Chapter 13.11


13.11.010    Purpose.

13.11.020    Scope.

13.11.025    Applicability.

13.11.030    Definitions.

13.11.040    Projects requiring design review.

13.11.050    Procedure for design review.

13.11.051    Submittal requirements.

13.11.052    Required findings and action.

13.11.053    Exceptions.

13.11.054    Appeals.

13.11.060    Compliance with approved site plan, architecture, and landscape architecture requirements, maintenance and enforcement.

13.11.070    Design standards and guidelines.

13.11.071    General.

13.11.072    Site design.

13.11.073    Building design.

13.11.074    Access, circulation and parking.

13.11.075    Landscaping.

13.11.076    Preparation of Design Review Standards and Guidelines Manual.

13.11.010 Purpose.

The purpose of this chapter is to:

(A)    Implement the General Plan by providing specific regulations:

(1)    To preserve and enhance the quality of life in Santa Cruz County through the guidance of development activity;

(2)    To protect open space for its aesthetic, recreational and environmental values, to foster high-quality residential areas as pleasant and socially constructive areas in which to live; and

(3)    To enhance the quality of residential, commercial, and industrial development to achieve an aesthetic and functional community (General Plan Goal: Community Design, Chapter 8).

(B)    Recognize the interdependence of land values and aesthetics, and to provide a method by which the County may implement this interdependence to the benefit of the citizens and residents of the County.

(C)    Preserve and enhance the beauty and environmental amenities of the County by:

(1)    Preserving and enhancing the visually pleasing qualities of the land and built environment, and the enjoyment thereof;

(2)    Maintaining and improving the qualities of, and relationships between, individual buildings, structures and physical development in such a manner as to best contribute to the amenities and attractiveness of the County;

(3)    Protecting and ensuring the adequacy and usefulness of public and private developments as they relate to each other and the surrounding neighborhood.

(D)    Promote and protect the safety, convenience, comfort, prosperity and general welfare of the citizens of the County by:

(1)    Stimulating creative design for individual buildings and structures, and other physical improvements;

(2)    Encouraging innovative use of materials, construction methods and techniques for buildings, site improvements and other structures;

(3)    Preserving and creating compatibility of land use and building design within neighborhoods and commercial areas;

(4)    Integrating the functions, appearance and locations of buildings and site improvements to best achieve a balance between private prerogatives and preferences and the public interest and welfare;

(5)    Integrate design guidelines including number, location, and proximity of recycling storage areas and containers to achieve local and State goals.

(E)    Establish a site plan, architectural and landscape design review function and to confer this function upon the Planning Commission, Zoning Administrator, and Planning Department staff. By enactment of this chapter these reviewing bodies shall be responsible for advising and assisting both applicants and the County in applying design standards and guidelines, and in reviewing proposals for future developments. [Ord. 4312 § 3, 1994; Ord. 4286 § 3, 1993; Ord. 4133 § 1, 1991].

13.11.020 Scope.

This chapter establishes (A) the purview of and the procedures for design review and approval of private and public development projects, and (B) the design standards and guidelines which apply to the review and approval of these projects. [Ord. 4312 § 3, 1994; Ord. 4286 § 3, 1993; Ord. 4133 § 1, 1991].

13.11.025 Applicability.

This chapter shall apply to both private and public activities, including those of the County and such other governmental agencies as are not exempted by State or Federal law. [Ord. 4312 § 3, 1994; Ord. 4286 § 3, 1993; Ord. 4133 § 1, 1991].

13.11.030 Definitions.

As used in this chapter certain terms are defined as follows:

“Balance” is the arrangement of the harmonious and contrasting elements of a design. Such a composition could have a static or dynamic balance, achieved through symmetry or asymmetry. Symmetry is the repetition of features on each side of an axis or axes. Asymmetry is the variation of these elements.

“Building bulk” is the perceived physical size of a structure in relation to the site. An example of a bulky building is a large, flat-roofed, flat-walled warehouse with a height in excess of two stories. The perception of bulk can be minimized by the articulation of the building walls and roof. Landscaping can also be used to minimize the perceived bulk of a building (see definitions for massing and scale).

“Coastal special communities” means those areas designated in the Local Coastal Program and General Plan Land Use Maps as special communities due to their unique characteristics and visitor destination qualities, specifically: Davenport, the Yacht Harbor, East Cliff Village tourist area, Pleasure Point/41st Avenue, the Rio Del Mar Flats/Esplanade, Seacliff Beach Area, and that area within the rural services line on the Local Coastal Program map for the land use plan of La Selva.

“Compatibility” is a relative term which requires the analysis of site, building, and landscape design in relationship to adjacent development. Compatibility is established when there are consistent design and functional relationships so that new development relates to adjacent development. Achieving compatibility does not require the imitation or repetition of the site, building and landscape design of adjacent development.

“Complementary” site design, building design, and landscape design is achieved when the proposed design responds to, or contributes to, the existing land use patterns, character, and zoning context. Complementary development does not necessarily mean the imitation or replication of adjacent development.

“Contrast” is created by the inclusion of differing design elements which add variation or interest to the design.

“County” means the County of Santa Cruz.

“Design guideline” means a written prescription establishing the parameters of site planning, architectural and landscape design for a given project or specific planning area.

“Development review group” means a group of County staff from several County departments which reviews proposed development projects to determine the extent of further information which will be needed to process the application and assesses the project for compliance with all County ordinances. Recommendations and assessments of the development review group shall be nonbinding.

“Director” means the Planning Director of the County of Santa Cruz or his/her authorized designee charged with the administration and enforcement of this chapter.

“Environmental Coordinator” means the Planning Department staff person assigned to review applications and make environmental determinations based upon the County of Santa Cruz environmental review guidelines.

“General Plan” means the General Plan of the County of Santa Cruz as may be amended from time to time.

“Landscaped area” means the portion of the development proposed for landscaping, excluding hardscape and nonporous surfaces.

“Landscape maintenance agreement” means a written, signed agreement between the title owner of record or his duly authorized agent and the County, ensuring maintenance of landscaping for a minimum period of two years, pertaining to a development project approved by either the Planning Commission, Board of Supervisors or Zoning Administrator. The agreement shall be accompanied by a landscape maintenance security, a cash deposit or other instruments of credit as described in SCCC 14.01.511 and approved by the County, and shall be signed by duly authorized agents representing the County and the title owner of record for the subject property prior to issuance of a certificate of occupancy or final inspection approval by the Building Official of the County.

“Landscape maintenance security” means a performance security paid by the title owner of record or duly authorized agent acting as applicant for a development project approved by the County, issued to the Planning Department in an amount equal to 100 percent of the estimated two-year maintenance cost of landscaping and irrigation systems for the development project.

“Massing” is the architectural relationship—proportion, profile, and contour—between the various masses or volumes of a building or landscape. The mass of a building is defined by the roof, walls and floor. It may be a simple box form, but more often it is a composite of various forms. Plant massing can be used to create architectural forms in the landscape such as screens, canopies, barriers and floors, and can be used to define edges of open spaces and directional movement.

“Order” is a hierarchical relationship established between the design principles of harmony, contrast, and balance so as to achieve legible form and space in a building while permitting diversity.

“Planning Commission” means the Planning Commission of the County of Santa Cruz.

“Proportion” is the ordered relationship of bulk, massing and scale in building design so as to create a hierarchical composition from the smallest to the largest of its parts, and as a whole. Proportion can be used to describe height-to-height ratios, width-to-width ratios, width-to-height ratios, and ratios of massing. Proportion can be evaluated for individual buildings, as well as adjacent buildings and groups of buildings.

Landscaping can be used to establish a consistent rhythm along a streetscape which will compensate for the lack of proportion in building size and placement.

“Remodel,” for the purposes of this chapter, means any alteration of a structure, requiring a development permit and/or building permit approval from the County, which effects a change in the original site plan, exterior building elevation, or landscape design.

“Scale” is the comparison of the size of one object to another. In building design, scale is created by the articulation of building mass by use of design elements such as projections and recesses, doors and windows, texture and color, so as to create the relationship of scale at many levels in the building design. Examples of different levels of scale which can be created in a building include: human scale, or the relationship of the building and its design elements to the size of a human being; the size of building elements in relation to the overall size of the building; the size of a building as a whole in relation to adjacent buildings; and the size of a project in relation to the building site.

“Sensitive site” shall mean any property located adjacent to a scenic road or within the viewshed of a scenic road as recognized in the General Plan; or located on a coastal bluff, or on a ridgeline.

“Unity” is achieved when the design principles of harmony, contrast, balance, and order combine in a relationship which is perceived as a whole entity, rather than as a collection of parts.

“Villages” means those areas for which unique design criteria have been or will be established based upon an adopted specific village, town or area plan. Examples of villages include Aptos Village, Ben Lomond, Boulder Creek, Corralitos, Felton, portions of Live Oak, and Soquel Village.

“Zoning Administrator” means the County officer who performs the duties attached by law to the office of Zoning Administrator, as established by Chapter 18.10 SCCC. [Ord. 4416 § 11, 1996; Ord. 4406 § 11, 1996; Ord. 4312 § 3, 1994; Ord. 4286 § 3, 1993; Ord. 4133 § 1, 1991].

13.11.040 Projects requiring design review.

Design review shall be required for the following private and public activities for which a development, coastal or land division permit approval is required by the County of Santa Cruz:

(A)    Single home construction, and associated additions involving 500 square feet or more, within coastal special communities and sensitive sites as defined in this chapter.

(B)    Residential development of three or more units.

(C)    New single-family residences or remodels of 5,000 square feet or larger as regulated by SCCC 13.10.325.

(D)    All minor land divisions, as defined in Chapter 14.01 SCCC, occurring within the urban services line or rural services line, as defined in Chapter 17.02 SCCC; all minor land divisions located outside of the urban services line and the rural services line, which affect sensitive sites; and all land divisions of five parcels (lots) or more. For all subdivisions where actual construction of homes is not part of the application, design guidelines for development shall be required as part of the application submittal package. For all subdivisions where actual construction of homes is part of the application, both design guidelines and prototypical house and landscape design plans shall be required as part of the application submittal package, it will be a required part of any design approval to include either conceptional prototypical house and landscape design plans as part of the submittal package, or design guidelines for future home construction. Any major revisions to approved construction prototypes or design guidelines shall be processed pursuant to SCCC 18.10.134 and shall be subject to the design review process.

(E)    All commercial remodels or new commercial construction.

(F)    All industrial remodels or new industrial construction.

(G)    All institutional remodels or new institutional construction.

(H)    All County projects, including, but not limited to, public buildings, park and open spaces, streets and streetscapes.

(I)    Except for large dwellings as defined in this chapter, all agriculturally related uses and structures proposed in the A, AP, CA, TP or RA Zoning Districts are exempt from the standards and guidelines contained herein.

(J)    Design review requirements may be waived if the Planning Director, or his/her designee, certifies that the nature of the project is minor or incidental in respect to the purpose of design review as defined in this chapter. Conversely, design review requirements may be imposed on a project if the Planning Director, or his/her designee, certifies that the nature of the project is significant in respect to the purpose of design review as defined in this chapter.

(K)    The landscape water conservation requirements set forth in SCCC 13.11.075(C) apply only to the common landscape areas of land divisions and of residential developments of three or more units; to commercial, industrial or institutional construction or remodels 2,000 square feet in size or larger; and to all County projects including, but not limited to, public buildings, parks and open spaces, streets and streetscapes. [Ord. 5152 § 6, 2013; Ord. 4496-C §§ 64, 65, 1998; Ord. 4416 § 12, 1996; Ord. 4406 § 12, 1996; Ord. 4312 § 3, 1994; Ord. 4286 § 3, 1993; Ord. 4133 § 1, 1991].

13.11.050 Procedure for design review.

Design review is required of all projects as specified in the provisions of this chapter and shall occur during development permit review and shall be completed prior to public hearing or approval of a development permit. Design review shall occur as follows:

(A)    An initial evaluation, to determine consistency of the proposed development project with this chapter, shall occur during the first 30-day completeness review and/or during development review group evaluation, if applicable. Any redesign required by design review can be coordinated with any redesign that may be required as a result of the completeness review of other departments or agencies.

(B)    A second evaluation, to determine consistency of the proposed development project with this chapter, if necessary, shall occur following a submittal of revised plans.

(C)    In the event that an EIR is required, a third evaluation, to determine consistency of the proposed development project with this chapter, shall occur following any redesign necessitated by any required development mitigation measures. [Ord. 4312 § 3, 1994; Ord. 4286 § 3, 1993; Ord. 4133 § 1, 1991].

13.11.051 Submittal requirements.

All projects subject to this chapter shall submit the documentation prescribed in SCCC 18.10.210(E). The Planning Department may, however, waive any of the prescribed requirements upon a determination that specific items are not relevant to the application due to project characteristics. Conversely, any other information deemed necessary by the Planning Director or his/her designee, such as photographs, visual analysis, sketches and renderings, shall be required, if determined necessary for a complete design analysis. [Ord. 4312 § 3, 1994; Ord. 4286 § 3, 1993; Ord. 4133 § 1, 1991].

13.11.052 Required findings and action.

For all projects subject to the provisions of this chapter, the Planning Department is authorized to and shall make a positive, negative, or conditional design review recommendation based upon the following finding:

The proposed development project is consistent with the design standards and guidelines (SCCC 13.11.070 through 13.11.076) and any other applicable requirements of this chapter.

The decision-making body(ies) is(are) authorized to and shall approve, conditionally approve or deny applications and impose reasonable conditions upon such approval as are necessary to make the finding above. No approval and no permit shall be issued unless this finding can be made. [Ord. 4312 § 3, 1994; Ord. 4286 § 3, 1993; Ord. 4133 § 1, 1991. Formerly 13.11.053].

13.11.053 Exceptions.

(A)    Flexibility in the application of design standards and guidelines may be permitted based on the following factors: (1) due to special site circumstances or existing site uses, or (2) the objectives of this chapter are better achieved by allowing flexibility when considering the design standards and guidelines.

(B)    Exceptions to the design standards and guidelines shall be based upon the circumstances of the individual application. Any decision on an exception shall not establish a precedent for future applications.

(C)    Any proposed exception to the design standards and guidelines shall be described as part of the design review application and shall be subject to recommendation by the Planning Department and final action by the decision-making body(ies). [Ord. 4836 § 110,* 2006; Ord. 4312 § 3, 1994; Ord. 4286 § 3, 1993; Ord. 4133 § 1, 1991. Formerly 13.11.054].

*    Code reviser’s note: Ord. 4836 had two sections numbered “110.”

13.11.054 Appeals.

Any appeal of a design review determination made by an administrative or decision-making body as part of its action on a permit application shall be subject to the procedures and provisions of SCCC 18.10.310 through 18.10.360, inclusive. [Amended during 9/07 supplement; Ord. 4312 § 3, 1994; Ord. 4286 § 3, 1993; Ord. 4133 § 1, 1991. Formerly 13.11.055].

13.11.060 Compliance with approved site plan, architecture, and landscape architecture requirements, maintenance and enforcement.

(A)    Compliance. All required improvements on the approved building permit application package shall be installed or, in some cases, secured, as shown on the plans prior to issuance of a certificate of occupancy.

(B)    Maintenance. All required improvements on the approved building permit application package shall be permanently maintained as approved and installed.

(C)    Violation. Failure to comply with this chapter is a violation of the County of Santa Cruz zoning ordinance.

(D)    Enforcement. Any violation of this chapter, including failure to comply with additional approved conditions and/or agreements between the County and the permittee for the development and maintenance of the project improvements, is enforceable under the provisions of SCCC 13.10.280 and Chapter 1.12 SCCC. Enforcement may include, without limitation, permit review, permit amendment, permit revocation, or enforcement of a landscape maintenance agreement and other actions authorized under Chapter 1.12 SCCC. [Ord. 4312 § 3, 1994; Ord. 4286 § 3, 1993; Ord. 4133 § 1, 1991].

13.11.070 Design standards and guidelines.

The design standards and guidelines for site plan, architectural and landscape design review for the County of Santa Cruz are set forth in SCCC 13.11.071 through 13.11.076, inclusive. [Ord. 4312 § 3, 1994; Ord. 4286 § 3, 1993; Ord. 4133 § 1, 1991].

13.11.071 General.

(A)    Compliance with Development Standards. All required site development standards, set forth in SCCC 13.10.321 through 13.10.324, inclusive, 13.10.331 through 13.10.335, inclusive, and 13.10.341 through 13.10.345, inclusive, shall be met.

(B)    Compliance with Other Applicable Regulations. The design review proposal plans shall conform to the provisions of all other ordinances and regulations as applicable.

(C)    Compliance with Specific Plans and Town Plans. In those areas where design standards and guidelines have been adopted for towns, village centers, neighborhoods, specific roads, or other areas with specific plans or area plans, the project design shall be consistent with those standards and guidelines. Where specific plan design standards or guidelines conflict with requirements contained herein, the specific/area plan design standards and guidelines shall take precedence.

(D)    Compliance with the General Plan and the Local Coastal Program. Proposed projects shall be in compliance with the General Plan and the Local Coastal Program, where applicable. [Ord. 4312 § 3, 1994; Ord. 4286 § 3, 1993; Ord. 4133 § 1, 1991].

13.11.072 Site design.

(A)    It shall be the objective of new development to enhance or preserve the integrity of existing land use patterns or character where those exist and to be consistent with village plans, community plans and coastal special community plans as they become adopted, and to complement the scale of neighboring development where appropriate to the zoning district context. New development, where appropriate, shall be sited, designed and landscaped so as to be visually compatible and integrated with the character of surrounding areas.

(1)    Compatible Site Design.

(a)    The primary elements of site design which must be balanced and evaluated in relation to the proposed project site and surrounding development in order to create compatible development include:

(i)    Location and type of access to the site.

(ii)    Building siting in terms of its location and orientation.

(iii)    Building bulk, massing and scale.

(iv)    Parking location and layout.

(v)    Relationship to natural site features and environmental influences.

(vi)    Landscaping.

(vii)    Streetscape relationship.

(viii)    Street design and transit facilities.

(ix)    Relationship to existing structures.

(b)    Consideration of the surrounding zoning district, as well as the age and condition of the existing building stock, is important in determining when it is appropriate to continue existing land use patterns or character and when it is appropriate to foster a change in land use or neighborhood character.

(c)    Where the existing zoning allows the creation of new land use patterns, applicants are encouraged to provide an analysis of the surrounding neighborhood in support of their proposal for a new type of land use. The analysis would include one block on each side of the proposed site, on each side of the street. Supporting material may include the use of photographs, building elevations, or maps indicating the surrounding land uses, and a written analysis.

(d)    Transitions shall be provided between existing and new projects of different zoning, where appropriate.

(2)    Coordinated Development.

(a)    Coordinated site design (including shared parking and circulation systems, sign facilities, landscaped areas, and recycling and garbage storage and collection areas) shall be encouraged on adjacent parcels with similar uses. In such cases, mutual access easements granted to each property owner are necessary. Site plans which allow for future shared use between adjacent parcels are encouraged, where appropriate.

(b)    Clustered commercial use areas with shared facilities, rather than linear commercial use with separate facilities for each site, are encouraged.

(c)    Physical barriers (e.g., fences, curbs, or walls) between adjacent parcels with similar uses are discouraged unless needed for drainage, security, screening, or noise attenuation purposes.

(B)    It shall be an objective to preserve or enhance natural site amenities and features unique to the site, and to incorporate these, to a reasonable extent, into the site design.

(1)    Natural Site Amenities and Features.

(a)    The site plan shall relate to surrounding topography, and significant natural vegetation of long-term quality shall be retained, where appropriate.

(b)    Existing mature trees, rock outcroppings, riparian corridors, natural site amenities and other features shall be retained or enhanced and incorporated into the site design and landscaping, where appropriate.

(c)    Buildings shall be sited and oriented in such a way as to take advantage of, or make connection to, the site amenities and features, where appropriate.

(d)    Hilltop and hillside development shall be integrated into the silhouette of the existing backdrop such as the terrain, landscaping, and other structures. Ridgeline protection shall be ensured by restricting the height and placement of buildings and providing landscape screening in order to prevent any projection above the ridgeline. If there is no other building location on a property except a ridgeline, this circumstance shall be verified by the Planning Department with appropriate findings and mitigation measures to ensure that the proposed structure is low profile and visually screened.

(2)    Views.

(a)    Development shall protect the public viewshed, where possible.

(b)    Development should minimize the impact on private views from adjacent parcels, wherever practicable.

(C)    It shall be an objective of the site plan to incorporate safe and functional circulation, accessible to the disabled, pedestrians, bicycles and vehicles.

(D)    It shall be an objective of the site plan to locate, buffer and screen accessory uses and utilities so as to reduce impacts on adjacent properties and on primary site uses.

(1)    Accessory Uses.

(a)    “Accessory uses” are defined as recycling and garbage storage and collection areas, exterior storage areas, service yards, loading docks, utility service areas and other nonprimary uses.

(b)    Accessory uses which may be visible from public streets and adjacent properties shall be screened.

(c)    Acceptable methods of screening include wood fencing, masonry walls, dense hedges, landscape earth berms, or a combination of these devices. Chain-link fencing will usually not be acceptable.

(d)    Accessory uses shall be integrated into the site design, and grouped together into “service yards” where feasible, in order to minimize on-site and off-site impacts.

(e)    Accessory uses shall not be located adjacent to residential properties unless such uses can be screened and buffered to prevent adverse impacts to the adjacent residential property.

(f)    Accessory buildings, walls, storage areas, and fences shall be architecturally consistent with the primary structures of the site and compatible with the surrounding area. Architectural consistency can be achieved by repeating building forms, materials, colors, or detailing.

(g)    Accessory uses shall be located and designed for ease of access by service vehicles and tenants, and in such a way as to minimize conflicts with circulation, parking, and other site uses.

(2)    Utilities.

(a)    New utility and service lines shall be installed underground, unless inappropriate.

(b)    Pad-mounted transformers (as part of the underground electrical service distribution system) shall not be located in the front setback or area visible from public view, unless they are completely screened by walls and/or thick landscaping, and shall not obstruct views of traffic from tenant spaces or driveways, or views to monument signs. Underground vaults may be located in the front setback area for aesthetic purposes.

(E)    It shall be an objective of site design to provide for the separate storage and collection of all recyclable materials generated by the on-site uses.

(1)    Recycling. The County of Santa Cruz recycling design criteria on file in the Planning Department shall be consulted for all recycling area design guidelines.

(a)    Commercial, industrial, institutional and multi- family residential uses shall include areas for recycling storage and collection adequate in capacity, number and distribution to serve the development where the project occurs.

(b)    Access into the storage area shall be provided with adequate vertical and horizontal clearances for collection vehicles as specified by the County of Santa Cruz recycling design criteria.

(c)    Provisions shall be made to protect the recyclable materials from weather by covering the storage area or by the use of covered receptacles.

(d)    Recycling storage areas should be adjacent to or within the same enclosures as the garbage area or at least as convenient as the location for garbage storage.

(e)    Maximum distance for the storage area to be no greater than 250 feet from each living unit in a multifamily residential development.

(f)    An exterior sign with the international recycling logo shall be required, including the name and phone number of the responsible person and an interior sign for the types of materials to be recycled as specified by the County of Santa Cruz recycling design criteria.

(g)    The property owner is responsible for arranging with the collector/broker for regular pick-up of material. Recyclable materials shall not be allowed to accumulate in such a manner that visual or public health nuisance is created.

(h)    Security shall be provided to prevent theft of recyclable materials by unauthorized persons; however, the enclosure shall also be accessible for deposit of materials by authorized persons.

(F)    It shall be an objective of site signage design to provide adequate, attractive identification and direction, consistent with the area and use.

(1)    Signage Design.

(a)    All requirements relating to signs set forth in SCCC 13.10.580 through 13.10.587 shall be met.

(b)    Freestanding signage shall be an integral part of the site or landscape design, or shall be similar to, or consistent with, the design of the proposed building(s).

(G)    It shall be an objective of site design to promote energy conservation and to reduce the impacts of adverse environmental influences.

(1)    Solar Design and Access.

(a)    Buildings shall be designed and located so that off-site solar access is reasonably protected for the buildable lot area of adjacent, affected properties.

(b)    Buildings shall be sited and designed so that solar access is reasonably protected for benefitting properties currently occupied by a building using a solar energy system.

(2)    Noise.

(a)    Reasonable protection for adjacent properties from noise may be achieved through site planning, building siting, building orientation, physical barriers such as masonry walls, landscaped earth berms, or setback/buffer areas.

(H)    It shall be an objective of an open space design, whether landscape or hardscape, to relate to building and site design.

(1)    Open Space Design.

(a)    Activities in “protected use areas” shall be limited to those having minimal impacts, such as paths and benches. Where feasible, a path to and/or along the perimeter of the natural areas shall be provided.

(b)    All useable open space requirements for RM Districts shall be satisfied according to SCCC 13.10.323(F).

(I)    It is an objective of residential site design, when permitted by zoning, to encourage cluster design for residential development in rural and protected use areas; for sites where natural amenities could be retained or enhanced; or where cluster design could be used to accommodate outdoor amenities for higher density development in urban areas.

(1)    Cluster Design. Cluster site design is encouraged in the following areas, when permitted by zoning:

(a)    Protected Use Areas. Protected use areas include: riparian corridors and buffer areas, beaches, floodways, lagoons, wetlands, marshes, fault areas, bluffs, ravines, areas with steep slopes or unstable soil conditions, timberlands, and sensitive wildlife habitat and biotic resource areas.

(b)    Amenities. On sites having natural amenities such as significant groups of trees or other areas of vegetation, wooded arroyos or other protected use areas, or with views to mountains or the bay, the cluster design concept could be employed to incorporate these features into the site plan.

(c)    Urban Areas. On sites where medium to high density residential development is permitted by the zoning district, cluster design is encouraged to increase the potential for useable outdoor amenities.

(2)    When the cluster concept is used, the units should be designed in a manner that incorporates light, air, space and privacy for the individual units while maintaining quality common open space. [Ord. 5202 § 4, 2015; Ord. 4496-C § 66, 1998; Ord. 4312 § 3, 1994; Ord. 4286 § 3, 1993; Ord. 4133 § 1, 1991. Formerly 13.11.073].

13.11.073 Building design.

(A)    It shall be an objective of building design that the basic architectural design principles of balance, harmony, order and unity prevail, while not excluding the opportunity for unique design.

Successful use of the basic design principles accommodates a full range of building designs, from unique or landmark buildings to background buildings.

(B)    It shall be an objective of building design to address the present and future neighborhood, community, and zoning district context.

(1)    Compatible Building Design.

(a)    Building design shall relate to adjacent development and the surrounding area.

(b)    Compatible relationships between adjacent buildings can be achieved by creating visual transitions between buildings; that is, by repeating certain elements of the building design or building siting that provide a visual link between adjacent buildings. The building elements listed below shall be reviewed to achieve a level of neighborhood compatibility appropriate to the architectural style, character and identity of both the proposed new building and the neighborhood:

(i)    Massing of building form.

(ii)    Building silhouette.

(iii)    Spacing between buildings.

(iv)    Street face setbacks.

(v)    Character of architecture.

(vi)    Building scale.

(vii)    Proportion and composition of projections and recesses, doors and windows, and other features.

(viii)    Location and treatment of entryways.

(ix)    Finish material, texture and color.

(2)    Building design should be site and area specific. Franchise type architecture may not achieve an appropriate level of compatibility and is not encouraged.

(C)    It shall be an objective of building design to address scale on the appropriate levels (“scale” is defined in SCCC 13.11.030).

(D)    It shall be an objective of building design to use design elements to create a sense of human scale, and pedestrian interest.

(1)    Building Articulation.

(a)    Variation in wall plane, roof line, detailing, materials and siting are techniques which can be used to create interest in buildings, where appropriate. Roof and wall plane variations including building projections, bay windows, and balconies are recommended to reduce scale and bulk.

(b)    All exterior wall elevations visible from and/or facing streets are to have architectural treatment. No building surface fronting on a street shall have a flat, void surface without architectural treatment. The provision of projections and recesses, windows, doors and entries, color and texture, are methods of articulating facades.

(E)    It shall be an objective of building design to locate and screen mechanical equipment, and other accessory uses, so as to reduce impacts on primary building uses and on adjacent properties.

(1)    Rooftop Equipment.

(a)    All rooftop mechanical and electrical equipment shall be designed to be an integral part of the building design, and shall be screened.

(b)    Utility equipment such as electrical and gas meters, electrical panels, and junction boxes shall not be located on exterior wall elevations facing streets unless screened from streets and building entries using architectural screens, walls, fences, and/or plant material.

(F)    It shall be an objective of building signage to relate to the building design.

(1)    Building Signage. Signage attached to buildings shall relate to the building design by being an integral part of that design or by use of compatible materials and colors.

(G)    It shall be an objective of building design to promote energy conservation and to reduce the impacts of environmental influences.

(1)    Noise. Where noise will impact the building users, the building design shall incorporate buffering to reduce the interior sound levels.

(2)    Solar Design.

(a)    Buildings shall be designed so that solar access is reasonably protected for the buildable lot area of adjacent, affected properties.

(b)    Wherever lot size and setbacks permit, the building walls with major window areas shall be appropriately oriented for passive solar heating and cooling, and natural lighting. Building layout should encourage energy conservation.

(3)    Recycling.

(a)    Encourage recycling areas or storage systems within all commercial, industrial, institutional and residential structures for use by the building occupants. Recommended storage space and design concepts can be found in the Santa Cruz County Recycling Design Criteria. [Ord. 5119 § 41, 2012; Ord. 4312 § 3, 1994; Ord. 4286 § 3, 1993; Ord. 4133 § 1, 1991. Formerly 13.11.074].

13.11.074 Access, circulation and parking.

(A)    It shall be an objective to design pedestrian, bicycle and vehicle circulation, and parking, to be safe, convenient, and readily understandable to users. Access, circulation and parking design shall relate to the proposed development on adjoining properties.

(1)    Vehicle Access for Multifamily Residential, Commercial and Industrial Projects.

(a)    Refer to the County of Santa Cruz “Design Criteria for Streets, Storm Drains, Sanitary Sewers and Water Sewers,” as prepared by the County Department of Public Works, for all street design and driveway design requirements.

(b)    Corner lots with frontages on both an arterial street and a local or collector street shall concentrate driveway access on the local or collector street wherever possible. If access is necessary from both streets, an entrance and exit should be located on the local or collector street and an “exit, right turn only” on the arterial. However, parking lots serving commercial uses should be accessed from commercially developed streets whenever possible.

(c)    Parking areas shall be designed, whenever feasible, so that all vehicles shall enter and exit public streets in a forward movement only, with the exception of projects of under 2,000 square feet on local streets or projects on cul-de-sacs. Directional arrows for one-way entrances and exits shall be clearly marked on the pavement.

(d)    Avoid locating walls and fences where they block driver sight lines when entering or exiting the site.

(e)    The location and design of curb cuts, and curb cut widths on public streets shall be determined by the Public Works Director according to the public works design criteria. Minimize the number of curb cuts.

(f)    Pavement width for interior driveways shall be a minimum of 24 feet for two-way circulation and 12 feet for one-way circulation, unless additional width is required for emergency access by the Fire Department.

(g)    Driveways between commercial or industrial parcels shall be shared where appropriate.

(h)    Where an interior driveway or parking area parallels the side or rear property line, a minimum five-foot-wide net landscape strip shall be provided between the driveway and the property line. Where the interior driveway occurs between commercial or industrial properties with like zoning, the five-foot net landscape strip can be divided leaving a minimum two-foot net at the property line and the balance three feet net of landscaping on the other side of the driveway.

(i)    Driveways shall be coordinated with existing or planned median openings.

(j)    Entry drives on commercial or industrial projects greater than 10,000 square feet should include a five-foot minimum net landscaped median to separate incoming and outgoing traffic, where appropriate.

(2)    Standards for Pedestrian Travel Paths.

(a)    On-site pedestrian pathways shall be provided from street, sidewalk and parking areas to the central use area. These areas should be delineated from the parking areas by walkways, landscaping, changes in paving materials, narrowing of roadways, or other design techniques.

(b)    Sidewalks or pedestrian pathways shall be provided where required by County regulations. Separations between bicycle and pedestrian circulation routes shall be utilized where appropriate.

(3)    Access for the Disabled. State laws require that all facilities which are open to the public must be accessible to, and usable by, the physically disabled. Plans for construction of new public facilities and remodeling of existing facilities shall incorporate both architectural barrier removal and physical building design and parking area features to achieve access for the physically disabled.

(4)    Public Transit. Support facilities for public transit, including bus turnouts and bus shelters, shall be provided when required by the transit district.

(B)    It shall be an objective to reduce the visual impact and scale of interior driveways, parking and paving.

(1)    Parking Lot Design.

(a)    The site design shall minimize the visual impact of pavement and parked vehicles. Parking design shall be an integral element of the site design. Siting buildings toward the front or middle portion of the lot and parking areas to the rear or side of the lot is encouraged where appropriate.

(b)    Parking areas shall be screened from public streets using landscaping, berms, fences, walls, buildings, and other means, where appropriate, in accordance with SCCC 13.11.076.

(c)    Variation in pavement width, the use of texture and color variation in paving materials, such as stamped concrete, stone, brick, pavers, exposed aggregate, or colored concrete is encouraged in parking lots to promote pedestrian safety and to minimize the visual impact of large expanses of pavement.

(C)    It shall be an objective of landscaping to accent the importance of driveways from the street, frame the major circulation aisles, emphasize pedestrian pathways, and provide shade and screening.

(1)    Parking Lot Landscaping.

(a)    Parking lot landscaping shall be designed to visually screen parking from public streets and adjacent uses. Techniques to achieve screening include: the use of mixed planting which incorporates trees, shrubs, and groundcovers; mounds; low walls; parking set below grade; or a combination of these techniques which achieves this function.

(b)    Parking lots shall be landscaped with large canopy trees. A landscape strip shall be provided at the end of each parking aisle.

(c)    A minimum five-foot-wide landscape strip (to provide necessary vehicular back-out movements) shall be provided at dead-end aisles.

(d)    Parking areas shall be landscaped with large canopy trees to sufficiently reduce glare and radiant heat from the asphalt and to provide visual relief from large stretches of pavement. A minimum of one tree for each five parking spaces should be planted along each single or double row of parking spaces. Planting areas for trees required within parking rows should be achieved by one of the following methods (see Figure 2):

(i)    A continuous landscape strip, at least five feet wide net, between rows of parking spaces; or

(ii)    Tree wells, eight feet wide, resulting from the conversion of two opposing full-sized spaces to compact spaces; or

(iii)    Tree wells, at least five feet square, placed diagonally between standard or compact car spaces.

(e)    At least 25 percent of the trees required for parking lot screening shall be 24-inch box size when planted; all other trees shall be 15-gallon size or larger when planted.

(f)    As appropriate to the site use, required landscaped areas next to parking spaces or driveways shall be protected by a minimum six-inch-high curb or wheel stop, such as concrete, masonry, railroad ties, or other durable materials.

(g)    A minimum of one tree for each five parking spaces shall be planted along rows of parking.

(h)    Trees shall be dispersed throughout the parking lot to maximize shade and visual relief.

(2)    Service Vehicles/Loading Space. Loading space shall be provided as required in SCCC 13.10.570 through 13.10.578, inclusive, for commercial and industrial uses. Loading areas shall be designed to not interfere with circulation or parking, and to permit trucks to fully maneuver on the property without backing from or onto a public street.

(3)    Parking Structures. Parking within structures including basement and roof parking is encouraged in order to minimize asphalt pavement and maximize open areas.

(4)    Bicycle Parking. Bicycle parking spaces shall be provided as required in SCCC 13.10.560. They shall be appropriately located in relation to the major activity area.

(D)    It shall be an objective of lighting design to relate to the site and building design and reduce off-site impacts.

(1)    Lighting.

(a)    All site, building, security and landscape lighting shall be directed onto the site and away from adjacent properties. Light sources shall not be visible from adjacent properties. Light sources can be shielded by landscaping, structure, fixture design or other physical means. Building and security lighting shall be integrated into the building design.

(b)    All lighted parking and circulation areas shall utilize low-rise light standards or light fixtures attached to the building. Light standards to a maximum height of 15 feet are allowed.

(c)    Area lighting shall be high-pressure sodium vapor, metal halide, fluorescent, or equivalent energy-efficient fixtures.



Minimum Aisle and Stall Dimensions for Various Angles of Parking


Parking Angle

Cars on One Side of Aisle

Cars on Both Sides of Aisle











1. Landscape Island Which Terminates a Row of Parking

2. Continuous Landscape Strip Between Bays

3. Tree Wells

4. Tree Wells

[Ord. 4836 §§ 111—115,* 2006; Ord. 4312 § 3, 1994; Ord. 4286 § 3, 1993; Ord. 4133 § 1, 1991. Formerly 13.11.075].

*    Code reviser’s note: Ord. 4836 had two sections numbered “111 through 115.”

13.11.075 Landscaping.

(A)    It shall be an objective of landscape design to relate to the building and site design, the proposed use, and to site conditions.

(1)    Site Landscaping.

(a)    The required yard (setback) adjoining a street shall incorporate appropriate landscape and/or hardscape. Appropriate landscape elements may include trees, shrubs, and groundcover. Appropriate hardscape materials may include brick or other modular pavers; stamped or textured concrete; or colored concrete and shall create useable exterior space appropriate to the site and buildings.

(b)    Where a commercial or industrial use is located adjacent to a residential district, the following landscaped buffers shall be applied at the property line:

(i)    Commercial and industrial buildings under 5,000 square feet shall provide a minimum five-foot net landscape strip and a six-foot-high solid wood fence or masonry wall.

(ii)    Commercial and industrial buildings between 5,000 square feet and 10,000 square feet shall provide a minimum five-foot net landscape strip with a six-foot-high masonry sound wall.

(iii)    Commercial and industrial buildings between 10,000 and 20,000 square feet shall provide a landscape strip of five feet wide plus an additional one foot width for each additional 1,000 square feet of building over 10,000 square feet, up to 20,000 square feet, and a six-foot-high masonry sound wall. The landscaping which is required in excess of the minimum five-foot-wide strip may be modulated to provide additional buffer, where appropriate. The balance may not be less than the required total square footage of landscaping.

(c)    Landscaping shall be planted in the ground. If this is not feasible, planter boxes of an appropriate size are acceptable.

(2)    Existing Trees.

(a)    Mature trees over six inches in diameter at five feet above ground level shall be incorporated into the site and landscape design unless other provisions of this subsection allow removal.

(b)    Circumstances where tree removal may be appropriate include: the obstruction of the prime building site to provide an appreciably better project design not possible without the tree removal; retention of solar access to adjacent properties; dead, dying or diseased trees; nuisance trees; and trees which threaten adjacent development due to instability.

(c)    An evaluation and recommendation by a landscape architect or a licensed arborist shall be required in order to substantiate the removal of any mature tree based on a claim that the tree is unhealthy or poses a nuisance or threat to adjacent development.

(d)    The applicant may be required to replace any mature trees which are permitted to be removed, as determined through the design review process.

(e)    The decision-making body may waive the requirement of removal of invasive species in order to protect visual amenities.

(3)    Street Trees.

(a)    Street trees (or private yard trees providing similar effect) shall match any existing street tree species and spacing; shall implement any proposed street tree program; and complement any existing trees in the area, if a street tree program does not exist for the street. Street trees installed within County rights-of-way shall be chosen from the Santa Cruz urban forestry master plan or the County street tree list. Street tree species selected for the north side of east/west streets shall be chosen from those included on the “Street Tree List for the North side of East/West streets.”

(4)    Screening, Fences and Walls.

(a)    When landscaping is required to screen views of a site or site uses, the plant material shall be appropriately sized and spaced so that a dense screen grows in a short period of time and views of objects on the opposite side are effectively screened.

(b)    All shrubs used for screening purposes shall be a minimum five-gallon size when planted.

(c)    A fence or wall, when required as a screening device, shall be of solid wood or masonry, or other material, modulated and landscaped where appropriate to provide visual relief from continuous wall or fence surfaces.

(B)    It shall be a landscape design objective to select plant material appropriate to the design and site conditions. Site conditions which affect the selection of appropriate plant material include soil conditions, microclimate, maintenance, and solar access. Factors which affect the landscape design include the growth pattern, color, and texture of the plant material.

(1)    Plant Material Type, Size and Growth.

(a)    Invasive species such as acacia, pampas grass, broom, etc., should not be used and should be eliminated if already present.

(b)    Landscaping shall be provided in sufficient size and quantity to adequately screen and soften the effect of new building planes and asphalt within the first year of growth.

(c)    All trees planted shall be a minimum of 15-gallon size. Larger specimens may be required, e.g., 24-inch box or field specimens, depending upon the scale of the proposed project. The trees shall have been grown to the minimum nursery standards for tree height, caliper and canopy for the container size and tree species specified.

(d)    Where a specific height of planting is required, such landscaping shall be within two feet of the prescribed height at the time of planting if the prescribed height is five feet or more, and shall be within one foot of the prescribed height at the time of planting if the prescribed height is less than five feet. All heights are measured above the ground level at the point the landscaping will be planted.

(e)    All plants shall be planted with spacings and locations, given the plant types and characteristics, type of soil, availability and likelihood of watering regularity and similar considerations, so that the plantings will achieve their purpose within a reasonable time.

(2)    Landscape Maintenance.

(a)    All required vegetation shall be maintained free of physical damage or injury from lack of water, excess chemical fertilizer or other toxic chemical, blight or disease. Any vegetation which shows signs of such damage or injury at any time shall be replaced by the same, similar, or substitute vegetation of a size, form, and character which will be comparable at full growth.

(b)    Required landscaping shall be kept free from weeds and undesirable grasses. One means of preventing weed growth is to plant dense ground covers another is by mulching. This subsection does not apply to private yard areas of single-family dwellings other than large dwellings as defined in this chapter.

(c)    The Planning Commission or Zoning Administrator shall, as a condition of approval of any landscaping or landscaped area, require the execution of a landscape maintenance agreement and bond as defined in SCCC 13.11.030, or other acceptable surety, for the maintenance of any or all landscaping on a building site. A landscape maintenance security shall not be required for commercial, industrial or residential projects where a property owners’ association is established to assure that landscape maintenance of common areas is satisfactorily accomplished. Proof of the formation of the property owners’ association shall be supplied to, and approved by, the Planning Department before the landscape maintenance bond requirement is waived.

(C)    It shall be an objective of the landscape design to conserve water and to maximize water use efficiency through plant selection, soil conditioning and irrigation management (the following requirements apply only to those projects listed in SCCC 13.11.040(K)).

(1)    Turf Limitation and Plant Selection.

(a)    The turf area shall be limited to no more than 25 percent of the total landscaped area. This limitation shall not apply to projects such as public parks, cemeteries and recreation areas where water use efficiency is evaluated on a regular basis through a landscape irrigation audit or to any project that uses reclaimed or recycled water for irrigation purposes.

(b)    Turf shall be of low to moderate water-using varieties, such as tall fescue. Turf shall be used in a practical manner for high use or aesthetically desirable areas. Turf should not be used in median strips, on slopes greater than 33 percent or in areas less than eight feet wide.

(c)    At least 80 percent of the plant materials selected in nonturf areas (equivalent to 60 percent of the total landscaped area) shall be well-suited to the climate of the region and require minimal water once established. Up to 20 percent of the plant materials in nonturf areas (equivalent to 15 percent of the total landscaped area) need not be drought tolerant; provided, that they are grouped together and can be irrigated separately. The use of trees and native plants is encouraged in appropriate locations.

(2)    Soil Conditioning.

(a)    In new planting areas, soil shall be tilled to a depth of six inches and amended with six cubic yards of organic material per 1,000 square feet to promote infiltration and water retention.

(b)    After planting, a minimum of two inches of mulch shall be applied to all nonturf areas to retain moisture, reduce evaporation and inhibit weed growth.

(3)    Irrigation Management.

(a)    All required landscaping shall be provided with an adequate, permanent and nearby source of water which shall be applied by an installed irrigation or, where feasible, a drip irrigation system.

(b)    Irrigation systems shall be designed to avoid runoff, overspray, low head drainage, or other similar conditions where water flows onto adjacent property, non-irrigated areas, walks, roadways or structures.

(c)    Appropriate irrigation equipment, including the use of a separate landscape water meter, pressure regulators, automated controllers, low volume sprinkler heads, drip or bubbler irrigation systems, rain shutoff devices, and other equipment shall be utilized to maximize the efficiency of water applied to the landscape.

(d)    Plant materials having similar water requirements shall be grouped together in distinct hydrozones and shall be irrigated separately.

(e)    An irrigation plan and an irrigation schedule for the established landscape shall be submitted with the building permit application. The irrigation plan shall show the location, size and type of components of the irrigation system, the point of connection to the public water supply and designation of hydrozones. The irrigation schedule shall designate the timing and frequency of irrigation for each station and list the amount of water, in gallons or hundred cubic feet, recommended on a monthly and annual basis.

(f)    Whenever possible, landscape irrigation should be scheduled between 6:00 p.m. and 11:00 a.m. to reduce evaporative loss.

(D)    It shall be a design objective that site furniture relate to the building and landscape design.

(1)    Site Furniture and Fixtures. Required outdoor furniture and fixtures such as lighting, freestanding signs, trellises, raised planters, benches, trash receptacles, newspaper racks, bus stops, phone booths and fencing shall be compatible with project architecture, shall be integral elements of the building and landscape design, and shall be included in, and shown on, all site and landscape plans. [Ord. 4312 § 3, 1994; Ord. 4286 § 3, 1993; Ord. 4133 § 1, 1991. Formerly 13.11.076].

13.11.076 Preparation of Design Review Standards and Guidelines Manual.

The Board of Supervisors, upon consideration of the Planning Commission’s recommendation, may adopt by resolution a “Design Review Standards and Guidelines Manual” setting forth standards and guidelines for the use of persons planning future developments subject to site, architectural, and landscape design plan approval. The purpose of the manual shall be to assist the public, the community, applicants, designers, architects, landscape architects, engineers, staff and the recommending and decision-making bodies in applying and evaluating conformance with the requirements of this chapter. Review and revision of the design standards and guidelines shall be conducted periodically in order to consider any changing aesthetic and environmental concerns of the community. [Ord. 4312 § 3, 1994; Ord. 4286 § 3, 1993; Ord. 4133 § 1, 1991. Formerly 13.11.056].