Housing Element Update

The City has kicked off the process to update the next General Plan Housing Element. Every 8 years, California cities are required to update their Housing Element to plan for projected housing needs. Based on the current methodology for distributing projected housing needs in the Bay Area to the different jurisdictions in the region, Saratoga may need 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.


The first step in addressing this challenge will be an extensive community engagement process to learn community values and priorities and to identify possible solutions and policy changes. While the updated Housing Element is not due until January 2023, starting this process early provides an opportunity for the community to fully participate in the Housing Element update process.

Sign Up for the Newsletter

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

Watch 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:

Take the Survey

Take the survey on Housing Element Priorities and Values by June 18. We want to hear from as many community members as possible to gain a better understanding of opinions on housing, values, and priorities before the June community meetings.

Submit Thoughts on RHNA Appeal

Complete this comment form by June 27 to share your thoughts on the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) appeal. Your comments will be shared with the City Council when they consider whether to file an appeal at the July 7 City Council Meeting.

Attend Community Meetings

The first three community meetings held in April 2021 provided an overview of the Housing Element update process and discussed topics community members had questions about. The goal of these meetings was to ensure everyone is fully prepared to participate in upcoming conversations about housing in Saratoga. View a video of the presentation from Community Development Director Debbie Pedro and presentation slides.

The upcoming community meetings in June will include conversations about community values and priorities, discussions on policy options, and time to answer questions. The three meetings will be held on different days and at different times to accommodate a variety of community members’ schedules. The content presented at all three meetings will be the same. The virtual meeting schedule and participation information is below: 

Host 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.

Share Questions or Comments

Use the question and comment form to share your thoughts on the Housing Element update. This input will be used to shape upcoming community engagement efforts to address the community's needs.

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 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 current estimated draft 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. This allocation for 2023-2031 is still a draft and will not be finalized until winter 2021. Jurisdictions may appeal their draft RHNA number during the summer of 2021.

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%)
2023-2031 (draft)1,712454 (27%)261 (15%)278 (16%)719 (42%)

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

JurisdictionDraft RHNA (May 2021)Percentage of Santa Clara County RHNA
San Jose62,20247%
Santa Clara11,6329%
Mountain View11,1359%
Palo Alto6,0865%
Los Gatos  1,9932%
Los Altos1,9582%
Morgan Hill1,0371%
Los Altos Hills4891%
Monte Sereno1931%
County Total

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.  



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