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Seascape Beach Estates Site Standards

The Board of Supervisors of the County of Santa Cruz has directed the Planning Department to draft an ordinance creating a new “Seascape Beach Estates” (SBE) Combining Zone District with a unique set of site development standards for the Seascape Beach Estates neighborhood. This new zone district would include 152 parcels in Units 1, 2, 4 and 14 of the Seascape Beach Estates subdivision.

The project involves amendments to County Code chapters 13.10 and 13.20 to create the district; a Zoning Plan Amendment to add 152 parcels to the district; and a minor variation to Planned Unit Development/Use Permit 4119-U for 14 parcels within the proposed district. This project is exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Coastal Commission certification is required after County adoption.

On April 16, 2019, the Board of Supervisors held a public hearing and voted to approve the zone district. The Board is scheduled to formally adopt the ordinance and associated documents at their regular meeting on April 23, 2019. The next step in the approval process will be a Coastal Commission public hearing to certify the district. A Coastal Commission hearing has not yet been scheduled.

Click the link below for Board of Supervisors April 16, 2019, Agenda, Audio, Video and Minutes:
Board of Supervisors April 16, 2019

Why are special development standards proposed for the Seascape Beach Estates neighborhood?

The proposed zone district is bordered on the north by Hidden Beach Park, on the east by Via Palo Alto, on the south by Via Verde, and on the west by the public beach.  The Seascape Beach Estates neighborhood is unique in its location and topography. Portions of the neighborhood are within a Visual Resource Area in the Coastal Zone, where regulations protect natural bluffs today, but this neighborhood was designed and developed in the late 1960s before coastal bluff regulations were in place. The natural bluff was shaped into a series of terraces that step up from the beach. The developer envisioned low-slung homes along each of these terraces, with lots configured such that each property in the neighborhood would have a sight line to the ocean. The conditions, covenants, and restrictions (CC&Rs) that went with the original subdivision   were therefore written to constrain vertical development by limiting homes on lower terraces to a single story, while allowing more horizontal development (lot coverage) than is usually allowed by the County Code. The majority of homes in the subdivision were built to these site development standards in the 1970s.

Adherence to CC&R site standards during build-out of the SBE neighborhood created a unique design character with defining features that are evident throughout the neighborhood, including a distinct uniformity in structure height and rear yard limits of development, homes that are close together, and low profiles of most homes when viewed from the street... However, the County site standards that apply in this neighborhood are the same single-family standards that apply throughout the County. This difference between CC&Rs and County standards, as well as differences between CC&Rs amongst the four units and changes over time about which standards were applied, has resulted in confusion and controversy for recently proposed development projects in this neighborhood.

In 2016, the Board of Supervisors denied a second-story addition in the SBE neighborhood, and at that time the Board recognized that special regulations were needed to provide clarity to property owners, staff, and decision-makers regarding what the County can approve in this neighborhood in the future. Specifically, the Board noted that reduced maximum building heights were necessary to preserve the special neighborhood character. On March 14, 2017, the Board reviewed draft site standards for a Combining Zone District and directed staff to proceed with code updates to create the district.

Click the link below for "Board of Supervisors March 14, 2017, Agenda Item #34":
Board of Supervisors March 14, 2017, Agenda Item #34 >

What are the proposed site development standards?

The development standards have been drafted with the intent of codifying the characteristics of the existing built environment, to preserve the existing neighborhood character and protect public views in this coastal Visual Resource Area. The proposal incorporates many of the CC&R standards, and reflect Board of Supervisors direction, as well as input from property owners provided to staff and input collected at a community meeting held on May 22, 2018.

The proposed site development standards for the SBE Combining Zone District are:

  • Height: 16 or 28 feet (see map below: Height of Structure Limits)
  • Lot Coverage: 45% (60% for lots with height limits of 16 or 18 feet)
  • Floor Area Ratio: 0.6
  • Front yard setbacks: 20 feet
  • Side yard setback: Minimum 10% of lot width but not less than 5 feet and no more than 8 feet, and street-facing side yard setbacks minimum 8 feet
  • Rear yard setback: Codify HOA CC&Rs and Architectural Review Committee guidelines, except that rear setback shall be 15 feet for lots where there is no setback specified in the CC&Rs (Unit 14 and certain lots in Unit 4)

Questions? Comments?

Questions and comments may be directed to project planner Daisy Allen:

Daisy Allen, AICP, LEED AP
Planner IV, Sustainability and Special Projects
County of Santa Cruz Planning Department
701 Ocean Street, 4th Floor
Santa Cruz, CA 95060