4.0 Open Space

4.1 Findings
The hillsides provide a natural scenic resource for residents of the study area of Los Gatos, and of Santa Clara Valley as a whole. It forms a scenic backdrop which is visible from much of the urbanized North Valley area. Retention of this scenic resource through proper hillside residential controls has both an aesthetic and economic impact upon the local community, both Town and County.

Currently, the Local Agency Formation Commission is opposed to the inclusion of Williamson Act lands in urban service areas; however, the Town feels that all unincorporated lands within its urban service area should be annexed, including Williamson Act lands, and has incorporated provisions in its General Plan and Zoning Ordinance to accommodate such lands.

4.2 Goals
1. Preservation of large areas of the study area for appropriate kinds of open space, with appropriate consideration of costs to the public.

2. Protection of scenic roads and areas within the study area.

3. Protection of major watershed areas and natural waterways.

4. Study of the potential in the study area for recreation.

4.3 Policies
1. Open Space Easements:

Open space easements shall be required by the deciding body for hillside subdivisions in accordance with the topographical, ecological, aesthetic and other conditions pertinent to the making of such easements.

2. Open Space:

This plan supports the Mid-Peninsula Regional Open Space District in its search for and acquisition of sites within the study area.

3. Williamson Act Contract Lands in Urban Service Areas:

a. Placing lands in Williamson Act contracts should be encouraged by both Town and County.

b. Within the study area, those Williamson Act lands shown on the Town's General Plan as Open Space and accompanied by consistent prezoning should not be automatically excluded from the Town's urban service area.

4. Tree Removal:

The cutting of live trees shall be controlled under Town and County policies designed to restrict cutting.

5. Landscaping:

Landscaping plans shall be submitted by land developers for approval to the deciding body.

4.4 Implementation
1. Open Space Easements:

Open space easement policies shall be implemented for each subdivision or Planned Development application to protect creeks, ridgelines, stands of trees, scenic views, hazardous areas, and to provide for trails.

2. Open Space:

Periodic reports on its investigations and activities by the Mid-Peninsula Open Space District shall be requested and, when possible, acted upon.

3. Williamson Act Contract Lands:

Periodic reports on Williamson Act contract lands shall be provided.

4. Tree Removal:

a. The cutting of live trees should be limited in order to preserve the scenic beauty, prevent erosion of top soil, protect against flood hazards and risk of landslides, counteract air pollutants, provide wind breaks, and contribute to the value of the land.

b. Inside the urban service area boundary, the Town's regulations regarding tree removal shall be used; outside the urban service area the County policy for tree removal should be used.

c. The Town and the County will agree to allow the Town to administer and enforce the tree removal regulations in the unincorporated Urban Service Area.

d. The County should reaffirm its policy for the northern Santa Cruz Mountain region that no live trees with trunk circumference of 37.5 inches or more measured 4.5 feet above the ground are to be removed without approval of the deciding body.

e. Whenever protected trees are removed, the deciding body/official shall require a tree replacement program with the size and number of trees commensurate with the trees removed and the space available.

5. Landscaping:

Landscaping plans shall reflect the following considerations:

a. Use of high moisture content plant materials adjacent to residence and other measures for fire control recommended by Fire Marshal.

b. Retention of existing trees as defined in tree removal limitation regulation.

c. Utilization of plant materials with low fire danger (low combustibility).

d. Utilization of evergreen and screening plant types for "camouflaging" of development scars.

e. Retention of existing and addition of new planting for erosion control.

f. County reviewing committee should require landscape plans for individual building areas in the hillside planning area with implementation guarantees such as a two-year maintenance contract.

g. Building sites and construction visible from Town should be required to have landscape screening along the lower levels of site.

h. Vegetative clearance for development of sanitary leach fields shall be held to a minimum. Existing trees shall be retained and screening-type vegetation planted. Leach field expansion areas shall not be disturbed prior to need for installation.

i. Amendments should be added to the County grading regulations to provide for screening types of landscaping in addition to planting for erosion protection purposes in hillside areas.

6. Trails:

The development of a hillside trail network is an important goal of the Town of Los Gatos to increase public recreational opportunities as well as maximize access to regional parks and open space preserves. The trails shall be designed for pedestrian and equestrian use and for bicycle use where practical.

All new subdivision applications shall be reviewed for compliance with the Trails section of the Los Gatos and Santa Clara County General Plans. Trail easement dedication to the Town and construction of trails shall be a condition of subdivision approval. Wherever possible CCR's or maintenance districts shall be developed or formed so expenses of trail maintenance will be borne by property owners in the subdivision.

Trails should be located away from existing residential areas wherever possible. "Cross-country" type trails shall be developed, as opposed to trails bordering roads. Trails should be located through areas containing scenic natural resources and through areas dedicated for open space wherever possible.

Trail design standards consistent, wherever possible, with other local agencies, shall be developed that:

  • Limit trail use to pedestrian, equestrian, and, where practical, bicycle use only
  • Prevent use by all motorized vehicles
  • Protect the natural environment
  • Promote safe recreational use
  • Determine width, establish policies regarding fencing along trails and type of fencing, and incorporate erosion control measures