The West Valley Hillsides comprise the unincorporated foothills of Santa Cruz Mountains adjacent to the cities of Cupertino, Monte Sereno, Los Gatos and Saratoga. The predominantly natural visual character of the West Valley Hillsides is a valuable asset to its residents and nearby communities. To preserve the natural visual character of the hillsides, a 1996 study (The West Valley Hillsides Joint Planning Review) was conducted jointly by the County and the four West Valley Cities of Cupertino, Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, and Saratoga. That study developed the West Valley Hillsides Preservation Strategies document, which proposed the following four strategies:
- Develop joint land use principles / objectives
- Limit expansion of urban development into hillside areas
- Minimize the visual impacts of hillside development
- Provide mechanisms for resolution of future hillside land use issues
The implementation of these strategies involved actions by both the cities and County. The cities were to delineate and adopt long term growth boundaries to ensure that urban development does not encroach further into the hillsides. For its part, the County would review and revise its hillside design review standards and procedures, where necessary.
Design Review Revisions for West Valley Hillsides
Following a series of public hearings and community meetings, the County adopted zoning ordinance amendments which became effective in June of 1997 establishing the "-d1, design review" combining zoning district. The "-d1" zone was applied to properties visible from the valley floor within the study area, and it requires certain building and development projects be subject to design review. It furthermore established particular design standards for those properties within the "-d1" zoning district. The two most significant changes to development standards involved the reduction of maximum building height from 35 ft. to 30. ft, and the establishment of a maximum light reflectancy value (LRV) of 60 for exterior building surfaces.