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The Town of Atherton has been assigned the allocations by income category, listed below for this cycle:
[Table: Town of Atherton 2023-31 RHNA Allocation]
Very Low & Low
Total New Housing Units
Projected Dwelling Units
Lot Splits (SB 9)
RM 10 (23 Oakwood)
PFS (Private Schools)
Multi-Family Residential Opportunity Sites
Dwelling Unit Total
Total Net New Units Above or below RHNA
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The Housing Element typically includes:
1. Housing Needs Assessment: Examine demographic, employment, and housing trends and conditions that affect the community's housing needs.
2. Evaluation of Past Performance: Review the prior Housing Element to measure progress in implementing policies and programs.
3. Housing Sites Inventory: Identify locations of available sites for housing development or redevelopment to ensure that there is adequate capacity to address the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA).
4. Community Outreach and Engagement: Implement a robust community outreach and engagement program, with a particular focus on outreach to traditionally underrepresented groups.
5. Constraints Analysis: Analyze and recommend remedies for existing and potential governmental and nongovernmental barriers to housing development.
6. Policies and Programs: Establish policies and programs to fulfill the identified housing needs
The State of California determines the number of homes that are needed for the Bay Area, consistent with state law. The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) then distributes a share to each local government in the nine (9) Bay Areas counties. Each jurisdiction is assigned a portion of the regional need at various income levels based on factors such as future population, access to jobs, and other factors. This assignment is known as the Regional Housing Need Allocation (RHNA) and is intended to promote the following objectives:
Increase the housing supply and the mix of housing types in an equitable manner
Promote infill development that encourages alternatives to solo driving and reduces greenhouse gas emissions
Balance jobs and housing
Discourage housing development patterns that segment communities
Affirmatively further fair housing
Each jurisdiction must ensure there is enough land with appropriate zoning to accommodate its RHNA allocation in its Housing Element.
Housing Elements are a guide to all of the ways that a jurisdiction plans to meet the State mandate for affordable housing. The Housing Element will identify opportunity sites for different types of housing development and policies to guide that development. Those policies and development opportunities are translated into law via land use ordinances and zoning law.
The Town is presently predominately zoned single-family; but, with the adoption of the 6th Cycle Housing Element, the Town must identify and rezone property for multi-family development. Such multi-family development can occur at various levels of density (usually defined as how many housing units per acre). The Town is conducting an environmental review to determine the impacts of development at specific density levels in order to determine an appropriate level of density for particular properties.
Currently, the Town is looking at increased density at the following properties: (written as of 10/24/23):
999 Ringwood, 352, 318, and 296 Bay Road
175, 185, and 197 Ravenswood
properties in the Park and Open Space Zone
Private School sites
To figure out how many units a jurisdiction must meet, the State looks at several factors - existing jobs, population growth, socio-economic population data, commute, new jobs, existing housing, housing needs, etc.
After evaluating this data, the State assigns the region (the Bay Area), a number called the Regional Housing Needs Allocation or RHNA (pronounced 'ree-nah'). It is then up to the region, in the Town's case - the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) to decide how much each jurisdiction is responsible for based on their size and projections for growth (Plan Bay Area). This cycle, all jurisdictions have a higher target than in the past. More details about RHNA are available here. All jurisdictions must adopt a plan that meets or exceeds the allocation.
State law via the Housing Accountability Act (HAA) has a provision informally known as the 'builder's remedy' that provides that a local agency shall not disapprove a housing development project as defined within the Act, or condition it in a manner that renders it infeasible. The option for 'builder's remedy' only exists while the jurisdiction is not in compliance with State law (i.e. a housing element that is not certified by the State). The project proposed as the builder's remedy must meet certain criteria - such as the provision of housing for very-low, low-, or moderate-income households, or an emergency shelter. Such projects are subject to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
In order for a project to qualify for the builder's remedy, the development must be either 20% affordable to low-income categories, or 100-percent affordable to moderate income categories. Such projects are defined as residential units only; or mixed use developments with at least 2/3rds designed for residential use; or transitional or supportive housing.
The Town of Atherton has not yet received any builder’s remedy project proposals, but our neighbors in Menlo Park and Los Altos Hills have.
The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires governmental agencies to inform decision-makers and the public about the potential environmental impacts of proposed projects or decisions, and reduce those impacts to the extent feasible.
The Housing Element Update is subject to CEQA and the Town prepared a Negative Declaration upon its initial adoption of the Housing Element in January 2023, but before proceeding any further with policy and ordinance adoption, the Town has to conduct a full CEQA analysis. A CEQA analysis will evaluate the potential environmental impact of all selected opportunity sites at varying levels of project development and will recommend mitigation measures for significant impacts, as required.
CEQA has a public review component and the Town will engage the public in the process along the way. All polices, programs, zone changes and changes to opportunity sites must be evaluated as part of CEQA.