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”).
September 25, 2023 Updates
Upcoming Meetings on 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 will be presented to the Planning Commission on October 11 and to the City Council on November 1. A postcard announcing these meetings will be 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 will also be 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 roughly 294 new housing units.
October 11, 2023
|In-Person Participation |
Saratoga City Hall, Civic Theater
13777 Fruitvale Avenue, Saratoga CA
Meeting URL: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82652375945
Meeting ID: 826 5237 5945
Call In: 1.408.638.0968 or 1.669.900.6833
To be posted on the City website by October 6, 2023
|City Council |
November 1, 2023
Saratoga City Hall, Civic Theater
13777 Fruitvale Avenue, Saratoga CA
Meeting URL: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81627041223
Meeting ID: 816 2704 1223
Call In: 1.408.638.0968 or 1.669.900.6833
To be posted on the City website by October 27, 2023
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.
- Housing Element Third Draft (PDF)
- Appendix A: Community Outreach (PDF)
- Appendix B: Housing Needs Data Report (PDF)
- Appendix C: Past Performance (PDF)
- Appendix D: Fair Housing Assessment (PDF)
- Appendix E: Glossary of Terms (PDF)
- Appendix F: HCD Sites Inventory Spreadsheet (Excel)
Previous Housing Element Drafts, Comments, and Related Documents
- Housing Element Second Draft (PDF)
- Housing Element Initial Draft (PDF)
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.
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.
|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 its 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 to participate in the Housing Element Update. You can view recordings of the presentations given at those meetings:
- April 2021 Community Meetings Presentation Video
- April 2021 Community Meeting Presentation Slides (PDF)
- June 2021 Community Meetings Presentation Video
- June 2021 Community Meeting Presentation Slides (PDF)
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)
- YouTube Video 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 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.
|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