
is deemed minimally necessary and reasonable for the site may be considered based on
environmental impacts, the ability of the site to accommodate the additional fill without
causing additional adverse impacts, the remoteness of the site, the overall amount of
material that would otherwise need to be removed from the site, and the impacts of any
truck traffic that could be involved, including travel distances, local road impacts,
safety, noise, dust, and similar issues.


Growth & Development

Rural Unincorporated Area Issues & Policies





or development sites, and
Where an existing parcel contains multiple possible building
with less overall environmental

where one or more possible site requires less grading,
and visual impacts, greater economy of access roads or other site improvements, and
approval may be granted
better achieves matters of public health and safety, grading and
only for the alternative which minimizes grading amounts is deemed otherwise
suitable with respect to other development issues, regulations, and conditions of
reviewing agencies. Buildings should also be designed to respect and conform with
existing topography of site as much as possible, using stepped designs and multiple
levels rather than an expansive single story floor plan on only one level.

Grading associated with roads, bridges, retairang walls, or similar improvements
related to access requirements should not create a significant visual scar or impact to the
(a) Grading proposals for driveways and roads should generally follow natural terrain
and contours to maximum extent feasible. Requirements and conditions for erosion

other design features
control, landscaping or plantings, retaining wall design, andwork
blends as
may be imposed where necessary to ensure that completed
harmoniously as possible with the natural environment and landscape,
(b) Use of native and drought tolerant species for the above purposes should be
employed for at least 50% or more of the design.

R~GD 25

subdivision or single building
Where proposed grading is associated with a potential
non-essential grading is
site approval in hillside areas, that which is deemed
strongly discouraged and shall not be generally permitted, unless exertional
circumstances warrant further consideration. Examples may include, but are not

limited to excessive grading to create the largest possible building pads,envelopes,or

yards; to remove hilltops and/or flatten steep ridges; to create multiple driveways
serving individual parcels, or wider than necessary driveways; and similar proposals.
structure within a hillside to
Grading and excavation to situate a residence or other
due consideration of geologic
reduce visual impacts is encouraged,in accordance with
and lot charactenstics.
issues, structural integrity, and other pertinent design

issues related to
Development experience and County policy have long addressed
Clara County
development proposed on steep slopes. Much of thefrom
30% to over 70%. Due to the
evidence significant slopes, ranging in many areas
geology, soil composition, faults, natural springs, and drainage within many of these
areas, hillsides can be relatively fragile landscape, despite appearances.

A 30% slope is approximately a 1:3 ratio of rise over


(height change over vertical

distance). Although such slopes may seem to pose minimal difficulties for

Growth & Development
Rural Unincorporated Area Issues & Policies

development, for certain aspects of land development,such as septic system drainfields,
storm drainage, or roads or driveways, such slopes present additional challenges for
location and design of land development. Septic system design standards and area
must be increased to account for steeper slopes, and road design and grading for

emergency vehicle access becomes more problematic, particularly for long driveways.
Over the recent decades, owners and developers have selected and developed those lots

that were less problematic or less expensive to develop. Increasingly over time, the
development proposed and evaluated for conformance with County goals, policies, and
development regulations is on more challenging parcels. In some instances, these

constraints can be overcome, with proper engineering and additional costs. In some
cases not. Not all sites have the ability to accommodate a septic system, and some are
so steep and rugged that access is difficult or nearly impossible to design to meet
minimum road standards for emergency vehicles. The more challenging or constrained
the site, often there is greater disturbance to the natural landscape and resulting visual

The Building Site Approval process and regulations are contained in Chapter II of

Section C12 of the Ordinance Code for Subdivisions and Land Development. Building

Site Approval and Grading Approvals are the most common prerequisites for a new

home or secondary dwelling construction in the rural hillside areas. Simply stated, site

approval is the process of evaluating whether, and under what specific conditions, a lot
may be improved for residential use. Its purpose is to address development of lots that
were not created by a typical modem subdivision process, whereby issues of access and
other improvements would have already been determined and approved through the

subdivision application.

In 1990, the County modified its single site approval regulations to address applications

for development on slopes exceeding 30%. It required evaluation and approval through
the Architecture & Site Approval Committee(ASA Committee). It also increased the
application submittal requirements necessary for such site approvals, and subjects each
such development application to an environmental assessment under the provisions of
the California Environmental Quality Act(CEQA). The purpose was to address and

implement policies of the General Plan that discouraged development on slopes of
more than 30% unless conformance with applicable standards could be well

demonstrated. Regulations state that development approval on slopes of more than

30% may not be granted unless an exception is approved by the ASA Committee and
certain requirements are met.

The County Ordinance Code applies these regulations only within certain Zoning

Districts, RIE, RHS,and HS base zoning districts. Also, the criteria or findings on

which approvals are granted simply state that all relevant concerns of a particular site
must be integrated within the design solution, and reasonable concerns of all
neighboring property owners be addressed. The noticing requirement includes all
property within 500 feet of the parcel boundary, which exceeds the ordinary
requirement of noticing owners of all property within 300 feet of the subject property.
At a minimum, building site approval on slopes exceeding 30% should be based on

such criteria as the following:


Growth & Development

Rural Unincorporated Area Issues b Policies

(a) demonstrated conformance to all applicable standards and conditions of referral
agencies, such as the Fire Marshal, County Geologist, Land Development

Engineering, Department of Environmental Health, and other affected agencies,
such as the Santa Clara Valley Water District;
(b) an appropriate design which successfully integrates and addresses the various
requirements and conditions of development;
(c) an evaluation of whether the development proposal and related improvements

cannot be located on portions of the lot with less average slope and/or greater
development suitability; and

(d)that the overall site design, including but not limited to access road, retaining walls,

architectural quality, landscaping, grading and erosion control, are in harmony with
the natural landscape, vegetation, and topography, and reasonably mitigate visual

impacts of development.

Lastly, because existing provisions of site approval involving slopes exceeding 30%
have only been applied in certain zoning districts, the County should also consider
whether it is logical and appropriate to apply these requirements to the other districts
where average slopes generally range from 30% and higher. For example,the RR,
Rural Residential" Zoning District applies in a number of hillside areas, not just the
valley lands of San Martin, but the regulations and procedures described in this section
have not been applied to date. The County should periodically evaluate its procedures
and regulations to determine appropriate application to similarly-situated parcels.
Policies and Implementation

Due to the prevalence of steeply sloping land, geologic, seismic, and other natural
hazards, soil characteristics, and other development issues, including the need for

adequate access and on-site wastewater treatment, the County shall thoroughly
evaluate development proposals on slopes exceeding 30% to secure the public health,
safety, and welfare.
R-GD 28

. .


Single building site approval on slopes exceeding 30% shall be evaluated and approved,
conditionally approved, or denied by the Architecture & Site Approval Committee. A

public hearing shall be required, and notice provided to owners of all property within

500 feet of the subject property.
R-GD 29

In considering Building Site Approval applications for development on slopes

exceeding 30%,the ASA Committee shall base its decisions on the following criteria and


(a) demonstrated conformance with all applicable standards and conditions of
reviewing or responsible agencies;

(b) successful integration of design solutions satisfying the requirements of responsible
agencies and reviewers;


Growth & Development
Rural Unincorporated Area Issues & Policies

(c) consideration and determination that the proposed use, structures, and related

improvements cannot be located on portions of the lot with less average slope
and / or generally better development suitability;

(d)an overall site design, including but not limited to access road, retaining walls,

architectural quality, landscaping, grading and erosion control, that is in harmony

with the natural landscape, vegetation, and topography, and reasonably mitigates
visual impacts of development.

Implementation Recommendations

Evaluate and consider expanding the applicability of Building Site Approval

gulations pertaining to development on slopes exceeding 30% slope to those other


base zoning districts where average slopes exceeding 30% are prevalent.

Evaluate the expanded use of pre-application meetings for single building sites, grading
permits, and design review, as appropriate, to identify development issues, discuss
potential conditions and mitigations, and provide earlier notice to property owners

regarding County requirements and procedures.

The issues of ridgeline and hilltop development are integrally related to policies and
standards governing grading, terrain alteration, and development on steep slopes.
County policy over time has evolved to generally discourage ridgeline development

where subdivision and lot creation are concerned, because approval of new lots through

subdivision affords a degree of choice in terms of lot configuration and possible

building envelope locations. With existing lots, depending on size and location, lot
characteristics, and access, the choice of building locations can be more limited.

However, grading policies and requirements of the County do not permit maximum

grading and terrain alteration to enable residential or other land uses on an existing lot
where clear and suitable alternatives exist that reduce or minimize grading.

Ridge and hilltop locations are often considered more valuable for the views they
afford. Marketing and perceptions of lot value are correlated with whether the highest
elevations on a given lot are suitable or possible building sites. In many locales, a
hillside or ridgeline location is considered prestigious. It should also be noted that for
some parcels, a ridge building site can prove to be the most or only suitable place for a
structure or home.

There is a significant amount of variability in topography and ridgelines within the
County. Along the eastern Diablo Range, prominent ridges run generally parallel to the
Santa Clara Valley floor, from northwest-to-southeast. In the Santa Cruz Mountain

Range, there is the dominant ridge (the Summit Road area) that divides Santa Clara
County from San Mateo and Santa Cruz Counties. However, there are also intervening
lower ridge areas that have other ridges or hillsides as their backdrop, and these can be
oriented in many directions.


Growth & Development
Rural Unincorporated Area Issues & Policies

There are also other topographical variables. Ridgelines may be narrow and steep, or in
relatively broad and flat. Topographically, ridges delineating drainage areas
be mapped with a fair degree of precision, but what is perceived to be a ridge or
Crestline area by the human eye depends to an extent on the vantage point, distance or

some cases

proximity, and perspective.

With regard to new subdivision proposals, County policy has been that land should be

subdivided such that building sites are not located on ridgelines, if possible. This policy
reflects the need to consider other site-specific constraints, such as geologic or landslide

areas, steep slopes, oak woodlands and other sensitive habitat areas, and streams that
may pose substantial limitations on where parcels and building sites may be located. If
no other more suitable locations than a ridge area are as feasible, ridge or hilltop
locations may be proposed and evaluated through the subdivision process, including
environmental review pursuant to requirements of the California Environmental
Quality Act.

Where alternatives are limited, ridgeline building sites proposed through a subdivision

can often be mitigated such that they do not create a major negative visual impact from
the valley floor. Specific, careful location choices, building heights, fagade lengths,
significantly mitigate visual
landscaping, and fagade materials and color choicestocan
be taken into consideration. The

impacts. Distance from the valley floor also needs

:remote the subdivision from the valley floor, the greater the mitigating effects of


distance and perspective. Design Review zoning, delineation of building envelopes, and
other more specific subdivision conditions of approval may be used to mitigate visual


With regard to existing legal lots of record, Coxmty policies have stated that structures
on ridgelines must be designed,landscaped, situated, or otherwise mitigated so that
they do not create a major negative visual impact when viewed from the valley floor.
This policy statement originates with the 1980 General Plan, and implicitly, provides a
certain allowance for a ridgeline or hilltop location, provided all necessary land
development standards and requirements are met,such as for access, and the visual
impact is not significant.

Alternatively,some jurisdictions prohibit new development on ridges or hilltops if there
are feasible options, with some establishing actual prohibitions on development within
certain vertical distances of the elevation of a defined ridgeline. The larger the lot,
typically the more options for building sites. Conversely,for small lots, in the range of

0.5 acres to approximately 2 acres, siting options may not exist.

is adopted with regard to
Consequently, whatever degree of policy restrictiveness
to take into account
ridgeline development on existing legal lots, there

whether reasonable, suitable alternatives exist other than at or near a ridge. The County
must also evaluate consistency with other land development requirements for access

suitable for emergency vehicles, septic system functionality, habitat or stream
policies and permit findings
protection, and similar factors. In some instances, grading
in other instances, current
may determine that a ridgeline location is appropriate,

grading policies and findings would not allow a ridgeline or hilltop location, if

Growth & Development

Rural Unincorporated Area Issues & Policies

alternatives would demonstrably reduce grading and better comply with the General

Plan an Grading C)rdinance requirements.

Lastly, a significant number of residences and other structures have been legally

constructed and located on ridges or ridge areas over time. Property owners' concerns

regarding the ability to rebuild in the event of a fire, earthquake, or other natural
disaster or casualty should be taken into account. Similar policies and regulations have
been established as part of the Single Building Site regulations, and as part of the "-dl"
Zoning District.

Policies and Implementation
R-GD 30

Ridgelines and ridge areas have special significance for both public policy and private

interests. Ridgeline and hillside development that creates a major negative visual

impact from the valley floor should be avoided or mitigated, particularly for those areas
most immediately visible from the valley floor. Ridgeline development policy should

also take into account the need to allow reasonable use and development of private
R-GD 31

For subdivision proposals, land should be subdivided in such a way that building sites
are not located on ridgelines, if possible, taking into consideration other development
constraints and issues. Where ridgeline locations are proposed, alternatives shall be
evaluated to determine relative development suitability. If ridgeline or hilltop locations
prove to be more suitable and less visually obtrusive than alternatives, reasonable
mitigations for significant, adverse visual impacts may include, but are not limited to:

(a) careful locations of building sites;

(b) tree and vegetation retention, and use of additional landscaping, as appropriate;
(c) building height, fagade length, and similar dimensional limitations; and,
(d)use of natural materials, colors, and design features that blend with the natural
surroundings and reduce apparent bulk.
R-GD 32

For existing legal lots, the County encourages the consideration of alternatives to
ridgeline or hilltop locations. Where grading policies and permit findings are involved,

building sites may only be approved where consistent with the grading policies of the
General Plan and the permit requirements and findings of the Grading Ordinance.

R-GD 33

If a ridgeline or hilltop location is a suitable location, development of which is
consistent with grading or other land development policies and regulations, due to the
particular geologic circumstances, access needs, or other suitability characteristics of the

lot, mitigations to visual impacts of development imposed through Design Review or

other discretionary approval may include, but are not limited to:
(a) the use of Design Review as a condition of approval (if not in a Design Review
zoning district),

(b)landscaping and vegetation retention, as appropriate,
(c) color and material choices that blend with the natural surroundings, and


Growth & Development
Rural Unincorporated Area Issues & Policies

(d)similar requirements or mitigations that reasonably relate to the degree of visual

R-GD 34

, ^

1. n 1 . 1

In applying and implementing Design Review requirements, the County shall also take
into account such factors as distance from the valley floor, existing vegetation,

intervening slopes and hillsides, and other factors that tend to mitigate visual impact of
hillside development.

on a ridgeline or hilltop that are
Leg^ly constructed homes and other buildings located
other natural disaster, may be rebuilt
destroyed by casualty, such as fire, earthquake, or

in their existing location. Applicable provisions of the County's single building site

approval regulations regarding exemptions from site approval shall apply.


Note: the Board of Supervisors has requested consideration of alternatives for ridgeline

development policies. The following is a more restrictive alternative to current poliaes:

with the following
New^dgeline and hilltop development shall be prohibited,
by subdivision that would be

exception. For any existing parcel or new lot proposed
or building permits shall not be
located on a ridgeline or hilltop, land use approvals

granted unless it can be demonstrated that:
(a) no other suitable or feasible site location exists that would also have less visual

(b) the^prohibition on new ridgeline development would preclude reasonable use and
development of a property.

Rebuilding an existing and lawfully constructed home or structure that is located on a
or other natural hazard
ridgeline or hilltop and which is destroyed by fire, earthquake,
its size and other
or casualty may be rebuilt with adequate basis on which
characteristics, notwithstanding the general policy prohibiting new development in
ridgelines and hilltops.

Implementation Recommendations

Note: If the more restrictive ridgeline development policy intending to generally

prohibit new ridgeline or hilltop development is adopted, the County will need to also

consider the following implementation recommendation:





Develop Zoning Ordinance or other Ordinance Code amendments that would

implement development policy prohibiting new development on ridgelines or hilltops

Growth & Development
Rural Unincorporated Area Issues & Policies

to regulate placement of new structures not otherwise subject to a form of discretionary
land use approval. Where a discretionary approval is required, ridgeline development

policy may be implemented through the discretionary approval process].
[For related policies, see also the Scenic Resources Section of the Resource Conservation
Chapter, Book Bj.


Report on Strategy 3: Ensure Environmentally-Safe and Aesthetic Hillside Development (also labeled Attachment A).


James T. Beall, Jr.

Content Type


Resource Type





District 4




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