Viewshed Protection Plan Stakeholder Committee Meetings: Final Summary of Meetings 1-6, rev. March 7, 2006

Viewshed Protection Plan Stakeholder Committee Meetings:

Final Summary of Meetings 1-6, rev. March 7,2006

This overview and summary of the stakeholder committee meetings documents the

meeting topics and input from committee members and public. All meetings have been
held from 3-5pm in the main Conference Room of the Planning Department, T Floor,
East Wing,County Government Center, 70 W.Redding St., San Jose.

The initial stakeholder meeting was held January 24* to address the following subjects:
• Overview of Viewshed Protection Plan as a Board-directed work plan item and role
of the stakeholder committee;

• Overview of topics and schedule for meetings 1-4;

• Overview of mapping analysis done to date to identify potential areas of interest for
viewshed protection;

• Review and discussion of primary recommendations for potential Design Review

zoning tailored for mitigating visual impacts of hillside development and "TieredReview" concepts; and,

• Discussion of potential changes for Design Review exemptions.

Information regarding the purpose of the Board-directed study has been published on
the Planning Office website. The stakeholder committee's purpose as defined by the
Board is to provide preliminary input and feedback from those with a variety of points
of view,induding property owners, to better inform and shape the possible range of
recommendations or options presented to the Board in final reports. Additional
information regarding viewshed mapping is also contained in reports posted to the

Tiered Review Concept

The primary recommendation of the reports accepted to date by the Board and in
response to referrals and memos from tihe Board is to assign a form of Design Review
zoning district to designated viewshed parcels and consider a form of "tiered review"
process to segregate small to moderately-sized development projects from larger or
conspicuous ones likely to have the most visual impact. For projects falling
within the reqmrements of Tier 1 level review, no public hearing would be required,
and plans would be approved through Zoning Administration staff, documentation of
plan requirements, and development authorized through issuance of a building permit.
Staff presented the rationale for the "tiered review" process, which includes(a)reduced

regulatory burden on property owner;(b)reduced review and approval time, with no
threat of appeal delays; and (c) more effective use of staff resources concentrating on

larger projects with potential for more significant visual impacts. It is also the case that
even if small to moderate, well designed new structures were subject to the full Design
Review and hearing process, the special conditions or requirements that would

typically result through conditional approval would consist of the same or similar
Stakeholders Meetings Summary


requirements being considered for Tier 1 level approvals, such as LRV limits, moderate
landscaping, and other conditions, as appropriate.
Staff outlined some of the design criteria or standards which might be used to define
Tier 1 projects, including house size limited to 4,500 square feet of habitable area, or
5,000 square feet including garage;2 stories, with basement below grade excluded from
floor area and number of stories; light reflectivity value of 40-45, maximum

uninterrupted wall plane heights of 20-25 feet, and possible length of fagade limits for
the elevations facing the valley floor.

A number of useful comments were provided, which are listed below:
• Concern that Tier 1 projects that might be exempted from the hearing process would
not benefit from the public dialogue,information-sharing, and neighbor property

inputs derived from the public review and hearing process, even for small projects.
• Possible trade-offs between expediting small project approvals and encouraging

project designs that are intended to a^eve the most minimrun standards necessary

to achieve approval rmder Tier 1 criteria, i.e., tendency to create incentives for
minimalist design quality and lack of architectural distinction.

• Importance of enforcing some level of design guidelines and review that ensure

architectural design quality and distinction versus plain, tmadomed,ineptly

designed boxes. However,it was discussed that Cotmty's objectives are primarily

intended to minimize visual impact and not necessarily to dictate architectural

• Possibility that Tier 1 cap on house size will be interpreted as an absolute maximum
floor area limit for all homes,recalling the opposition to house size regulations

during the process of enacting the "-dl" zoning district in the West V^ley Hillsides.

• Probability that"-dl" district residents have gradually come to accept existing

regulations that impose a Design Review hearing requirement,reduced 30 foot
building height, and LRV limits of 60 or less. Neither of these specific requirements
appear to pose a major concern for property owners in "-dl" areas, but tinkering
with regulations could. Owners' preference would likely be that the "-dl"
provisions are in place, working satisfactorily without undue burden to property
owners, and would not need to be improved or changed. Tiered approach could be

perceived to have as much to do with managing workload and achieving desired

aims. Staff reiterated primary rationale for tiered review is the benefit to property

owners and reduced regulatory bxirden.

• One of the biggest headaches for applicants and design professionals is incurring

major redesign costs following initial applications, /dthough redesign can be
inevitable part of development approval process for various reasons,it would be

best to avoid it as much as possible through clear expression of requirements and

expectations, standards and criteria, and consultation processes before the first
designs and site plaiming begins. Pre-application meeting requirements as a

concept met with general favor for sites with constraints or high potential visibility.
• There was limited discussion regarding the possibility of Tier 3level review for the
largest or most visible developments, with concerns expressed about it having the
possible effect of imposing a size limit.

Stakeholders Meetings Summary


staff indicated it would be doing follow-up with various jurisdictions employing Tiered

review processes to find out how effective it has been, how well it is working, possible

problems to avoid, and how they might improve their regulations in hindsight.

Discussion of Design Review exemption proposals was deferred to the next meeting.





Ms mm







Design Review Exemptions

Staff gave a brief overview of the types of changes being considered regarding statutory
and discretionary exemption categories. These include:

• add eligibility for statutory exemptions for building additions, detached accessory
buildings, and decks over 30 inches above final grade for up to 500 sq. ft. each; also
rural fences that are approximately 20% solid structure composition;

• add discretionary exemptions for additions and detached accessory buildings up to
1,000 sq. ft. as well as decks over 30 inches above grade for up to 1,000 square feet.

Staff explained that through years of experience, there are many small projects for
which potential visual impact is negligible, such as additions in the rear of the building

or home not visible from off the property, detached garages of just over 500 square feet,
and decks just over 30 inches above grade that weather to dark gray and are not

significantly visible from a short distance. More latitude should be afforded for staff to
use professional judgment and site visits to grant exemptions where full hearing
process would likely not result in any significant concern or need for conditional
Comments and discussion are summarized as follows:

• care should be taken to not encourage fragmenting a major project into smaller

projects eligible for expanded allowances for exemptions; Key issue is to avoid

• cumulative effects of exemption approvals in ^eas of dense development could
have a more significant visual impact than imagined;
• cumulative effects of multiple exemption approvals for a single building could be

problematic, so County should consider limits to the number or types or projects
eligible for exemptions in a given time period or the life of the building;
• there was generd concurrence with the concept of exempting theses types of
minimal projects, with the aforementioned concerns in mind, provided no
significant visual impact would be incurred.

Ridgeline Policy Discussion, Grading, Single Building Sites on 30+% Slopes

Staff presented information regarding current General Plan policies regarding the

subject of ridgeline development, how it has been implemented over time, and options

for ridgeline/hilltop development policy based on current policy and either more or
less restrictive approaches. For example, to implement current policy that makes some
Stakeholders Meetings Summary


allowance for ridgeline locations where that is the most or only feasible development
location, the General Plan requires that visual impacts be mitigated through factors
such as location, construction, or landscaping so as not to create a major negative visual

impact from the valley floor. These mitigations might specifically include a reduced
building height and stories limits,lower LRV in the 30-40 range,some landscaping for
partial screening and to blend the building within setting, as feasible.
Some ridge or hilltop placements may limit landscaping as an effective mitigation due

to limited depth to bedrock, high winds, or other factors, placing greater emphasis on
other mitigations. An example of a more restrictive policy and implementation is in the
Milpitas hillsides where the County's "-d2" zone does not allow a building to protrude
above a perceived ridgeline as viewed from designated vantage points on the valley

floor. Also, staff indicated that eastern hillsides exhibit more really identified and
discemable ridgelines aligning generally parallel to the edge of the valley floor. In
other areas and western hills, there is less regularity and continuity to ridgelines, and

their orientation is not exactly parallel to valley floor edges. More specific mapping will
be provided through the next meetings.
Staff also discussed the findings of the Grading Ordinance, that generally require

grading be allowed only if it is that which is minimally necessary and appropriate to
establish a permitted use. That policy direction is intended to guide development away
from higher elevations on a property when lower,less visible, more accessible locations
are feasible and require demonstrably less terrain alteration and have fewer possible
environmental impacts. Current Building Site Approval regulations for single sites also

require that building on slopes of 30% slope or more be discouraged or prohibited
xmless an exception is granted through the authority of the Architecture & Site
apply only in three named
Approval Committee. However,these provisions currently
evaluate whether
base zoning districts, RIE,RHS,and HS. Staff indicated
these provisions should apply more generally or if RIE is still applicable.
Comments included the following:

• Within areas most highly visible from the valley floor,ridgeline protection is a key
area of concern;

• Property owners expressed significant concern about affects on property values and
desirability of hillside parcels if County were to significantly restrict options for
ridgeline and hilltop development,and further indicated that in certain locations, a
ridgeline location may have less impact and affect on the landscape due to reduced

• Down slopes from a ridge may in some instances be severe, affecting the amount of
engineering and terrain alteration necessary to support a house;
• Geologic stability may affect placement options as much as any other factor, with
hilltops and ridgelines at times being a more stable location than surroxmding slopes
affected by landslide hazard, soil creep, or other factors;

• General distance from the valley floor needs more attention than ^ven in the past,

distances over 2 miles greatly diminish the apparent mass and impact of a

structure on or near a ridgeline;

At certain very remote distances, even large structures may have limited visual
impact from valley floor,such as Mt. Umunhum or Lick Observatory on Mt.
Stakeholders Meetings Summary


• If Cotinty establishes more definitive policy on ridgeline and hilltop development,
more explicit and easily accessible standards or criteria are needed to ensure public
and property owner awareness, and to communicate prior to development
applications what is expected;
• Improved and clearer policy statements, grading findings, and site approval
findings would provide better guidance to staff and public.
take into account that

• Grading Ordinance findings to minimize grading should
excavation to site a home within the hiUside rather than through through use of fill
places bulk out of sight, results often in a more stable homesite and foundation, even
if grading amounts may increase. County should exempt such grading from
considertion if it better achieves reduced visual and environment impact.

Staff indicated more detailed mapping will be provided at the next meeting, and
indicated that should the Board desire more restrictive policies, the exact properties and

be precisely mapped and identified.
ridgelines affected by those policies would need to
such maps,but they are typically
Other jurisdictions with more restrictive policies
the viewshed or hillsides of a
concerned with a much smaller affected area, such as
particular dty. Mapping such ridges and spurs on the west valley hillsides will be a
more demanding task than on the east side.
Retaining Walls

Much of the visual impacts from past developments that have created concerns about
viewshed development involve retaining walls for cut slopes, access and turnarounds,
and for extended foimdations for the home or building itself. Retaining walls above

grade may often be a necessary part of developmentin any hillside location. However,
for such structures as
more jurisdictions are requiring similar visual impact mitigation
with natural
they would for buildings,such as LRV,material selection

features and terrain, landscaping with vines or other plants, and limits on continuous
wall plane heights.

• Grading Ordinance currently requires some planting for engineered slopes for both
erosion control and slope stability, could be extended to condition appearance of
walls in some locations to blend with landscape;
• Stepped retaining walls or slight offsets may be desirable to limit extent of wall

• Height of wall can be a factor of desired slope ratio for engineered slopes, and there

be a trade-off between the slope steepness allowed and need for larger walls.

• Material selection for wall coverings could help mitigate impacts.

Overall, there was consensus that existing Design Review and Grading Ordinance

requirements can be used to mitigate to some extent, but that some more explicit
requirements in the form of guidelines or standards would also help set expectations for
site designers and applicants.

Stakeholders Meetings Summary


I> C

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Meeting #3^ebTuaryi7,2006 "'> *


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Ridgeline Policy Discussion - continued

Meeting #3 provided an opportunity to further discussions from Meeting 2 on the
subject of ridgeline identification and policy options. Staff presented maps of the east
side and west side hills with preliminary identification of affected parcels within the

primary viewshed areas and secondary viewshed areas. Maps also contained
preliminary identification of major ridgelines for consideration on east hillsides, and
partially for west hills.
Staff offered the following working definitions for primary viewshed areas, secondary
viewshed areas, and ridgelines:

• Primary Viewshed: hillside lands within the viewshed having the highest visibility
ratings and most immediately visible from the valley floor, including lands up to
and including the first discemable ridge. Generally encompasses lands within a 1-2
mile band or area from valley floor edge.
• Secondary Viewshed: lands visible from valley floor but lying beyond a discemable
first ridge, having generally lower relative visibility, and containing ridges more
distant tiiat first ridge. Generally encompasses lands up to 3-4 miles distant from
valley floor edge. Lands beyond 4 miles distant are generally too remote for the
development to have a significant visual impact as seen from valley floor.
• Ridgeline: a long, narrow elevation of land or range of hills or moimtains. The most
prominent ridgelines as viewed from valley floor are those that generally define the
rorizon seen from most of the urbanized areas of the valley floor or mral valley
lands. Perceived ridgeline location may vary depending on proximity of vantage

Staff indicated that historically Coimty policy and Design Review zoning has been
focused on primary viewshed areas most immediately visible from valley floor. The
distinction is an important one in terms of the total number of affected parcels, and to
help with evaluations for the extent to which any new policies or regulations may

Comments and suggestions included the following:
• Concept of evaluating remoteness or distance from valley floor is an important one,
because perspective and distance do much to attenuate visual impact. Even a
moderate size home on a ridge 4-5 miles distant may only be visible, if at all, from a
vantage point on the valley floor within the interior of the valley, not visible from
the immediate edge of the valley floor. From closest locations to hillsides, more
remote locations can be blocked from view by immediate hills and tree canopies.

Stakeholders Meetings Summary


• Furthest ridges, such as Summit Road area in Santa Cruz range,is at places 4-8 miles
distant from valley floor.
• Possibility was raised to expand viewshed analysis
roadway corridors in addition to valley floor. Could
of the present study, which has as its basis current
floor is the primary area of focus, where scenic resource protection affords the most
general public benefit. However,scenic and major road or other vantage points
have and could be the subject of additional future studies, depending on interest of
the Board.

• Study of viewshed areas from some key road corridors could complement valley
vantage points is
floor analysis, and weighting of visibility ratings depending on
viewshed is more
possible through the GIS. However,for some road corridors,
limited than might be expected, such as 1-280, or portions of Rt. 152 East and West.
With thousands of vantage points used in the current analysis, staff believes that the
vast majority of hillsides that make up the most visible backdrop or setting for most
of the Coimty's residents and workers have been adequately identified.
• Staff was questioned as to whether computer simulation could be used to show the
difference in visibility between a house at one mile versus two or three miles
distance to illustrate differences in impact. Staff indicated such examples would be
used to help decision-makers visualize differences based on distances.

General Hillside Development Issues:

Staff and the Committee also returned to the subject of general hillside development

issues, such as site design, alternative location evaluations, and retaining wall and
grading design

• Pre-application meeting requirements for highly visible sites or for Tier 2 projects
make sense and have value for both applicant and Cormty.

• If pre-app meetings don't use actually surveyed plot plans with accurate slope and
elevation data, resulting determinations may not be based on adequate data. Pre
application site plans should have sufficiently detailed topo to ensure quality and
valid design.

• Procedures should provide applicant with reasonable certainty that staff direction
given at pre-application meetings will not change. Applicants should be able to rely
on information given at pre-apps to achieve a design that will obtain approval.
• Some flexibility should be retained for site-specific problem-solving. The more the
County or a city relies on absolute number or standards for grading, or other factors,
the more tied down both applicant and local agency may be. Staff must consider
whether informal or more formal variance of deviation from standards is the more

appropriate procedure, when some quantified standards seem best.
• Fire Marshall and state standards for fire retardant landscaping and defensible space

must figure into site planning standards and visibility analysis. Defensible space
requirements may increase.

• When a project requires a public hearing, such as Tier 2 project review, discussion
often involves mostly neighborhood issues, not visibility from valley floor, because

only properties within 300 feet are noticed. Staff acknowledged that this is a ^ven

for mandatory noticing requirements of state law for such discretionary permits.
Stakeholders Meetings Summary


More general notice must suffice for general public, given number of properties

• Grading to situate a home within a hillside, using cuts rather than fills, may create
more grading amounts,but can and should be encouraged to reduce visual impacts
and provide more stable location. Grading findings and review should
accommodate it.

Light Reflectivity Value Discussion

Staff held further discussion of Light Reflectivity Value(LRV)as a brightness and color
control for visual impact mitigation. LRV can be one of the most effective and least

intrusive ways of acfdeving mitigation, blending materials and colors of buildings with
surroundings and reducing the severe contrasts that have prompted calls for hillside
regulations over time. East side hills and soutbem parts of Santa Cruz moimtains have
generally less trees and vegetation, and there are seasonal changes. Vegetation and tree

of Santa Cruz mormtains is darker overall and often provide sufficient existing

landscaping such that further conditions are not necessary for plantings or screening.
Discussion and comments included;

• LRV standards should or could be tailored by area, with eastern hills subject to one
LRV,such as 40-45, and western hills left at 60 or less, as with present "-dl"
regulations and Design Guidehnes.

• General preference of Board may be for universal standards,but could consider
options with site-specific requirements for backgroxmd color analysis.

• Some Board offices have commented directly to the effect that their perceptions are

that 60 LRV limits may have been a logical starting point for existing regulations,
but need to be lower to be actually effective in many instances.

• Staff distributed a photo of several homes of varying sizes in the east hills, with LRV
ratings of 55,60, and 35.

Building Height, Wall Planes,Story Limits

Reduced building height limits are often considered synonymous with mitigating
visual impact. Collaborative planning with various cities has in the past resulted in
lower building heights for Design Review districts than the standard 35 foot height
staffs experience, there
limit in the County Zoning Ordinance for most areas.ofThrough
allow for more
are pluses and minuses to restricting height. Height
articulation and variation of roof structures, breaking up overall mass. It allows for
30 and 35feet is difficult
types of architectural styles, and the difference
to discern at greater distances than a mile. Limits on the number of stories or stories
facing the valley floor can be more effective mitigation, along with limits on continuous
wall planes and retaining walls. If options include one or two story hmits in some

cases, a more

appropriate and correlated height limit should also be included, but with

allowance for proper architectural proportioning. Discussion points:

• Some cities have such greatly reduced height allowances that home designs look

Stakeholders Meetings Summary


can create proportionality
• Height limits promote very low roof pitch designs, and
the choice of home style can fit

problems that affect both good design and how well
within a hillside.

- 1 , 1


• Lower pitch roofs tend to favor the same Mediterranean or Spanish styles that

cotta roofs. Applicants are
typically correlate with high LRV, white paint, and terra
other, more earth-tone

then more resistant to color controls than those with
architectural styles.


• Wall planes should be broken up and articulated with architectural features,

landscaping to minimize the appearance of mass. Most good design guidelines
architects would support that.
• Below grade floor area being exempted from house size limits for Tier 1 review and
to reduce overall mass were supported.

Landscaping discussions were deferred to the next meeting.

Landscaping Mitigation, Limits,and Enforcement Issues

Staff discussed common approaches to use of landscaping as a condition of approval,
use of landscaping plans as a required submittal following approval and prior to final
inspections for building permits,some limitations where soils, slope, etc. may limit
effectiveness. Landscaping is different from other building regulations and features in
that it is a living organism, subject to disease, drought,lack of maintenance, and

potential neglect or intentional removal or destruction. Staff provided examples from

model ordinances survey, and lists of preferred or required species used by some
jurisdictions to provide clear direction for tree and shrab selection.
Discussion and comment included the following:

• If landscaping is to be relied on as potential mitigation, it needs to be effective and
enforced. Lack of compliance with landscape conditions is one of the most common
complaints for projects approved by the department and Planning Commission.
• Owner to whom a permit is issued and conditions are first implemented is often not
the problem, subsequent owners are if they are unaware or careless of conditional
requirements, which run with the land and the approval.
• Some jurisdictions rely on landscape ordinances, others guidelines. Where

guidelines are involved,jurisdictions look for substantial compliance rather than

total adherence to all guidelines or criteria.

• Need to differentiate between landscaping required as visual mitigation and that
which is up to the discretion of the property owner.
• Jurisdictions with better lists and guidance for property owners helps eliminate
landscape plans that are likely to fail or not be approved.
• Where enforcement is concerned, target a success ratio or percentage, but
realistically be able to accept less than 100% effectiveness or success.

• An option is to require a bond for landscaping improvements the way other major
improvements require a bond, but enforcing and calling bonds to complete the work
Stakeholders Meetings Summary


is staff intensive frona an administrative workload point of view, and complicates
• Another area of concern for enforcement is the dilution of enforcement over time

with successive owners. Need a way to communicate to successor owners all the

requirements and conditions that came with the original approval.
• Possible use of Post Approval Monitoring requirements and fees to enforce
landscape conditions.

• Significant discussion ensued on the subject of possible use of deed restrictions, with
some favoring them as a straightforward means of ensuring notice is provided to
owners, but most owners on record as objecting to the proliferation of deed

restrictions. Owners feel it places a stigma or cloud on the property, even though
there may be many other recorded restrictions in the form of CC&Rs.
• County could consider simply recording permit approvals and conditions rather
than specific deed restrictions, but possibility is that successive owners will not pay
sufficient attention to key issues such as color or planting conditions in a Design
Review permit. Still may be preferable to singling out a few conditions for
identification in a specific deed restriction.

• County could also consider option of sending a general letter reminding owners of
permit conditions and responsibilities. County could also send letters inquiring
whether property owners would consider volimtarily complying with new
standards such as LRV when considering repainting homes.

• Could consider possibly stiffer fines or penalties for illegal removal of a protected
tree required as a condition of approval.
• In all respects,fire retardant and native species should be favored over naturalized
on non-native species.

Light Reflectivity Value Controls,Story Poles,and Visual Simulation
• Similar discussion about enforcement and noticing issues occurred for LRV as for

• Conforming LRV would not likely be required for minor additions to existing homes
where LRV is higher than would be permitted under new ordinances,if such are
• No building permit is required for painting, but effective enforcement is essential if
LRV becomes one of the more predominant tools for blending development with the
natural landscape.

• Deed restriction is a possible means of informing owners and providing for
enforcement. Alternatives are recording permits and indicating requirements on
building plans or permits.

• For some, deed restrictions will not alleviate the enforcement issues faced by the

Coimty, as they will only convey knowledge of the requirement, not substitute for
enforcement needs.
• Story poles could be required for Tier 2 projects to help indicate location and mass of
a proposed building.
• Photo-simulation has become a more controversial and suspect technology due to

the ease with which results can be manipulated with computers. Not as reliable as
story poles.

• If visibility from valley floor is the primary concern, in many locations story poles
will only be visible from neighboring properties or nearby roads. Locations not
Stakeholders Meetings Summary


visible from valley floor should be exempt from requirements. GIS can help with
field verification to identify such parcels.

• If story poles are only visible to neighboring properties, they could increase
concerns from neighbors. If only minimally visible from valley floor areas, story

poles would help verify the limited visual impact of the development as viewed

from valley floor.

• There can be a discrepancy between using orange netting to outline the mass of a
home represented by story poles and the much lower LRV that would be required of
walls and roofing materials. Use of bright orange two-foot netting is commonplace
for jurisdictions that require story poles to make sure the story pole representation
of a building can be adequately seen, but it may make the building appear more
alarming than it will be once constructed with low LRV and other mitigation.
Lastly, participants noted the existance of a proposed ballot initiative for Santa Clara
Coimty, and asked whether if adopted it would "wipe ouU or negate the efforts of the
Stakeholder Committee and staff regarding viewshed protection. Participants

requested the issue be noted in the meeting summaries as a significant concern of
property owners.

Floor Area Definitions, Issues for Viewshed Protection, Basement Exemption

Staff presented the current definition of'floor area'in the County Zoning Ordinance,its

origins with the City of Los Altos' regulations in the early 1990s, and the fact that it has

remained relatively unchanged since that time. Its current provisions are based on floor
area as defined by the building code and certain minimum dimensions for rooms as
defined in the UBC. It also includes attached structures such as decks and balconies

that are over 30 inches above grade, covered porches, and basement floor area.
Staff indicated that if floor area is to be used as a threshold for tiered review processes,

a somewhat simplified and improved definition of what counts towards floor area will
be necessary to make consistent and appropriate determations of projects that may

qualify for a Tier 1 level of review for viewshed areas. The preliminary figure for house

size that has been considered is 4,500 square feet, based on the median house size for
the last ten years of rural area construction, and the septic system ordinance

requirements that increase for homes over that amount of floor area. The experience of
staff has also been that where decks, porches,loggias, verandas, arbors, and balconies

coimt towards maximum allowed floor area, most times those features are sacrificed to

maximize enclosed floor area for living space, resulting in boxier, simpler designs

lacking such articulation as those features might afford. Such features can help break
up the mass and bulk of a building, consistent with the County's Design Guidelines for
hillside areas. Los Altos has also subsequently modified its regulations to exempt
basement floor area.
Comments included:

Stakeholders Meetings Summary


• Owners reiterated that they do not favor regulations that would limit house size
based on floor area, and requested that such companies as Cisco, which have
interests is workforce and executive housing issues, should be informed and

involved in these discussions.

• Porches, balconies, decks, and other features help mitigate visual impacts of large

buildings and walls. They help stagger and offset wall planes to good effect.
• Tier 1 criteria should be defined for ease of use and imderstanding, to clearly
communicate the standards involved.

• Staff should follow-up with Department of Environmental Health regarding septic

requirements and house size thresholds. Make standard compatible with DEH.

• Basements that do not contribute significantly to above-grade bulk and mass of a
home should not count against a set amount of floor area. Topmost floor area in
attics could also be exempt.

• Porches and similar features can increase the building footprint, with some impacts,

but that would not be a significant issue for larger hillside properties. Such features
also provide better solar protection and energy efficiency, such as appropriate


• Need to define basement space clearly as to what will be exempted. Specify the
extent to which the basement floor area must be submerged below grade. Los
Gatos' definition may be a good model.

• Los Altos Hills regulates basements such that the daylight portion of the elevation
cannot face a street of valley floor. Confirm with Los Altos Hills.

• Eaves may vary in width for consistency with architectural styles. Eaves over 2.5
feet in width count in current floor area calculations.

• Consider different definitions of what coimts towards floor area for hillside

viewshed versus valley floor locations if objectives are significantly different.

• Explore use of incentives as well to promote good design and minimize visual

• Considerable discussion occurred revisiting the concept of notice of conditions and

requirements such as LRV limits to successor property owners and enforcement
over time. Considerable concern was expressed over the concept of any restrictions,
permits, or conditions being recorded as a means of informing future owners,real
estate agents, or others of enforceable conditions of approval,such as landscaping,
color controls, or other mitigations. Property owners registered major concerns over
the prospects of neighbors suing neighbors to enforce deed restrictions or simply
subject others with litigation for personal reasons over such permit conditions of
approval. Staff indicated it would explore these matters with Coimty Counsel.
to owners reminding them
• One suggestion included sending annual correspondence
as owners
of permit conditions such as LRV and landscaping, to

• Real estate transfer disclosures may provide all the notice to subsequent owners

necessary under law. Due diligence requirements for buyers under California real
estate transfer procedures also are substantial.

• Those currently in Design Review districts such as'-dl are concerned about over_ .gulation, and the possibility that County regulations will spur attempts to


regulations. That
to a city to allow subdivision not permitted under County
areas. Overall
prospect may apply only to lands within city urban

reasonableness of regulations that may be proposed will be at the heart of property
owners' concerns and response.
Stakeholders Meetings Summary


Participants requested that for the final meeting, there be further discussion of possible
as for ridgelines. Staff indicated
policy regarding control over siting alternatives, such of
affected areas.
that further work will also be done to refine mapping


• -V

Staff provided a PowerPoint presentation of photos taken of diverse hillside properties.
There was a discussion on the merit of using architectural features to break up facades.

Mass and bulk requirements should include decks and skirting used to support a deck,
as it tends to accentuate the height of the structure.

Staff reviewed the updated maps and mapping analysis done to date. The East and
West hillside maps were displayed for this discussion. Staff explained the process
involved in designating primary and secondary viewshed areas on the maps. Future
mapping was discussed, including mapping of parcels with 30% slope or more, west
side ridgelines and ridge properties, etc. There were questions on what were the
criteria for ridgeline identification. A suggestion was made to add some key street
names on the map for easy identification of parcel locations by property owners. A

suggestion was made that largely developed ridgelines should be viewed differently
than a pristine ridge. Property owners reiterated that building siting or placement
restrictions eliminating ridge locations(most desirable for property owner)would face
immense opposition. There was a question regarding rebuilding homes lost due to fire

natural disaster - would the house be allowed to be built at the original location

(even if it impacts the viewshed)? Another question asked whether all ridgeline
development should be evaluated using a Tier 3level of review.

Staff presented the meeting summary for meeting #5. All meeting summaries to be
posted to the website.

Staff revisited and reviewed the possibility of a Tier 3level of review for the very largest
buildings that may be proposed for sites having little or no mitigation potential (see

hand out), based on location in the viewshed and house size. The pu:]^ose would be to
provide a deterrent to development proposals to seek highly visible sites for the largest
possible homes. Staff expressed some concern that all it will take in the future will be
one monstrously large home with unmitigated visual impacts for people to question the
effectiveness and fairness of policies and regulations under consideration as part of the

Viewshed Protection Plan. There was discussion on the merits of requiring a minimtim
lot size for Tier 3 homes. That discussion ended with the conclusion that a large size

home could be built sensitively with good design, siting and LRVs that may not require

a large lot to minimize the impact of Ae home on within the Viewshed. There was

consensus that leaving room for good design could lead to more attractive

developments and reduced impact even from large homes or buildings. There was a
comment made that building a large home on a slope could have a greater impact than
a similar sized home perched on the ridgeline, as you see only one plane of the house.

Stakeholders Meetings Summary


Overall suggestions led to keeping an open mind on design, achieving cooperation with
property owners(through pre-app and dialogue)than over-regulation.
Staff discussed the concept of the Board and preference for a more universal approach
to viewshed regulations in contrast to multiplying the number of "-d" districts with
different approaches, standards, and requirements. An outcome of this planning effort
could be a imiversal -d combining district for viewshed protection that would replace
the existing "-d, -dl," and "-d2" districts. There may be some different criteria used


for distance and visibility depending on differing conditions on the east and west
hillsides. Some portions of the Santa Cruz range are more heavily vegetated and
forested than others, and in comparison to eastern hillsides.

Staff distributed a schedule of upcoming community outreach meetings to be held end

of March 2006. Property owners will be noticed of ihese meetings. There will be three
meetings spread out over the County. The first will be held at the Santa Clara Coimty
Supervisors' Chambers on March 23'''^, second at the Morgan Hill Community Center on
March 28* and the third one at the Quinlan Community Center, Cupertino on March

30*. The mailing lists for noticing will be divided into 3 areas based on proximity to the
meeting locations. The purpose will be to inform property owners of the status of the
work plan, stakeholder meetings,issues, and timeline. Input from both the stakeholder
and community meetings will be communicated to the Board and help fashion options
for the Board's consideration.


To date, a number of participants have reiterated and/or expanded upon their
comments or concerns expressed in the meeting by means of email. Written

communications are welcome and become part of the overall record of proceedings.

Due to the length of this summary document, however,staff has not attempted to
reiterate all the main points from all of these emails for this distribution. The following
points and comments are summarized from these emails:

• Concerns were expressed that the real intent of Coimty evaluation of viewshed
protection is to curb all hillside development. [Note: Staff reports and
recommendations to date contain no proposals that would preclude existing
allowed uses].

• Many affected property owners expressed that they share environmental and
conservation goals for their properties, balanced with the right to reasonably
develop for residential use. Some of these properties are large and have been in
same ownership for many years if not generations. Many owners have no intention
to subdivide the larger parcels, which would have greater visual impacts. County
should guard against creating a polarizing debate and an "us versus them"
mentality in these discussions.
• Affected owners generally want to limit the area of concern to hills visible from the
valley floor and strongly resist suggestions that visible hillside areas be further
defined from public roads, scenic Itighway corridors, and public park lands.
• House size limits and ridgeline development restrictions will provoke the strongest
opposition from affected property owners.
Stakeholders Meetings Summary


• Deed restrictions should not be used to record mitigation and condition

• Story poles are not necessary and if used,should not employ bright "signal orange"
netting that is highly visible, in contrast to darker, more muted colors that would be
required of a project.

• Building heights less than the standard 35 feet can be counterproductive, as may

grading reqmrements if a building would be better situated if cut into the hillside,

even if that results in more excavation of material.

• Two stories and a basement should be acceptable height limits on stories.
• Exterior lighting controls are needed, but for both Cotmty and City hillside

• The County should listen fairly to all constituencies involved, notjust environmental

Stakeholders Meetings Summary


Minutes from meetings 1-6 of the Viewshed Protection Plan Stakeholder Committee.


James T. Beall, Jr.

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District 4




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