The San Jose Environmental Services Department has developed voluntary guidelines to encourage solar orientation in new construction. These Solar Access Design Guidelines specify that the long axis of new dwellings should face within 30 degrees west and 45 degrees east of true south. Because houses in a subdivision usually face the street, planners in San Jose found that the easiest way to achieve solar orientation was to orient the streets within 30 degrees of the true east-west axis. Homes in such a subdivision would have good solar orientation by default.
Further suggested design guidelines include aesthetic concerns for residential communities. Solar devices should not block views or be placed where they are visible from the public right-of-way. If devices are attached to the building, they should lay flush with the roof line. If they are not attached to the building, collectors should be located in side or rear yards and screened by whatever landscaping is available to reduce their visibility. Exposed hardware, frames and piping should have a matte finish, and be consistent with the color scheme of the primary structure.
For more information about solar design guidelines: see the link above and pull up the "Residential Design Guidelines" to chapter 14 for the solar access guidelines. Click the following link to view the permitting requirements or call (408) 535-3555.