Viewshed Protection Study - Project Recommendations

County of Santa Clara
Department of Planning and Development
Planning Office

County Government Center, East wing, 7tli t-loor
70 West Hedding Street
San Jose, California 951 10-1705

(408) 299-5770 FAX (408) 288-91 98


Planning Commission
August 3, 2006

Item #7
File: 8630-00-00-06GP-06Z

Viewshed Protection Study - Project Recommendations

1) General Plan amendment to Growth & Development Chapter, Rural Areas,

regarding policies for Design Review, Grading,Steep Slopes, Ridgeline
development issues;

f2)T^Zoning Ordinance text amendments to Ch. 5.50, Design Review, Ch. 3.20,

Design Review Combining Districts, and Ch. 1.30 Definitions;
3) Zone change to apply -dl. Design Review zoning to^lands in primary
viewshed areas.


Staff Recommendation: Favorable recommendation to Board of Supervisors.

County of Santa Clara




See master list for Zoning Map amendment

Gen. Plan Designation:
Zoning District:


Parcel Area:

Primary Viewshed Areas: Approximately 3,300 parcels (57,000
Secondary Viewshed Areas: Approximately 800 parcels

Supervisorial Districts:

#1, 2, 3, and 5

Staff report prepared:

July 25, 200h..,T

Prepared by:
Approved by:

Bill shoe, PrinAt Planner;Jim Reilly, Kavitha Kumar, Planners

Michael M.I^ez,Interim Planning Manager

Board of SupcrvLsor.s: IJooakI F Gage. Blanca Alvarado. Peu- Mel lugir. Jaine.s T. Beall, .ir. Liz Knrs.s

(.:oiinl\- ILxe.eniivr:; Peier Kotras. .ir.



The Planning Commission held a public hearing at its July 6, 2006 meeting regarding the

Viewshed Protection proposals. It continued the hearing to its August 3, 2006 meeting to

consider several suggested modifications to the proposed Zoning Ordinance text amendments
and to consider the extent of land area to which the proposed "-dl" Zoning District should be

applied. Specifically, the Commission requested mapping and noticing be provided to allow

consideration of secondary viewshed areas, in addition to the staff proposal to initially apply
dl" zoning to lands in the primary viewshed areas.


A. Actions Concerning Environmental Determinations and Findings

Documentation will be prepared for public hearings before the Board of Supervisors. No
California Environmental Quality Act(CEQA)determination is necessary to forward a

recommendation to the Board of Supervisors.


Actions Concerning the Project Proposal
1. Recommend that the Board of Supervisors adopt the proposed General Plan
amendment(CPA)(Attachment A).


Recommend that the Board of Supervisors adopt the proposed Zoning Ordinance
text amendments(Attachment B), with the following specific modifications and


Excavation for basement floor area to be exempt from grading quantity limits
for Tier 1 review category in "-dl";
Additional time allowance for submitting an application for building permit to

rebuild a building destroyed by casualty, beyond the initial two year

application filing requirement, with Planning Director or designee as granting


Clarification that Tier 1, 2, and 3 provisions for "-dl" districts supersede

ordinary statutory and discretionary exemption categories where there may be
a conflict;


Exemptions for agricultural accessory buildings to be addressed through
proposed statutory and discretionary exemptions for buildings up to 2,500

square feet, similar to residential accessory buildings.


Other minor non-substantive text clarifications as noted in Attachment B.

Recommend that the Board of Supervisors adopt zoning map amendments to apply

the "-dl" Design Review combining zoning district to candidate parcels identified

within the "Primary Viewshed" areas, only (Attachment C). The staff
recommendation for this component is unchanged from the July 6, 2006 staff report
and does not include candidate parcels within the areas shown as "Secondary


Recommend that as of the effective date of any new regulations, any project for

which single building site approval and/or grading approval has been granted be

allowed to develop in the approved location, but the building would be subject to
zoning regulations that become effective prior to building permit issuance.



Planning Commission Meeting
August 3, 2006

Item # 7


Recommend that the County evaluate the viewshed-related Zoning Ordinance text

amendments.Zoning Map amendments,and Design Guidelines within 18-24
months following adoption and implementation, to consider any changes that may
be appropriate to enhance effectiveness, provide necessary flexibility, or improve


A. Reasons for Recommended Actions Concerning Environmental Determination

1. The project builds upon and reinforces existing policies and regulations intended to
conserve resources, improve environmental protection, reduce impacts from
consistent with
development,and enhance the visual quality of the environment,
General Plan.
existing goals, policies, and implementation recommendations
2. Appropriate CEQA documentation will be finalized prior to Board hearings.

Reasons for Recommended Actions Concerning Proposals

reasons for
Bl: Proposed General Plan Text Amendment(no changes to
See Attachment D).
recommendation contained in July 6,2006 staff report


Proposed Zoning Ordinance Text Amendments- Modifications and Clarifications
in subsequent review
requested at July 6,2006 meeting and/or identified by staff

(see original reasons for recommendation. Attachment


§3.20.040(A)(1)(c), Grading for Tier 1 eligibility, p.3 of 11 of Attachment B,has been
revised to exempt excavation quantities for foundation, basements, and pools.
§3.20.040(G), Exemption for Sites Not Visible, p.5 of 11, has been revised to
substitute language "...shall be eligible for.. ”for "...may be subject to...'
discretionary exemption.



§3.20.040 (I), Rebuilding,subsection 3, p.5 of 11, has been revised to provide the
Planning Director(or designee) with authority to extend the two year time limit in
which to apply for a building permit, when warranted by special circumstances.
§3.20.040 (I), Rebuilding,subsection 5, p.5 of 11, has been revised to allow

rebuilding subject to design review discretionary exemption,rather than full design

review through a public hearing, with focus on meeting the applicable Tier 1 level
standards only. This reduces the regulatory burden placed on property owners
while maintaining the same basic level of visual mitigation prescribed by current
rebuilding provisions.


§5.50.030, Approval Authority, p.8 of 11, has been revised to retain the word ^shall,'
which was inadvertently omitted.


§5.50.050, Statutory Exemptions, p.8 of 11, has been revised to clarify that such
projects are exempt except where any conflicting "-dl" process requirements apply*

In other words. Tier 1,2, and 3 provisions and process requirements take precedence
within the '^-dl" district over the exemption provisions that would ordinarily apply

in any

-d" zones or situations where Design Review is a requirement.

§5.50.060, Discretionary Exemptions, p.9 of 11, also has been revised to clarify that^
such projects are exempt except where conflicting "-dl" process requirements apply.

Planning Commission Meeting
August 3, 2006

Item # 7


§5.50.060, Discretionary Exemptions,subsection E, p. 10 of 11, has been revised to
clarify that the types of discretionary exemptions referred to in "-dl" zones include
the "Tier 1" review and "Exemption for Sites Not Visible."'


With regard to the Planning Commission's discussion of possible exemptions for all
agricultural accessory buildings on lands imder Williamson Act contract, staff has

further evaluated that possible modification and offers the following discussion:
a. Within the hillside areas potentially subject to Design Review, proposed

categories of Statutory Exemptions and Discretionary Exemptions from Design
Review for all accessory buildings, either residential or agricultural, have been
liberally increased and should suffice for most cases(up to 2,500 sq. ft.),

b. Agricultural accessory buildings such as bams,animal shelters, or other storage
buildings larger than 2,500 square feet(and not eligible for possible exemption)
may also be exempted if located within a portion of the parcel not visible from
the valley floor. However,if a more substantial agricultural building must is

will be visible,it would
proposed on a property in ^e viewshed areas where itGeneral
Plan and

be more consistent with the goals and purposes of the

Zoning Ordinance for such larger buildings to be treated the same as would a
residential accessory building.In other words,if the overall purpose and aims
of the Board of Supervisors for the Viewshed Protection Study are first and
foremost to address and mitigate visual impacts of development in the hillside
areas subject to "-dl" zoning,it would be more appropriate to regulate similar
stmctures similarly than to exempt all agricultural buildings of any size. Large
agricultural will have similar potential for visual impacts in the primary

viewshed areas as will similarly sized homes or residential accessory buildings,
depending on mass, design, and color,
Staff does not believe that Zoning regulations and applicability thereof should

be distinguished on ^e basis of "Williamson Act"(Land Conservation
If the Commission
contracts or similar non-permanent contractual restrictions.
desires to recommend furdier exemptions for agricultural accessory buildings

in "-dl" districts, it would be more appropriate to make those provisions

available to any parcel witii a valid agricultxiral use that requires an agricultural
accessory building(s).


Protection Zoning
Proposed Zoning Map Amendments to apply "-dl" Viewshed
for Recommendation
District to Primary Viewshed areas(no changes to Reasons

contained in July 6,2006 staff report. Attachment D).


In response to the request of the City of Morgan Hill to include such areas as Finley
provide mapping of parcels
Ridge parcels, the Planning Commission requested stafffor
consideration at its
and notice to owners within secondary viewshed areas
August 3,2006 meeting. A map of candidate parcels in the secondary viewshed
,up to approximately 4 miles distant from the edge of the valley floor is shown

in Attachment E.


Staff has further considered the option of including secondary viewshed parcels

within the initial application of revised "-dl" Zoning Districts. However,staff has
concluded ihat the staff recommendation should remain that "-dl" zoning be
applied initially to primary viewshed parcels; riot including secondary viewshed
areas. That recommendation is based on the following:

Planning Commission Meeting
August 3, 2006

Item # 7


dl zoning
Staff recommends that existing areas of west valley hillsideswere
made on the

remain in the "-dl" zoning district. These zoning decisions
basis of significant multi-jurisdictional planmng studies and extensive meetings
and collaboration with elected representatives of the West Valley cities of

Cupertino, Saratoga, Monte Sereno, and Los Gatos. To propose
changes to these zoning district boundaries would involve
and review by the affected cities with the County, and would significantly
delay the conclusion of the Viewshed Protection Planning Study,

b. For other viewshed areas proposed to be zoned "-dl," the preponderance of
areas visible from the valley floor are contained within the primary viewshed.

In some study zones, nearly all the visible areas are contained in the primary

viewshed area, with only a smattering of visible areas beyond the first ridge or
mile from the valley floor,


For many of the parcels in the secondary viewshed, only a small percentage of
the land area of each parcel is visible, often the highest and steepest parts.
These are visible from distances typically greater than the 3-4 miles that

new structures would
separate them from the edge of the valley floor. Many
qualify for the exemption for sites not visible, and even where visible, the
distance and perspective factors tend to mitigate most visual impacts. Finley
Ridge, for example, is over two miles from the edge of the valley floor, and

four miles or more from Highway 101 and central Morgan Hill. From such
distances, the existing homes along that ridge area are relatively insignificant
Hill and
and unobtrusive. Staff respects the opinions of the City of Morgan
the distance
concerns about future development impacts, but believes that
factor should be more adequately taken into account.

the valley floor
d. Secondary viewshed areas extending up to 3-4 miles fromareas
such as
would also include some of the heavily forested, remote
Redwood Estates and Chemeketa Park subdivisions near Hwy. 17, in the

Lexington Reservoir Basin. These areas are comprised of very small lots, most
much less than an acre, with small homes that cannot be significantly increased
in size and that are practically invisible from Hwy.17, or the valley floor.

There is little to no benefit to be derived from including the many hundreds of
those substandard parcels in the proposed "-dl" district,
The overall number of new homes in all rural areas for the last ten years has

homes. If the
averaged 64 per year, many of which were replacementaccount
for 10% of that
secondary viewshed area were assumed to generously

total, which is more than the actual percentage of land area, the average
number of new homes would be 6-7 per year, some of which would qualify for

Tier 1 review or be exempt on the basis of not being visible. The several other
homes per year that would not be eligible for some exemption would not
appear to justify the additional expense of applying and administering Design
Review regulations for the areas affected. Most of the accessory buildings or
qualify for exemptions
ondary dwellings proposed in these areas would also
at all.




would not be very visible from the valley floor, if

In conclusion, application of "-dl" district regulations to secondary viewshed
candidate parcels would not be nearly as cost-effective as making the initial
application to primary viewshed parcels, and many
of the secondary areas


sufficiently remote that new building is relatively

Planning Commission Meeting
August 3, 2006

Item # 7


July 6,2006 Planning Commission Hearing

The Planning Commission held a public hearing on July 6, 2006 to consider staff
recommendations and public testimony. There was general consensus regarding a small

number of Zoning Ordinance text revisions the Commission requested, as described in this
report. The Commission also discussed the issue of the extent of proposed "-dl" Design
Review Zorung, and requested mapping and noticing of property owners to allow for
consideration of the inclusion of secondary viewshed areas. The Commission also discussed
possible inclusion of lands visible from rural transportation corridors such as State routes 35,
152, 9 and 35, or other major rural routes, but elected to focus instead on the question of
whether to include lands beyond the primary viewshed areas for inclusion in the areas
proposed for "-dl" zoning.

The Commission also discussed but did not arrive at a recommendation reprding its choice of

the two alternative ridgeline development policies that were contained in the draft General

Plan text amendment for the Growth & Development Chapter, Attachment A.

Proposed Option A,based on current policy, is to avoid ridgeline locations for new lots
created by subdivision, if at all possible, and discourage ridgeline locations on existing lots,
taking into account other applicable development factors, such as slope, habitat, geology,
and similar matters.

Alternative Option B would generally prohibit new ridgeline or hilltop development,
unless that policy would preclude all reasonable use and development.
Whichever alternative is selected in the Planning Commission's recommendation, it should be

pointed out that any ridgeline development policy will apply throughout the rural
unincorporated areas of the County, not just within those areas subject to Design Review.
Such policies would apply through the applicable development application processes, such as
for building site approval, subdivision, or grading approvals, or in the case where only
ministerial permits are required such as a building permit, through the enactment of additional
Ordinance Code or Zoning Ordinance regulations implementing the ridgeline development
policy provisions.

Refer to the July 6, 2006 staff report for additional background information.
Notice Provided for Planning Commission Hearing

For public notice of the Planning Commission meeting of August 3, 2006, staff provided the
following forms of notice. These actions meet or exceed required noticing requirements.
• individual property owner notification mailed to the owners of each property in the

"Secondary Viewshed" Areas to be considered for inclusion within "-dl" zoning districts
for viewshed preservation;

advertisement of hearing notice placed in the San Jose Mercury News of at least one-

eighth of a page;

Planning Commission agenda publication in San Jose Post Record (customary means of
agenda publication) and other required postings;
publication of reports and agenda to the Planning Office website; and.

Planning Commission Meeting
August 3, 2006

Item # 7

email notification to those who have provided email for this purpose.

Individual property owners who were sent notice of the July 6, 2006 public hearing were not
individually re-noticed for the continued public hearing of August 3, 2006 Planning
Commission meeting.

Next Steps

The Planning Commission must hold at least one public hearing regarding the proposed
General Plan amendments and Zoning text and map amendments. The purpose is to consider
staff recommendations, public comment, and formulate a recommendation to the Board of
Supervisors. The August 3, 2006 Planning Commission meeting is a continuance of the July 6,
2006 hearing. No additional noticing of the continued hearing is required other than that
necessary to consider inclusion of the secondary viewshed candidate parcels. Board of
Supervisors hearings will be scheduled as soon after the Planning Commission completes its
deliberations. An August 29, 2006 Board of Supervisors hearing has been discussed
tentative hearing date, assuming the Planning Commission completes its consideration of the
as a

project at the August 3 meeting.

Proposed General Plan Amendment to the Growth & Development Chapter, Rural
Unincorporated Area Issues and Policies,"Strategy #3: Ensure Environmentally-Safe and
Aesthetic Hillside Development."


Proposed Zoning Ordinance text amendments to Chapters 3.20, 5.50, and 1.30 of the
Zoning Ordinance.


Proposed map of "Primary Viewshed" lands for which the "-dl" Design Review Zoning
District is proposed.



July 6, 2006 Planning Commission Staff Report, pp. 1-8 of relevance to August 3, 2006
Report and Discussion (does not include May 23, 2006 status report to Board of
Supervisors or Stakeholder Committee Meeting Summary)
Map of Candidate Parcels in "Primary Viewshed," with "Secondary Viewshed" Parcels
File: 8630-00-00-03CP-06GP-06Z


Planning Commission Meeting
August 3, 2006
Item # 7

Staff report on viewshed protection study recommendations.


James T. Beall, Jr.

Content Type


Resource Type





District 4


Bill Shoe, Planner




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