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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Last modified: 6/10/2014 4:17 PM

Q1.  What is the Santa Clara County Lighting Service Area Assessment?

The Assessment is a means of providing a funding source to pay for the ongoing operation and maintenance costs associated with the public street lights within the boundaries of the County Lighting Service Area.  There has been no other funding source to pay for these street lighting services.

Q2.  Why were the street lighting improvements installed?
The street lighting improvements that are located within the County Lighting Service Area have been installed throughout the years at the request of the property owners who are located near those street lights.
Q3.  What does my Assessment pay for?
The annual assessment pays for the operation and maintenance costs associated with the street lighting.  These services include, but are not limited to, the repair, removal or replacement of poles, fixtures, bulbs, conduits, guys, anchors, posts, pedestals, metering devices and other related improvements.  The Assessment also pays for the costs for furnishing the electric current for illuminating the street lights.
Q4.  Is this a new assessment?
No, the County of Santa Clara has funded these street lighting improvements through the use of Assessments since 1964, except for Fiscal Year 1999-2000, in which the vote failed.  Each parcel within the district has been assessed annually to cover the costs of operation and maintenance of the street lighting system.
Q5.  Is my Assessment changing?
Yes.  If approved, your Assessment for street lighting within the County Lighting Service Area will change.  Your proposed Assessment rate is shown on the Ballot.  There are two (2) reasons for the Assessment rate change to your parcel;
1)    The method for calculating the assessments had to be modified because of the recent passage of Proposition 218 which requires assessments to be levied based upon the benefit to the property.  In prior years the method for assessing properties was based upon a flat assessment rate for residential properties and a flat assessment rate plus an ad-valorem assessment rate (assessment based upon the value of the property) for non-residential properties (e.g. commercial, industrial, etc.).  In November of 1996, California voters approved Proposition 218 which requires the formula to be in proportion to the special benefit each parcel receives.  Therefore, the old method is no longer valid.  An explanation of how the assessment formula is applied is described in the enclosed “Notice of Hearing”.
2)    In previous years there was excess money in the street lighting reserve fund that was used to help reduce the annual assessments.  This fund has now been depleted; the costs are now being assessed to the properties within the District.
Q6.  Why do the assessment rates vary among benefit zones?
Through numerous community meetings held throughout the County, it has been found that some people are in support of the County Lighting Service Area Assessment, while others are not.  The County has decided to establish thirteen (13) separate and distinct benefit zones within the District.  Each benefit zone will have an individual budget based on the number of street lights within that benefit zone.  The budget is then spread to the parcels based on the level of service they receive from the street lights.  The rates for each level of service vary depending on the number of street lights.   Level of Service No. 1 consists of all parcels that receive special benefit from intersection and cul-de-sac street lighting only.  Level of Service No. 2 includes all parcels that receive special benefit from intersection, cul-de-sac and mid-block (street light spaced approximately 300 to 500 ft. apart along a street) street lighting.  Level of Service No. 3 includes all parcels that receive special benefit from intersection, cul-de-sac, mid-block and mid-mid block (street light spaced less than 300 ft. apart along a street) street lighting.
Q7.  Can the Assessments increase in future years?
If additional street lighting is installed within their area it may result in an increase in their annual assessment.   This is because they may receive a higher level of service (e.g. moving from Level 1 service to Level 2 service).  Except for the situation above, the proposed assessments may only be adjusted in subsequent years without a vote in a percentage not to exceed the change in Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the San Francisco/Oakland/San Jose area or three percent (3%), whichever is lower.   The assessment amount may not be increased above these levels in future years unless a new balloting procedure is held and the increased assessment is not opposed by a majority of the ballots.
Q8.  How do we pay the Assessment?
All properties would pay the assessments annually as a line item on your property tax bill.
Q9.  Is there a public forum to debate lighting district assessments?
You have received along with this information a notice in the mail of the Public Hearing which is on June 27, 2000, to provide an opportunity for any interested person to be heard.  You may register your support or opposition to the Santa Clara County Lighting Service Area Assessment by submitting the enclosed “Ballot” to the County prior to the conclusion of the Public Hearing.
Q10.  What happens if there is not a majority protest against the Santa Clara County Lighting Service Area Assessment in any benefit zone?
The sole source of revenue for public street lighting in Santa Clara County Lighting Service Area has been from assessments and the street lighting program would continue in the future within each benefit zone that supports the assessment.
Q11.  What happens if a majority of the ballots oppose the Santa Clara County Lighting Service Area Assessment in any benefit zone?
If the assessment for operation and maintenance is not approved by the District voters in any benefit zone, the Board of Supervisors cannot levy the County Lighting Service Area Assessment for Fiscal Year 2000-2001 to fund the street lights within that zone.  Without a funding source, the street lighting service will be eliminated in that benefit zone.
Si tiene preguntas en español, favor de llamar al numero (408) 573-2465.


The sole source of revenue for public street lighting in Santa Clara County Lighting Service Area has been from assessments and the street lighting program would continue in the future within

  1. Applicant to complete a permit application form. Permits are issued to the owner of the property or the owner of the utility i.e., in the case of a utility, P.G.&E., San Jose Water Company, etc..
  2. Owner to sign and date the Worker's Compensation Acknowledgement Form that is provided by the Roads and Airports Department or submit a copy of the contractor's workmen's compensation insurance.
  3. Applicant to submit four (4) copies of their plans (include site plan) pertaining to the work within the County's right of way. Also, submit four (4) copies of your traffic control plans for projects that are located within County expressway systems or principal arterial roadways. Additional copies may be required depending on the nature and location of the project. Plan sheets should be no larger than 24" X 36". If other jurisdictions are involved, we will need evidence that they have been notified (such as a copy of a sanitary sewer "connect order" or copy of your P.G&E. agreement, etc.). The following guidelines should be used for plan submittals:
    • Vicinity Map
    • Site Plan Showing:
      • North Arrow
      • Engineer's Scale
      • County right of way limits (existing and proposed)
      • Edges of roadway pavement
      • Road lane lines and lane widths
      • Curb & Gutter and Sidewalk (if applicable)
      • Show any existing trees located within the right of way
      • If your project includes tree removal, label the tree's species, its trunk diameter (measured 4'6" from grade), its overall height and provide a photograph of the tree. Also, include a brief written statement which includes the reasons for the removal of the tree.
      • Existing and proposed drainage ditches (if applicable)
      • Existing and proposed storm drainage system (if applicable)
      • Existing and proposed street lights, traffic signals, loops and cabinets (if in the vicinity of your project)
      • Driveway approach location(s) - Include on site plan
      • Show existing utilities (i.e., pole locations, down guys, etc.)
    • For bore and jack or directional bore operations, in addition to the above:
      • Show the size and location of your sending and receiving pits. Pits must be located outside of the paved portions of expressway pavement.
      • Show the size and location of potholes that will be used to monitor your operation when crossing existing utilities such as a gas main.
    • For work within county expressways:
      • Submit four (4) copies of a traffic control plan. Your traffic control plan must be in accordance with the Caltrans standard plans.
  4. Applicant to submit a cost estimate for the value of the work being performed within the County's right of way.
  5. Applicant to submit the permit fee and plan check fee. Fees are based on the valuation of the work and the Board of Supervisor's adopted fee schedule.
  6. Permit applications will be reviewed by a Roads and Airports Department's representative. Please allow for a 2 to 3 week review period.
  7. Once the application has been approved, an encroachment permit may be issued. Depending on the type of project, a performance bond may be required.

Encroachment permit applicants may contact a Roads and Airports Department's representative at (408) 299-2198 for information regarding the permit process or the status of their permit application.
Note: This information is to serve as a guideline for encroachment permit applicants. Additional information (some examples: elevations, drainage calculations prepared by a registered civil engineer, sight distance plan prepared by a registered civil engineer, cross sections, etc.) may be required, depending on the size and scope of the project.

​There are two possible means to actuate the signal for a bicycle. Most of our signals utilize Loop Detectors (see above) They all should be sensitive to bicycles. Bicycles have very little metal compared to a car so the influence they have on the detection device is very small. It is best to pass through the center of the loop area passing across the loop wire at a 45 degree angle. If the loop is visible on the surface of the pavement due to the patching of the saw slot this may be easy. If the loop is not visible, there may be a painted outline where the loop is located. Another way bicycles can actuate the signals is a bicycle pushbutton. These are usually adjacent to the right lane and have a special bicycle symbol on the information plate by the button. The pedestrian pushbutton may also be used.
​An encroachment permit is a written permit authorizing certain work to be done within a County publicly maintained right of way. A construction permit is issued in lieu of an encroachment permit when the public right of way or easement in which the work is being performed is not maintained by the County's Roads and Airports Department and is within the County's jurisdiction.

County of Santa Clara

Roads and Airports Department
Planning Office
County Government Center, East Wing, 7th Floor
70 West Hedding Street
San Jose, California 95110-1705
Phone (408) 299-2198 FAX (408) 947-1165
(Owner's Form)
I, the undersigned, certify that I am familiar with California Labor Code Section 3800, covering the
Certificate of Insurance or a consent to self-insure for workers' compensation insurance as a condition to
the issuance of a permit by the County.
I certify that in the performance of the work for which this permit is issued, I shall not employ any person
in any manner so as to conflict with the workers' compensation laws of California.
              Owner's Signature:_________________________________
If applicable, reference your Plan Check and/or Land Development File Number
                Plan Check Number:________________________________

Land Development File Number:________________________________
Board of Supervisors: Donald F Gage, Blanca Alvarado, Pete McHugh, James T Beall Jr., S Joseph Simitian
County Executive: Richard Wittenberg

​An encroachment permit must be obtained prior to commencing any work within a County publicly maintained right of way, including County Expressways.


Examples of work requiring an encroachment permit:
  • Street and drainage improvements for major and minor subdivisions, and major and minor commercial development.
  • Expressway sound wall installation.
  • Traffic signal installation.
  • Installation of new underground utilities, i.e., water, electrical, gas, sewer, TV cable installation.
  • Repair and maintenance of utility services.
  • A driveway approach for either residential, commercial or agricultural property access.
  • Tree removal/tree trimming.
  • Drainage/culvert installation.
  • Installation of landscaping water lines.
  • Sidewalk repair/installation.
  • Traffic control, i.e., filming in right of way, certain special events, work requiring auto or pedestrian traffic diversion.
  • Street closure, i.e., certain special events, block parties, work requiring temporary closure of traffic lanes.

When a public right of way or easement is not publicly maintained by the Roads and Airports Department, an encroachment permit is not required. However, you may need to obtain a construction permit. Please contact the Surveyor's office at (408) 299-2871 for further information regarding construction permits.

  • A driveway approach for either residential, commercial or agricultural property access.
  • Tree removal/tree trimming.
  • Drainage/culvert installation.
  • Installation of landscaping water lines.
  • Sidewalk repair

​Applications must be submitted to the Roads & Airports Department at the Planning Office, located on the 7th floor, East Wing of the County Administration Building at 70 W. Hedding Street, San Jose, 95110.

Application requirements:

  • Signed Master Land Development Application.
  • Four site plans drawn to scale which include a location map and clearly defined work to be done in a County right of way.
  • The appropriate fees.
  • Signed Workers Compensation Certificate (if applicable).
  • Certificate of Insurance (if applicable).
  • Engineer's cost estimate of work within County right of way (if applicable).


​The permit evaluation process is normally complete within two weeks of the date of submittal of a complete application. However, this time frame may be extended if additional information is required from the applicant.
​Most traffic signals are traffic responsive utilizing some kind of vehicle detection system to provide information to the control system about the presence of vehicles at the intersection. This detection is usually by means of wires embedded in the pavement which act like metal detectors used to find coins at the beach. These are commonly called "Loop Detectors." When a metal object passes over the wires in the roadway a signal is sent to the control equipment which modifies the operation of the signal based on the presence of the vehicle. There are other means of detection that may be used such as microwave, sonic, and video detection. Video detection is becoming very popular as a means of vehicle detection.
A Roads & Airports Department representative at the Planning Office will review and evaluate the application and the submitted information. If the site requires a field investigation or special review, such investigation shall be completed prior to issuance of the encroachment permit. The evaluation process may include review by other departments due to the type of proposed work.