Designing Your Home at The Sea Ranch

The Sea Ranch Design Concepts
The Sea Ranch Design Process
Landscaping with Native Plants
Buildout Requires Even More Sensitivity
Green Building Responds to Costs
Meadow houses blend into the landscape. Photo copyright Jeanne Gadol.

The Sea Ranch is a planned community bound by a shared vision of respect for the natural environment. Here the beautiful and dramatic natural setting predominates. Homes are designed to blend in with their surroundings. Standard suburban elements such as street lights and sidewalks do not exist, and other elements such as lawns and boundary fences are kept to a minimum.

The appearance of The Sea Ranch is no accident. It derives from the deliberate decision to design and build homes according to the original concepts stated in The Sea Ranch Restrictions, Covenants and Conditions, commonly referred to as the CC&Rs.

The CC&Rs state:

"It must be assumed that all owners of property within The Sea Ranch, by virtue of their purchase of such property, are motivated by the character of the natural environment in which their property is located, and accept, for and among themselves, the principle that the development and use of The Sea Ranch must preserve that character for its present and future enjoyment by other owners."

The CC&Rs are the foundation by which The Sea Ranch community is governed. Article III of the CC&Rs lists the restrictions and regulations on private property at The Sea Ranch. Members accept limits on their freedom to do as they wish with their property in order to protect the integrity of the community and its environment.

The Sea Ranch Design Concepts

If you are planning to build or remodel a home at The Sea Ranch, your first step will be to become familiar with Sea Ranch design concepts and the design review process. The booklet, The Sea Ranch: Concept and Covenant, provides a quick overview of the history and development of The Sea Ranch design philosophy and briefly describes The Sea Ranch design process.

Additional Resources that may provide helpful background about The Sea Ranch concept:

  • The Virtual Tour of The Sea Ranch, a narrated slide presentation, illustrates the evolution of Sea Ranch design considerations and standards. (DVD available at the Association office)
  • Dream of The Sea Ranch, a digitally remastered documentary produced by Zara Muren in 1994. (DVD available at the Association office)
  • Books About The Sea Ranch
  • The Sea Ranch Audio Walking Tour:
    Architecture, Landscape, Intentions

The booklet, The Sea Ranch: Concept and Covenant, and other references on this web page are also available at the Association Office.

The Sea Ranch Design Process

The CC&Rs established the Design Committee to maintain Association design standards and to review all construction and landscaping plans.

No work may proceed without Design Committee approval. Members of the Design Committee and the staff of the Design, Compliance and Environmental Management (DCEM) Department work with you and your architect or designer in a collaborative design process to find the unique potentials of your site and to achieve building and landscape designs consistent with The Sea Ranch Concept.

The Sea Ranch Design Manual and Rules establish the guidelines and procedures which will assist you and your designer/architect through the process of designing and building a home at The Sea Ranch. Be sure to read it carefully before you start planning a home or remodel. The major steps in the design process are outlined in the Design Committee Review Procedures.

The Design Manual and Rules can be downloaded in four parts:

Proposals for all new structures and major additions are presented to the Design Committee for review and approval. Design approval must be obtained not only for new structures and remodeling but also for proposed refinishing, landscaping, tree planting or removal, signs, or other improvements. Work of lesser scope may be reviewed and approved by the DCEM staff.

While at first it may appear that the design restrictions placed upon your Sea Ranch property are severe constraints, it will help to think of them more as the protections they are intended to be. They exist to maintain architectural quality, protect property values, and uphold the philosophy of the early planners and architects.

A major consideration is that the home design be appropriate for the site. The site's location, its topography, neighboring homes, surrounding vegetation, and views should be the starting point for designing your home. The importance of site specific design (exemplified in the early development of The Sea Ranch) and the preservation of design quality is best explained in the following paragraph from the "Declaration of Restrictions, Covenants and Conditions":

"The Sea Ranch Concept embraces the idea that we can 'live lightly on the land,' and achieve a harmonious relationship with nature by introducing only structures that seem to exist within the landscape instead of intruding upon it. Fostering individual expression of this concept within acceptable constraints is, under the provisions of Article IV of The Sea Ranch Restrictions, the responsibility of the Design Committee."

Other constraints such as required setbacks, the home's ratio to lot size, height limitations, Bane Bill restrictions, and leachfield requirements for septic systems must be factored in as well.

Landscaping With Native Plants

With The Sea Ranch's emphasis on designing homes which blend into their natural surroundings, traditional landscaping designs and plantings are not appropriate.

Buildout Requires Even More Sensitivity

Most of The Sea Ranch lots have been developed. As we approach build out, more sensitivity must be given to other homes in the neighborhood and nearby homeowner concerns about views, vegetation management and privacy. Respecting the wishes and preferences of everyone is at times a difficult balancing act which requires a spirit of cooperation among neighbors

Green Building Responds to Costs

The Design Committee and DCEM staff have been encouraging the use of green building materials and techniques in response to concerns about the costs and availability of traditional materials such as redwood or cedar siding and the benefits of more energy-efficient building design and construction.


As more members come to live here full-time, they may want to expand the living space of weekend homes. Other owners may wish to refinish or remodel homes that are now thirty or forty years old. Design standards for remodeling are the same as for new construction, and owners who intend to remodel their homes should make certain that their expectations are realistic. Design constraints on aesthetics, house size, and impact on neighborhood views apply.