• Knights_vally500

Scenic Landscape Unit Expansion

Proposed Project

The Scenic Landscape Unit (SLU) is a tool that is adopted in the County’s General Plan to guide development in scenic hillside areas. The SLU functions as a mapped policy layer in certain hillside areas. When new structures are proposed on sites within an SLU, the structures are reviewed against design criteria by staff or the Design Review Board to ensure that scenic qualities of the site are considered when approving development plans. Like all mapped layers in the General Plan, the Zoning Ordinance implements the policy through zoning districts. The SLU design criteria are outlined in the regulations for the Scenic Resources (SR) combining district in the Zoning Ordinance.

The SLU design criteria are detailed in General Plan Policy OSRC-2d and are summarized below:

  • Site structures to substantially screen them from public roads.
  • Minimize grading on slopes.
  • Minimize the removal of trees and mature vegetation.
  • Where existing topography and vegetation would not screen structures from view from public roads, install landscaping to substantially screen structures from view.
  • Use building materials and colors that blend with the natural landscape.
  • On hills and ridges, avoid structures that project above the silhouette of the hill against the sky as viewed from public roads.
  • To the extent feasible, cluster structures on each parcel.

The County’s General Plan includes policy that directs staff to expand the SLU in the Cloverdale area to mirror the community’s growth boundaries. In addition to implementing this General Plan Policy, the Board of Supervisors directed staff to consider expanding the SLU in Franz Valley, Knights Valley, and the scenic hillsides surrounding Healdsburg and Cloverdale. After studying the areas that would benefit from SLU design review, staff has prepared a proposed SLU and SR combining district expansion.

Map Viewer of Project Area

The following mapping tool may be used to determine whether your property may be affected by the proposed action:
Proposed Scenic Landscape Units Map Viewer

Public Hearing

The Planning Commission held a public hearing on Thursday, May 16, 2019 to review the proposed amendments. You can view a video recap of this meeting:

California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)

The project is categorically exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) under Section 15308 of the CEQA Guidelines because it is an action taken by a local government to ensure the protection and enhancement of the environment including scenic resources.

Project Details

Details of the project are available at the Permit and Resource Management Department at 2550 Ventura Avenue, Santa Rosa, CA 95403.

Questions or Concerns?

If you have any questions or concerns regarding the proposed project please contact Eric Gage at:

Telephone: (707) 565-1391
Email: Eric.Gage@sonoma-county.org

Frequently Asked Questions

How does being in the SLU and SR affect my property’s development regulations?
Being in the SLU and SR does not change the land uses that allowed or existing development standards.

Can the SLU design criteria render a property undevelopable?
No, the design criteria are to be applied to the extent feasible at the discretion of the Director and may not render a parcel unbuildable.

Which projects are exempt from SLU design review?
Agricultural structures that do not require a use permit, Accessory Dwelling Units, and telecom facilities.

Is design review required for fire rebuilds?
Structures destroyed in the Complex Fire that are being rebuilt are subject to design review standards in the Disaster Recovery Ordinance, but are not subject to the design review process for the SLU and SR.

How are the General Plan design criteria implemented?
New structures are subject to design review based on the design criteria. To approve a project:

  1. The property owner/applicant should demonstrate through site plans, photos, or other documentation that the proposed structure will be minimally visible from public areas including roads to the extent feasible and reasonable.
  2. If the project will be visible from public areas, design review will be required. If the applicant can demonstrate that the project meets the design criteria then design review can be approved by staff over the counter, with a review fee of $152.
  3. If compliance with the design criteria cannot be confirmed at the counter, a more formal review will be initiated. A design review application ranges in cost depending on the scale of the project from $152 for small, simple projects to $1,900. Timelines for review may vary from two to eight weeks for more complex projects.

Do the design criteria conflict with fire safety requirements?
The design criteria DO NOT override any health and safety requirement of any other department or agency. Fire department review of building permits in Very High Fire Risk areas includes the requirement for a Vegetation Management Plan (VMP). The design review requirement for new structures within high and very high wildfire risk areas provides an opportunity for consultation with Fire staff. Any plantings for screening and maintenance of existing vegetation must be consistent with the VMP. A project that is considered to be screened from public view prior to implementation of a VMP will retain this designation after implementation of the VMP.

Does the SLU designation prohibit regular landscape maintenance and brush removal?
No, the SLU and SR do not prohibit brush removal, but vegetation removal in riparian areas still apply.

Contact Information

Eric Gage

Planner III, Permit and Resource Management

Contact us by Phone
2550 Ventura Avenue
Santa Rosa, CA 95403
38.465074, -122.723705