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”). 

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

March 20, 2023 Updates

Second Draft of Housing Element

The Housing Element Second Draft (PDF) has been updated to address public comments (PDF) and has been submitted to the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) for review. HCD conducted its review of the second draft and provided comments in the State's Second Comment Letter (PDF). The City is currently reviewing the State's comment letter and will provide more information, including opportunities for the community to provide input, in the coming weeks.

HCD previously reviewed the Initial Draft in October 2022 and provided feedback in the State's First Comment Letter (PDF). At the City Council meeting on December 7, the Council reviewed and approved the Summary of HCD Comments and Proposed Responses (PDF). The responses detailed changes that were implemented in the Second Draft of the Housing Element.  

Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR)

The Draft Environmental Impact Report (PDF) is available for public review. The Draft EIR 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.

Following the Draft EIR public review period, a Final EIR will be prepared. The Final EIR 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 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

Regional Housing Needs Allocation Details

Income Category
RHNA Distribution
Draft RHNA with Buffer
Very Low
Above Moderate

Pipeline + ADUs + Vacant Sites144153144260701
Fellowship Plaza8000080
Gateway (North)0073744
Gateway (South)53303183197
Village East2313143787
Saratoga Avenue935255144344
Estimated Total by Income Category5043093177771,907

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.


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 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 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

Community Meeting Resources:

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.

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 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%
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