Given that the City of Santa Clara consists of a built environment, new development typically represents an intensification. The design character of new developments, remodels and additions is the primary issue of community concern. In response, the City Council initiated an Architectural Review process incorporated into the zoning code, chapter 18.76.
The City recently adopted Single-Family Residential Design Guidelines to help guide residents/developers through remodeling or constructing new homes. The process can be better understood by reading this process handout.
In addition to the Single-Family Residential Design Guidelines, the City has Community Design Guidelines, originally adopted in 1986, which are used in the review of other development types.
The Architectural Review process is intended to serve the following purposes:
- Encourage the orderly and harmonious appearance of structures and properties;
- Maintain the public health, safety and welfare;
- Maintain property and improvement values throughout the City;
- Encourage the physical development of the City that is consistent with the General Plan and other City Regulations; and,
- Enhance the aesthetic appearance, functional relationships, neighborhood compatibility and excellent design quality.
Architectural Review Process
The Architectural Review process is the responsibility of the Architectural Committee or Zoning Administrator, as designated. The Architectural Committee is comprised of one City Council Member and two Planning Commissioners or their alternates. The Committee reviews plans and drawings submitted for architectural review for design, aesthetic considerations, and consistency with zoning standards, generally prior to submittal for Building Permits. The Architectural Committee may require the applicant or owner of any such proposed development to modify buildings, parking areas, landscaping, signs, and other facilities and improvements as conditions of approval. No permit shall be issued, and no structure, building, or sign shall be constructed or used in any case until such plans and drawings have been approved by the Architectural Committee.
How to apply for Architectural Review?
Applications requiring Committee review should be submitted at least three weeks prior to the Committee meeting. Applications shall be filed with the Planning Division and shall be accompanied by four (4) copies of fully dimensioned site plans, floor plans and elevation drawings of proposed structures. Applications must have the property owner’s signature prior to submittal. Detailed instructions and submittal requirements are provided on the application form. Such application shall be accompanied by a non-refundable fee as shown in the Planning Application Fee Schedule.
Committee Findings and Actions
In order to grant architectural approval, the findings and determinations of the Architectural Committee must be in accordance with the City of Santa Clara Municipal Code Section 18.76.020(c). The design and location of the proposed development must be in keeping with the character of the neighborhood and support harmonious development as specified by the Zoning Ordinance and the General Plan of the City. If the Architectural Committee is unable to make these findings and determinations necessary for architectural approval, the application will be denied.
Architectural Committee Meeting Dates
The meetings are generally conducted twice a month and are subject to public noticing requirements. The meetings usually occur on Wednesday evenings at 7:00 pm at the City Council Chambers. The Architectural Committee Meeting Schedule can be found on the meeting calendar.
Committee Policies and Procedures
The Committee’s policy is to limit discussion of each item to 15 minutes, except for complex proposals, at the Committee Chair’s discretion. The public may address the Committee on any item on the agenda when the Committee opens the item for comment. Members of the public are also provided with an opportunity to address the Committee on items within the jurisdiction of the Committee under Oral Communications at the end of the Agenda. The Committee is precluded from action or extended discussion on items not on the agenda, but may place an Oral Communication matter on a future agenda for consideration.
Architectural Committee Meeting Agendas can on the meeting calendar.
All Architectural Committee decisions are final, unless appealed in writing to the Planning Commission. In the event an applicant is not satisfied with the decision of the Architectural Committee, the decision may be appealed within 7 days after such decision in writing, to the Planning Commission and after payment of an appeal fee. Appeals will be set for hearing before the Planning Commission. The Planning Commission actions are appealable to the City Council in accordance with the procedures set forth in Santa Clara Municipal Code Section 18.108.060.
Any Architectural Review approval granted in accord with the City's adopted ordinances is automatically revoked and terminated if construction has not begun within two years of the original approval, unless an extension of time is authorized by the Director of Planning and Inspection.