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Share Feedback on Housing Priorities

Draft Housing Element Public Comment Period Now Available

Providing housing for all income levels is a focus for all Bay Area cities, including Palo Alto. Palo Alto has long been a leader in the production of affordable housing and currently has the second highest inventory of affordable housing in Santa Clara County (as a percentage of total housing stock).

Share feedback on the City’s strategy for promoting safe, decent and affordable housing through the recent release of the draft 2023–2031 Housing Element. This community update provides details on what’s included in the draft Housing Element, how this will guide future housing, and upcoming ways to share feedback.

Affordable Housing: A Key Palo Alto Priority

As noted above, Palo Alto has the second highest inventory of affordable housing in Santa Clara County (as a percentage of total housing stock).

Since 2017, the City has contributed or pledged $54 million from its affordable housing fund or land value in support of affordable housing projects such as Homekey Palo Alto, Wilton Court, and 231 Grant Educator Workforce Housing.

Over the past 5 years, the City has contributed or plans to contribute to the construction of 218 affordable and workforce housing units, 108 emergency shelter rooms, and the City has preserved 117 affordable mobile homes at the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park. An additional 70 affordable housing units were built as part of a development agreement with Stanford University.

The City is currently reviewing applications and development agreements for additional affordable housing projects. Among these applications is a 129-unit affordable housing project on El Camino Real, a potential redevelopment of City surface parking lot(s) near University Ave to create affordable housing downtown, and a collaboration with the Sobrato organization which could include the dedication of 1 acre of land to the City for an affordable housing project. The City continues to explore ways to increase revenue for affordable housing, including recent November 2022 ballot measures, adjustments to affordable housing impact fees, and more.

Despite these efforts, more is needed to address California’s housing shortage. The Housing Element seeks to addresses this need with meaningful programs, policies, and goals to expand affordable housing opportunities in the City.

New! Recap of Recent Meetings

Learn more about recent events and related actions.

Housing Element Study Session

On November 28, the City Council held a joint meeting with the Planning and Transportation Commission to review and comment on the Public Review draft of the 2023–31 Housing Element. The joint meeting was held to coincide with the state-mandated 30-day public review period. In the meeting, staff proposed to add four new Housing Element programs (Lot Consolidation Program, SOFA Objective Standards, Annual Zoning Updates, and Circulation to Water Suppliers) and and requested the Council to provide any additional direction for the Housing Element. The Planning and Transportation Commission provided initial comments and questions about the draft followed by Council questions and discussion. The Council supported the inclusion of all four programs and provided some additional revisions to existing programs. City staff will revise the draft based on Council direction and public comment received. The draft will be submit to the California Department of Housing and Community Development in December 2022.

Watch the meeting and find additional materials here.

The 30-day public review period ends on December 7, 2022. The public is urged to review and submit any comments by December 7. The Public Review draft can be found on the City’s Housing Element website at www.paloaltohousingelement.com. Comments and questions can be submitted to the City at heupdate@cityofpaloalto.org.

Housing Element Update Community Meeting

On November 16, 2022, the City hosted a virtual Community Meeting for the Public Review draft of the Housing Element. City staff presented an overview of the draft Housing Element and then received comments and answered questions. Comments included concerns about ADU development, the need for greater ground floor retail protection, and climate change measures. Questions ranged from “What constitutes affordable housing?” to questions about the Housing Element update process. Thank you to the approximately 25 attendees for your participation.

Find upcoming opportunities to ask questions and share feedback below.

Opportunities to Engage

Community engagement is vital to the Housing Element update process.

Here are a few ways to share feedback.

Email List to Receive Housing Element Updates

  • Learn more about public engagement opportunities and the Housing Element update process from staff by signing up for emails here. (click How to Get Involved)

Ask Questions or Provide Comments

  • Please reach out to Tim Wong, Senior Planner, at HEupdate@CityofPaloAlto.org with questions or comments about the Palo Alto Housing Element Update.

Connect with the City on Housing Issues

What is a Housing Element?

The Housing Element provides a strategy for promoting safe, decent and affordable housing in Palo Alto. The Housing Element looks at current and future housing needs (and the constraints people might encounter when meeting these needs) and provides a strategy that establishes housing goals, policies, and programs.

Because communities evolve and the needs of residents change over time, State law requires an update to the Housing Element every 8 years. The current Housing Element was adopted in 2014 and covers years 2015–2023, while the new Housing Element is expected to be adopted in 2023 and covers years 2023–2031. Following local adoption, and as a final step, the updated element will require state review and certification.

Wilton Court Affordable Housing Project in Palo Alto

Some of the key elements of the strategic plan on housing are a community needs assessment, identifying potential sites for housing, and more. A brief summary of the Housing Element focus areas are noted below:

  • Community Needs Assessment: a complete analysis of the specific housing needs of the Palo Alto community and an inventory of the resources and constraints relevant to addressing those housing needs.
  • Sites Inventory: an inventory of land suitable for residential development that could potentially accommodate housing projects. This interactive map allows you to locate sites that are proposed to be included in the Sites Inventory and view their attributes.
  • Constraints Analysis: an evaluation of governmental and nongovernmental barriers to housing production in Palo Alto. Potential barriers include housing market conditions, land costs, seismic and geologic hazards, and more.
  • Goals, Policies, and Programs: the Housing Element also identifies specific analyses, policies, actions, and goals required to meet community housing needs and/or comply with applicable State law.

Quick Links:

Housing Element Website

Draft Housing Element

Past Accomplishments

Site Inventory and Palo Alto Housing Element Update Interactive Map

More Online Resources

View the Draft Housing Element or visit the Housing Element Webpage.

View the 2015–2023 Housing Element

View the Palo Alto Housing Element Update Interactive Map

View the Palo Alto Comprehensive Plan

View the Palo Alto Zoning Code

View the Governor’s Office of Planning & Research, General Plan Guidelines: 2017 Update

View the Department of HCD, Housing Element Memos Webpage

View the ABAG Regional Housing Needs Allocation Draft Methodology

View the Regional Housing Needs Allocation Draft Methodology: San Francisco Bay Area, 2023–2031

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