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 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.

Attend Community Meetings with the Planning Commission

Join the City of Saratoga’s Planning Commission for a series of virtual community meetings where you can share your input on the Housing Element Update. Each meeting has a different focus to help the Planning Commission shape their recommendation to the City Council to meet Saratoga's housing targets. Please mark your calendar for the following meeting dates:

  • Wednesday, October 27 at 6 p.m.
    The Planning Commission invites the community to share their specific ideas for opportunity sites to build homes in Saratoga, as well as ideas for housing policies.
  • Tuesday, November 9 at 6 p.m.
    The Planning Commission invites the community to share their specific ideas for opportunity sites to build homes in Saratoga, as well as ideas for housing policies.
  •  Monday, November 22 at 6 p.m.
    The Planning Commission will recap ideas shared at the first two meetings, invite new ideas, identify the pros and cons of opportunity site ideas, and further discuss policy ideas. 
  • Tuesday, December 7 at 6 p.m.
    The Planning Commission will prioritize opportunity sites and policies to identify those that are preferred and prepare a recommendation to the City Council. 

Access information for all four community meetings is the same. You can join the meetings using Zoom or by calling in:

The following maps may be helpful to help prepare your ideas and recommendations: 

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.

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.

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.

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:

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 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. 

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 ABAG Executive Board will hold the appeal hearing for Saratoga’s draft RHNA on Friday, October 22. The schedule is available on the ABAG meeting agenda, along with information about attending or participating in person or remotely. The City will have 5 minutes to present its arguments, which are limited to the arguments presented in the written appeal. The public will also have an opportunity to comment on arguments presented related to the appeal. Each speaker will have 2 minutes to speak, unless adjusted by the Chair of the Board.  

Learn more about the RHNA appeals process, and how to participate in the appeal hearing when the information becomes available, on the ABAG website.

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