Coastside Cultural Resources of San Mateo County

An Approach to Developing A Protection Program for the San Mateo County Coastal Zone.

Prepared by the Department of Environmental Management, Planning Division, San Mateo County, Redwood City, California. September 1980.

This project is supported by a grant from the National Endowment For The Arts, Washington, D.C. a Federal agency.

Chapter 5


The program to protect coastal cultural resources is composed of various methods and implementation techniques. A major component in this program is delineating scenic corridors that define the space in which a majority of the cultural resources are located. It is here that the protection program will be most influential. Another area of great importance is community design, for in urban areas outside scenic corridors the design review process becomes a key element in protecting cultural resources. Also, the Historical and Cultural Resources Element to the County General Plan, Historic and Cultural Resources Protection Ordinance, and Historic Resources Advisory Board are major features in protecting historic buildings and structures.

In addition to these methods, other techniques can be employed to complement the protection program. These include: building codes for historic buildings, transfer of development rights, facade easements, tax incentives, revolving funds, acquisition, restrictive covenants, and private recognition.

The protection program describes (1) methods presently employed in San Mateo County and (2) additional methods of protection which may be used to supplement this program.



It became clear during the inventory process that coastal cultural resources are almost always included within the scenic corridor, or viewshed, of a roadway. Because of its rugged terrain, there are few roads on the San Mateo coast, and these are restricted to the coastal terrace and the valleys which cut into the mountainsides. It was along these limited lines of transportation, and at their cross-roads, that the majority of the early structures which grace the landscape were built. Along these roadways are also visible the great variety, grandeur, and beauty of the coastal landscape.

As the study evolved, it became increasingly evident that in rural areas a program based on view corridors along coastal roads provided a logical and practical approach to protecting cultural resources in their natural setting. In largely undeveloped regions, such as the San Mateo Coastside, any preservation and protection program must be looked at in terms of the total environment. Preservation must include not just man-made features, but an area large enough to sustain the qualities of the vast, open landscape that is so essential in maintaining the traditional character of the small towns and villages, farmsteads, and historical and cultural structures.

a. Scenic Roads Element
The Scenic Roads Element of the County General Plan establishes a system of County scenic roads and sets forth a program for the protection and enhancement of scenic qualities within adjacent scenic corridors. The scenic roads designated in the Element provide the basis for the system delineated in this program.
b. Delineation of Scenic Corridors
Scenic corridors are generally described as "the view from the road" and can best be defined as the visible land area outside a road right-of-way. Scenic corridors have been defined for all roads in the Coastal Zone designated as scenic roads in the Scenic Roads Element. They vary in width according to topography and vegetative cover; flat open areas will have wider corridors than steep, narrow canyons or densely wooded areas. The criteria used for defining scenic corridors are based on those developed by the State of California for Official State Scenic Highways. These criteria have been used as general guidelines.

In delineating scenic corridors for the coastal roads, the guidelines on Table III, which follows, have been employed. {My note: Map III and Map IV, not included here, show the delineation of the scenic corridors and the location of cultural resources in the Mid and South Coast.






Angle and Duration of View

Passengers in an automobile generally have a wide sweep of vision. Cyclists and hikers have even a wider scope. The angle at which the landscape features may be seen from the roadway, in both directions of travel, the foreground features framing them, and the period of time they can be observed all bear on the delineation of the corridor and must be taken into consideration.


Range of Visibility



When landforms, such as the crest of a ridge brings the range of vision from the roadway close to the right-of-way (e.g., half a mile), the entire visible area should be included in the corridor.

{my note: Chapter 5, Table III, to be continued later today.)

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This material provided by (june morrall)