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Design Review

Design Review is considered to be an integral part of the Planning process in Santa Cruz County. Some projects are reviewed in terms of site planning, architectural design and landscape design. Many projects submitted to the County of Santa Cruz are not required to be reviewed for design (for example; building permits with no discretionary review).

The primary projects which must be reviewed are:

  • Commercial
  • Industrial
  • Institutional
  • County projects

Residential development projects are reviewed if:

  1. they involve three units or more,
  2. they occur in a minor land division within the Urban or Rural Services Lines,
  3. they occur in a minor land division which affects sensitive sites, or
  4. they are part of a land division of 5 lots or more

Single family residences will be reviewed for design if:

  • they are over 7,000 sq. ft.,
  • they are within coastal special communities,
  • they are within sensitive sites (adjacent to a scenic road, within the viewshed of a scenic road, on a coastal bluff, or on a ridgeline).

Additions of 500 sq. ft. or more are reviewed if they occur:

  • within sensitive sites (adjacent to a scenic road, within the viewshed of a scenic road, on a coastal bluff, or on a ridgeline) or
  • within coastal special communities (these are defined in the County Code and General Plan)

The criteria for evaluating projects for design review is contained within the County of Santa Cruz Code in Chapter 13.11. There are also sections of the Coastal Zone Regulations (Chapter 13.20) which pertain to the review of the design of projects. Some communities in the county, such as Ben Lomand, Boulder Creek, Felton, Soquel and Aptos have their own Town Plan which includes design elements.

The process of design review begins during the first thirty (30) days after submittal of a project to the County. The Planning Department reviews the project in respect to the applicable ordinances. As with all those involved in commenting on the project, there may be comments made in regard to the completeness of the submittal. It is the responsibility of the Project Planner to incorporate all comments (including Design Review) into their completeness review and eventually into the staff report for the public hearing.

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