Housing Element Update

Housing Element Overview

The City is in the process of updating the next General Plan Housing Element. Every eight years, California cities are required to update their Housing Element to plan for projected housing needs. Based on the methodology for distributing projected housing needs in the Bay Area to the different jurisdictions in the region, Saratoga needs to plan for over 1,700 new housing units to be built in Saratoga between 2023 and 2031. Each city and county is assigned a number as part of the Regional Housing Needs Assessment or “RHNA” (pronounced “reena”). 

Learn more about the RHNA methodology and allocation, as well as State housing legislation, that shape the Housing Element update process.

February 2, 2024 Update

The Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) addressing the 6th Cycle Housing Element Update, Safety Element Update, 2040 General Plan Update, and Associated Rezonings is complete. The public review period on the completed EIR will end on February 13, 2024, at 5:00 p.m. Comments may be submitted to Bryan Swanson, Community Development Director.  

January 26, 2024 Update

At the January 17, 2024, City Council Meeting, the Council approved responses to comments (PDF) received from HCD on the third draft of the Housing Element. The responses were used to prepare a fourth draft of the Housing Element, available below. The Public Review period for the Final Environmental Impact Report begins on February 2, 2024, and ends on February 13, 2024, at 5:00 p.m. The Planning Commission will be conducting a Public Hearing on the completed Housing Element, Zoning Amendments, the Environmental Impact Report, and the 2040 General Plan Update on February 14, 2024. The City Council will consider the Planning Commission’s recommendation on the documents at a Public Hearing scheduled for March 20, 20224.

January 18, 2024 Update

At the January 17, 2024, City Council meeting, the City Council approved responses to comments received from the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) on the third draft of the Housing Element. The responses were used to prepare a fourth draft of the Housing Element. The City is submitting the fourth draft of the Housing Element to HCD the week of January 22, 2024. Once submitted, it will be placed on the website for public review.


The Planning Commission is scheduled to meet on February 14, 2024, where they will receive public comments on the 2040 General Plan update, which includes the 2023-2031 Housing Element, provide comments to the City Council on the 2040 General Plan update, and provide a recommendation to the City Council on the 2040 General Plan.


November 2, 2023 Updates

Required New Housing Element Policy Proposals and Builder's Remedy Projects

The California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) conducted its review of the third draft of Saratoga's 2023-2031 Housing Element and provided comments in the State's Third Comment Letter (PDF). The most recent comments from the State call for actions to increase housing and affordability in existing single-family neighborhoods. 

These policies were presented to the Planning Commission on October 11 and then to the City Council on November 1. 

A postcard announcing these meetings was sent to all households in Saratoga. The community will be able to review and give feedback on the policies before and during these meetings. Meeting participation information is below. Subscribe to the Housing Element Newsletter to be notified when the drafts are available.

Information about Builder’s Remedy projects in Saratoga was also shared at these meetings. Under California law, Saratoga is subject to Builder’s Remedy projects while awaiting State approval of the Housing Element and is required to approve qualifying housing developments even if they are inconsistent with the City’s General Plan (lot sizes and housing type) or zoning regulations (height and setbacks). The City has received several Builder’s Remedy Project applications that may result in the addition of 294 new housing units.

Planning Commission October 11, 2023 Meeting

City Council November 1, 2023 Meeting

Third Draft of Housing Element

At the May 17 City Council Meeting, the Council approved responses to comments (PDF) received from HCD on the second draft of the Housing Element. The responses were used to prepare a third draft of the Housing Element, available below, which was available for public review and comment through May 26. 

Previous Housing Element Drafts, Comments, and Related Documents

Objective Design Standards

State law requires Cities to adopt objective design standards to streamline and increase housing production for qualifying housing projects. The Planning Commission held a Study Session on April 12 to review draft objective design standards that will be applicable to the new Housing Element mixed-use sites and the existing public administrative and commercial zoning districts. The Commission also reviewed modifications to the City Code to include development standards for the new mixed-use districts. Feedback from the Planning Commission will be incorporated into the final draft and presented with the Housing Element Update.

Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR)

The Draft Environmental Impact Report (PDF) addresses the 6th Cycle Housing Element Update, Safety Element Update, 2040 General Plan Update, and Associated Rezonings. Comments or questions regarding the Draft EIR were due by March 14. A Final EIR is now being prepared, which will respond to comments received and may also include corrections, clarifications, and additional explanatory information.

The EIR addresses environmental impacts associated with the adoption and implementation of this project. The Notice of Preparation of the EIR (PDF) for the Housing Element Update, Safety Element Update, 2040 General Plan Update, and associated rezonings was initially released in February 2022. 

Next Steps

Make sure you subscribe to the City's Housing Element Newsletter to receive future updates.

February 16, 2022, City Council Meeting & Decisions

At their meeting on February 16, 2022, the City Council approved the list of opportunity sites, distribution of units, and policies and programs to include in the project description for the Environmental Impact Report for the General Plan and Housing Element Update. A summary of the opportunity sites is available below.

Opportunity Sites

AreaDensity RangeMinimum HomesMaximum Floors
Prospect/Lawrence80 50 units/acre41010
Fellowship Plaza20 units/acre803
Gateway (North)15 25 units/acre442
Gateway (South)30 40 units/acre1973
Village East30 40 units/acre873
Saratoga Avenue30 – 40 units/acre3443
WardellR-1-12,50010 (estimated)2
Allendale/ChesterR-1-20,00024 (estimated)2
Quito/PollardR-1-10,00010 (estimated)2
Total
1,206

Regional Housing Needs Allocation Details

Income Category
RHNA Distribution
Draft RHNA with Buffer
Very Low
27%
499
Low
15%
287
Moderate
16%
306
Above Moderate
42%
791
Total

1,883
Pipeline + ADUs + Vacant Sites144153144260701
Prospect/Lawrence1116166172410
Fellowship Plaza8000080
Gateway (North)0073744
Gateway (South)53303183197
Village East2313143787
Saratoga Avenue935255144344
Wardell0001010
Allendale/Chester0002424
Quito/Pollard0001010
Estimated Total by Income Category5043093177771,907
(Shortfall)/Overage52211(14)24

Programs and Policies

  1. Increase story limits for multi-family development projects to accommodate the allowable density on opportunity sites.
  2. Standardize height limits in the CH-1 and CH-2 districts by increasing the height limit in CH-2 from 26 feet to 35 feet because three-story structures are allowed in both districts.
  3. Reduce setback requirements for smaller parcels to reduce development barriers.
  4. Reduce or eliminate permit fees to encourage the production of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and Junior ADUs that are deed-restricted for affordable housing.
  5. Further streamline the permit process for ADUs by developing a Permit Ready ADU Program to offer property owners a selection of pre-approved ADU building plans.
  6. Develop outreach programs to promote ADUs through more channels.
  7. Create a new land use and zoning designation for mixed-use sites, which allows 100% residential as an option for some sites.
  8. Retain only commercial land use and zoning for the Argonaut Shopping Center comprised of assessor parcel numbers: 393-01-024, -025, -026, -028, and 393-01-041, -042.
  9. New multi-family housing developments consisting of five or more units will be required to dedicate 15% of the units as affordable housing to moderate-income households.

Participate 

Housing Element Newsletter

Sign up for the Housing Element Newsletter to receive updates and learn how you can be involved in shaping the Housing Element.

Watch Meetings and View Agendas

You can view agendas, staff reports, videos, and resources from meetings below:

City Council Meetings

Meeting DateMeeting AgendaMeeting Video
December 14, 2021December 14 AgendaDecember 14 Video
January 10, 2022January 10 AgendaJanuary 10 Video
January 19, 2022January 19 AgendaJanuary 19 Video
January 20, 2022January 20 AgendaJanuary 20 Video
January 28, 2022January 28 AgendaJanuary 28 Video
February 16, 2022February 16 AgendaFebruary 16 Video

The Planning Commission held a series of four Community Meetings on the Housing Element Update seeking ideas and input from community members. Each meeting had a different focus to help the Planning Commission shape its recommendation to the City Council. 

Planning Commission Community Meetings

Meeting DateMeeting AgendaMeeting Video
October 27, 2021October 27 AgendaOctober 27 Video
November 9, 2021November 9 AgendaNovember 9 Video
November 22, 2021November 22 AgendaNovember 22 Video
December 7, 2021December 7 AgendaDecember 7 Video
October 11, 2023October 11 AgendaOctober 11 Video


Community Meeting Resources:

The City also hosted a number of community meetings in April and June to prepare the community to participate in the Housing Element Update. You can view recordings of the presentations given at those meetings:

Small Group Meetings

There are also opportunities to discuss these subjects in smaller settings. Invite the City to join you for a meeting with your neighbors and friends in Saratoga to discuss the Housing Element.

There is no minimum or maximum for small group meetings. They can be held anywhere, from your living room or backyard to a park or hosted by the City on Zoom. 

During the meeting, City staff will give share a brief presentation on the Housing Element and then open it up for questions. Meetings typically last an hour depending on the number of questions. Staff is available to attend meetings on weekdays, nights, and weekends.

Need guidance on how to organize a small group meeting or invite your neighbors and friends to attend? Let us know when you fill out the small group meeting request form.

Video Series

The City created a series of videos to share information about the Housing Element Update process. Please watch the videos in this series to learn about the following topics:

Housing Element Values Survey

From June through July 2021, the City invited the public to participate in the Housing Element Values Survey. The City received 743 responses. The goal of this survey was to gain a better understanding of community values and priorities. 

View the Housing Element Values Survey results


Housing Element 

The Housing Element is one of the seven General Plan elements each City must have. The Housing Element serves as a blueprint for future housing development and includes the following components:

  • Housing Needs Assessment that provides demographic and housing need information for the City. 
  • Constraints Analysis of existing and potential constraints on housing development and how those will be addressed. 
  • Evaluation of Past Performance that assesses the City’s progress in implementing the policies and programs in the previous Housing Element.
  • Housing Sites Inventory and Analysis that identifies sites available for development or redevelopment and that are appropriately zoned to support housing development.
  • Policies and Programs that are designed to address housing needs in the City. 
  • Community Outreach efforts conducted as part of the Housing Element update. 

General Plan 

A General Plan is a long-term policy document that provides guidance for managing a City’s physical, social, and economic resources. It provides a basis for decisions that affect future growth and development. It also identifies the community’s shared vision for the future and addresses the unique characteristics and needs. Elements of the General Plan are different chapters that focus on specific topics. 


Update Process 

The City of Saratoga’s current Housing Element became effective in 2015 and must be updated by 2023. Following public review and consideration by the Planning Commission and City Council, the City must submit a draft of the Housing Element to the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) for its review. The City must adopt the final Housing Element and submit it to HCD by January 2023. 


Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA)

The table below shows the RHNA allocation for the City of Saratoga, as well as the City’s RHNA allocation for the current 2015-2023 Housing Element and the 2007-2014 Housing Element.

The Saratoga City Council appealed its RHNA allocation on July 7, 2021, requesting a 50% reduction in its RHNA from 1,712 to 856 housing units. ABAG received 28 appeals from Bay Area jurisdictions, which included 6 appeals from Santa Clara County. These were submitted by Saratoga, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Monte Sereno, Palo Alto, and Unincorporated Santa Clara County. The appeal hearing for Saratoga's draft RHNA was held on October 22, 2021. ABAG denied all appeals submitted by local jurisdictions, with the exception of the appeal submitted by the County of Contra Costa due to an error.

CycleTotalVery Low IncomeLow IncomeModerate IncomeAbove Moderate Income
2007-201429245 (15%)90 (31%)68 (23%)57 (20%)
2015-2023439147 (33%)95 (22%)104 (24%)93 (21%)
2023-20311,712454 (27%)261 (15%)278 (16%)719 (42%)

The table below shows the RHNA allocations for all jurisdictions in Santa Clara County:

JurisdictionRHNAPercentage of Santa Clara County RHNA
San Jose62,20247%
Sunnyvale11,9669%
Santa Clara11,6329%
Mountain View11,1359%
Milpitas6,7135%
Palo Alto6,0865%
Cupertino4,5883%
Unincorporated3,1252%
Campbell2,9772%
Los Gatos  1,9932%
Los Altos1,9582%
Gilroy1,7731%
Saratoga
1,7121%
Morgan Hill1,0371%
Los Altos Hills4891%
Monte Sereno1931%
County Total
129,579
100%

Housing Elements must include plans to accommodate the housing units for each income level identified in the final RHNA allocation. The income levels are based on the Area Median Income (AMI) determined annually for each county by HCD. The 2020 AMI for Santa Clara County is $151,300 for a four-person household. The thresholds for the different income levels for a four-person household are listed below: 

  • Very Low Income: Less than $82,850
  • Low Income: $82,850 to $117,750
  • Moderate Income: $117,750 to $181,550
  • Above Moderate Income: More than $181,550 

Learn more about the RHNA methodology and allocation, as well as State housing legislation, that shape the Housing Element update process.


Housing Sites Inventory 

The Housing Sites Inventory is a key part of the Housing Element. The inventory must show the specific sites in the City that have zoning adequate to ensure that the number and types of units in the City’s allocation can be built. Recent changes in State law require more detail on these sites than was required for the past Housing Element. Specifically, new state laws require that the siting inventory include: 

  • Adequacy of infrastructure to support the site; 
  • Adequacy of the site size to accommodate housing for lower-income households as such projects typically require 50-150 units. 
  • The RHNA income category the site is expected to serve (if the site is later developed for a different income category the City must then identify a new site or sites for a similar amount of the targeted development type); 
  • A discussion of whether the site was included in previous inventories and, if so, why it has not yet been developed; 
  • A description of how the sites affirmatively further fair housing (defined as taking meaningful actions that, collectively, address significant disparities in housing needs and in access to opportunity, replacing segregated living patterns with truly integrated and balanced living patterns, transforming racially and ethnically concentrated areas of poverty into areas of opportunity, and fostering and maintaining compliance with civil rights and fair housing laws. 
  • For sites that are not vacant, an explanation of why it is reasonable to expect that the site will be redeveloped with housing before 2031.  

Resources

Timeline

DateActivity
January/February 2021
  • Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) submits Draft Methodology to HCD for review
Spring 2021
  • Community conversations about community priorities and values and Housing Element policy options  
  • ABAG receives HCD feedback, develops final methodology, and release draft allocations
Summer 2021
  • RHNA appeal period
Winter 2021
  • ABAG assigns final RHNA allocation
  • Begin drafting Housing Element
Fall 2022
  • City Council reviews draft Housing Element, General Plan update, and Environmental Impact Report (EIR), and submit draft Housing Element to HCD for comments
Winter 2022
  • City Council adopts Housing Element, General Plan update, and certifies EIR after HCD tentative approval
January 2023
  • Housing Elements due