Over the past 22 years, House Family Vineyards has evolved from a few vines planted along Dave’s driveway, to a community facility with over 10 acres of vineyards, a winery and an open-air tasting deck. Over these many years, the House family has strived to work transparently with government agencies at the national, state, county and city level concerning the winery operation on their property. Numerous licenses and permits have been obtained (see FAQs).
Vineyards and winemaking are allowed uses on the property under the applicable zoning (HR) and land use laws of Saratoga. In fact, agriculture, and vineyards in particular, is a preferred use according to the Land Use Goals of Saratoga, in line with the city’s desire to preserve the history of the area, its natural environment and its rural character. In the case of grape farming the processing of grapes is winemaking. Growing and processing agricultural crops is a commercial business allow in the Hillside Residential (HR) district.
A winery, with tastings and events, is an allowed conditional use, and requires a Conditional Use Permit. Winery buildings also require building permits.
Our business began small and grew during the past decade. In 2014 House Family began investigating the construction of a wine cellar and worked with the city on requirements for building permits for that wine cellar. In a meeting on the existing deck in August of 2016 we discussed with the City our request for permits for both the then existing deck and a future wine cellar. We were informed by the City at that time that a CUP was also required even though our existing California Alcohol and Beverage Commission (ABC) Winery Type 2 license obtained in 2012 “Authorizes the sale of wine to consumers for consumption on premises”. We immediately began working with the city to obtain that CUP. At that same time the City asked House Family to develop a Master Plan that would combine the request for a CUP with the request for building permits for the deck and future wine cellar. The City also explained that they were completing such a Master Plan with the adjacent property, Cooper Garrod Winery.
This Master Plan required completing the design of the wine cellar in compliance with City building requirements. After much back-and-forth with architects, engineers, and the City of Saratoga, a plan for the wine cellar was completed in 2017.
In June 2017 House Family submitted its Master Plan to Saratoga. Saratoga in turn required approval from the Santa Clara County Fire Department (SCCFD). SCCFD subsequently rejected that application due to their requirement for an emergency fire access road and specified the type, size and material of that emergency fire access road. The SCCFE wanted a paved road. House Family wished for a more rural and landscape friendly, but sufficient solution. Following extended discussions and extensive engineering studies of the emergency fire access road construction requirements, an unpaved “all weather surface” design was agreed upon, and SCCFD approved the project in September 2019. After working out final details, the plans were submitted to the City on November 21, 2019. Following review by city consultants and items completed to satisfy their recommendations, the plan was submitted for community review on or about July 10, 2020.
The City recently opened a review period for that plan on July 10, 2020 and distributed notices according to City policy. Faced with many concerns and questions by neighbors and Saratoga residents, the House family has asked that that review period be extended. Saratoga has agreed to that extension. The House family has restricted House Family Vineyards’ operations during this extended review period.
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