Housing Element Update
Housing Element Overview
The City is in the process of updating 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 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”).
November 23, 2022 Updates
State Review of Housing Element Initial Draft
The initial draft of the City’s 2023-2031 Housing Element was submitted to the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) after receiving public comment. HCD conducted its preliminary review and provided their feedback in the State Comment Letter (PDF).
City Council Meeting – December 7, 2022
At the City Council meeting on December 7, the Council will review draft responses to HCD’s comments. These responses detail the changes that will be implemented in the draft Housing Element. View the responses and other Housing Element materials on the meeting agenda and share your feedback at the meeting in person or via Zoom. You can also submit written comments to the Council before the meeting.
Environmental Impact Report
We anticipate the draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) will be made available for public review during the week of December 19. The City will add an additional 15 days to the required 45-day review period, providing an extended 60-day public review and comment period. Details about how to share input will be provided when the draft EIR is released.
The EIR will address the 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.
Initial Draft of the Housing Element Submitted to HCD in July 2022
- Housing Element Initial Draft (PDF)
- Appendix A: Community Outreach (PDF)
- Appendix B: Housing Needs Data Report (PDF)
- Appendix C: Past Performance (PDF)
- Appendix D: Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (PDF)
- Appendix E: Glossary of Terms (PDF)
- Appendix F: HCD Sites Inventory Spreadsheet (Excel)
February 16 City Council Meeting & Decisions
At their meeting on February 16, 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.
|Area||Density Range||Minimum Homes||Maximum Floors|
|Prospect/Lawrence||80 – 50 units/acre||410||10|
|Fellowship Plaza||20 units/acre||80||3|
|Gateway (North)||15 – 25 units/acre||44||2|
|Gateway (South)||30 – 40 units/acre||197||3|
|Village East||30 – 40 units/acre||87||3|
|Saratoga Avenue||30 – 40 units/acre||344||3|
Regional Housing Needs Allocation Details
Draft RHNA with Buffer
|Pipeline + ADUs + Vacant Sites||144||153||144||260||701|
|Estimated Total by Income Category||504||309||317||777||1,907|
Programs and Policies
- Increase story limits for multi-family development projects to accommodate the allowable density on opportunity sites.
- 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.
- Reduce setback requirements for smaller parcels to reduce development barriers.
- Reduce or eliminate permit fees to encourage the production of Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) and Junior ADUs that are deed restricted for affordable housing.
- 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.
- Develop outreach programs to promote ADUs through more channels.
- Create a new land use and zoning designation for mixed-use sites, which allows 100% residential as an option for some sites.
- 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.
- 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.
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 Date||Meeting Agenda||Meeting Video|
|December 14, 2021||December 14 Agenda||December 14 Video|
|January 10, 2022||January 10 Agenda||January 10 Video|
|January 19, 2022||January 19 Agenda||January 19 Video|
|January 20, 2022||January 20 Agenda||January 20 Video|
|January 28, 2022||January 28 Agenda||January 28 Video|
|February 16, 2022||February 16 Agenda||February 16 Video|
The Planning Commission held a series of 4 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 their recommendation to the City Council.
Planning Commission Community Meetings
|Meeting Date||Meeting Agenda||Meeting Video|
|October 27, 2021||October 27 Agenda||October 27 Video|
|November 9, 2021||November 9 Agenda||November 9 Video|
|November 22, 2021||November 22 Agenda||November 22 Video|
|December 7, 2021||December 7 Agenda||December 7 Video|
Community Meeting Resources:
- Vacant Properties
- Commercial and Office Properties
- Community Facilities Properties
- City-Owned Properties
- Saratoga School District Properties
- Other Privately-Owned Non-Residential Properties
The City also hosted a number of community meetings in April and June to prepare the community participate in the Housing Element Update. You can view recordings of the presentations given at those meetings:
Sign up for the Housing Element Newsletter to learn about future opportunities to participate.
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.
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:
- Video 1: Housing Element Overview (6 minutes)
- Video 2: Regional Housing Needs Allocation (9 minutes)
- Video 3: Housing Element Legal Framework (5 minutes)
- Video 4: Participate in the Housing Element Update (4 minutes)
- Video 5: Housing Element Priorities and Values (8 minutes)
- Video 6: Housing Element Glossary (11 minutes)
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
|Cycle||Total||Very Low Income||Low Income||Moderate Income||Above Moderate Income|
|2007-2014||292||45 (15%)||90 (31%)||68 (23%)||57 (20%)|
|2015-2023||439||147 (33%)||95 (22%)||104 (24%)||93 (21%)|
|2023-2031||1,712||454 (27%)||261 (15%)||278 (16%)||719 (42%)|
The table below shows the RHNA allocations for all jurisdictions in Santa Clara County:
|Jurisdiction||RHNA||Percentage of Santa Clara County RHNA|
|Los Altos Hills||489||1%|
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
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.
- Regional Housing Needs Assessment Information
- 2023-2031 RHNA Timeline (PDF)
- Current 2015-2023 City of Saratoga Housing Element (PDF)
- January 25, 2021 City Council Study Session: Housing Element Update Kickoff
- March 3, 2021 City Council Meeting: Housing Element Engagement Strategy
- March 2021 Citywide Postcard – English (PDF)
- March 2021 Citywide Postcard – Chinese (PDF)
- April 2021 Community Meeting Presentation Slides (PDF)
- June 2021 Citywide Postcard – English (PDF)
- June 2021 Citywide Postcard – Chinese (PDF)
- June 2021 Community Meeting Presentation Slides (PDF)
- September 2021 Citywide Postcard – English (PDF)
- September 2021 Citywide Postcard – Chinese (PDF)
- December 2021 Citywide Postcard (PDF)
- HCD Housing Element Site Inventory Guidebook (PDF)