San Leandro Housing Element Update

About the Project

The City of San Leandro has updated its Housing Element. The California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) certified the adopted San Leandro 2023-2031 Housing Element Update on February 2, 2023. This website provides useful information on the community workshops, City public meetings, reports and resources, and materials that supported the update. The City appreciates the involvement of the residents and organizations that contributed to the development of the Housing Element Update.

Housing Element

The Housing Element is a policy document that provides a comprehensive strategy for promoting the production of available, affordable, and adequate housing within the community. It serves as a strategy to address housing needs across the economic and social spectrum. State law requires that cities and counties update their housing elements every 8 years. San Leandro last updated its Housing Element in 2015 and is now required to update it by January 31, 2023 for the period covering 2023-2031.

What is a Housing Element?

The Housing Element is a required part of the City’s General Plan intended to provide a comprehensive strategy for promoting the production of available, affordable, and adequate housing within the community. It serves as a strategy to address housing needs across the economic and social spectrum.

Every eight years, local governments must update their housing element and have it certified by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). The City’s current Housing Element was adopted in 2015 and covers the period from 2015 to 2023. San Leandro, like all Bay Area jurisdictions, is required to update its Housing Element by January 31, 2023. Learn more about the Housing Element here.

The Housing Element update includes many opportunities for the public to get involved.

Why is this important?

Since 1969, the State of California has required that all cities and counties adequately plan to meet the housing needs of everyone in the community. State law requires each jurisdiction to accommodate its fair share of affordable housing, as an approach to distribute housing needs throughout the state.

Providing housing to meet the needs of all income levels is important to the social and economic health of a city. For Bay Area communities like San Leandro, it can be challenging to meet the housing needs of teachers, nurses, and other workers who struggle to secure quality housing close to their workplaces. Lack of affordable housing can also prevent a multi-generational community with deep roots as children who grew up in San Leandro have a harder time affording to live here.

Having an approved housing element makes San Leandro eligible for a variety of State or other public financings, including funds for affordable housing, parks, and infrastructure. If the City does not meet its deadline to adopt its updated Housing Element, it could face fines and lawsuits from the State. A court may limit local land use decision-making authority until the City brings its Housing Element into compliance.

What will the Housing Element Update Include?

As cities grow and evolve, the population’s housing needs change. The Housing Element Update will assess how current demands are being met and plan for projected housing needs over the next eight years. San Leandro continues to prioritize affordable housing available for all residents, tailored to the unique demographics of the community. The results of the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) allocation will inform planning and development to support the evolving housing needs of San Leandro residents.

In accordance with State law, the Housing Element Update must include the following:

  • A detailed analysis of the City’s demographic, economic, and housing characteristics.
  • A comprehensive analysis of constraints to producing and preserving housing.
  • A review of the City’s progress in implementing current housing policies and programs.
  • Identification of goals, objectives, and policies, in addition to a full list of programs that will implement the vision of the plan.
  • A list of sites that could accommodate new housing, demonstrating the City’s ability to meet the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA).

Also in accordance with State law, the Housing Element Update requires updates to the General Plan to address environmental justice and natural hazards in San Leandro. More information about these related General Plan amendments will be posted as the project evolves.

Related Regulations

Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA)

RHNA is a process driven by the State that quantifies the housing need for each jurisdiction. The State determines each planning region’s housing needs based on demographic information and anticipated growth in the area. The regional planning body, known as a “council of governments” or COG, then allocates the housing need amongst all the jurisdictions within its region. The allocation is updated periodically, and the COG for the San Francisco Bay Area, the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), is in the process of finalizing the sixth cycle RHNA plan, to be adopted in late 2021.

The RHNA allows communities to anticipate and plan for growth in a smart and sustainable way that enhances the quality of life and access to resources. The Housing Element Update must address the sixth cycle RHNA for San Leandro.

In consultation with HCD, ABAG developed the Draft RHNA Methodology and Final RHNA Subregional Shares, which detail the City’s allocation, separated into four income categories: Very Low Income, Low Income, Moderate Income, and Above Moderate Income.


San Leandro Draft RHNA

Income TypeNumber of Units
Very Low Income862
Above Moderate1,802

State Legislation

Many new State housing laws relevant to this Housing Element update cycle have been enacted since the City of San Leandro’s last Housing Element update was adopted and certified in 2015. The draft Housing Element Update will incorporate and address pertinent housing law changes through analysis, new policies, or new programs. The relevant laws include:

  • Affordable Housing Streamlined Approval Process: Senate Bill (SB) 35 (2017), Assembly Bill (AB) 168, and AB 831 – These bills support a streamlined, ministerial review process for qualifying multifamily, urban infill projects in jurisdictions that have not approved housing projects sufficient to meet their state‐mandated RHNA.
  • Additional Housing Element Sites Analysis Requirements: AB 879 (2017) and AB 1397 (2017) – These bills require additional analysis and justification of the sites included in the site’s inventory of the City’s Housing Element.
  • Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing: AB 686 (2017) – AB 686 requires the City to administer its housing programs and activities in a manner to affirmatively further fair housing and not take any action that is inconsistent with this obligation.
  • No-Net-Loss Zoning: SB 166 (2017) – SB 166 amended the No‐Net‐Loss rule to require that the land inventory and site identification programs in the Housing Element include sufficient sites to accommodate the unmet RHNA. The Project sites inventory far exceeds the City’s RHNA, allowing for additional sites to be used for additional housing units as needed.
  • Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU): AB 2299 (2016), SB 1069 (2016), AB 494 (2017), SB 229 (2017), AB 68 (2019), AB 881 (2019), AB 587 (2019), SB 13 (2019), AB 670 (2019), AB 671 (2019), and AB 3182 (2020) – The 2016 and 2017 updates to state law included changes pertaining to the allowed size of ADUs, permitting ADUs by right in at least some areas of jurisdiction, and limits on parking requirements related to ADUs. More recent bills reduce the time to review and approve ADU applications to 60 days, remove lot size requirements and replace parking space requirements and require local jurisdictions to permit junior ADUs.
  • Density Bonus: AB 1763 (2019) and AB 2345 (2020) – AB 1763 amended California’s density bonus law to authorize significant development incentives to encourage 100 percent affordable housing projects, allowing developments with 100 percent affordable housing units to receive an 80 percent density bonus from the otherwise maximum allowable density on the site. AB 2345 created additional density bonus incentives for affordable housing units provided in a housing development project. It also requires that the annual report include information regarding density bonuses that were granted.
  • Housing Crisis Act of 2019: SB 330 – SB 330 enacts changes to local development policies, permitting, and processes that will be in effect through January 1, 2025.

Related Planning Documents

Additional Resources


General Questions

What is the relationship between the Housing Element and the San Leandro 2035 General Plan?

The City of San Leandro 2035 General Plan is a policy document that sets the vision for improving the quality of life for all San Leandro community members, including guiding housing and job growth within city limits. The General Plan is organized into the following Elements covering a variety of topics:

    • Land Use
    • Transportation
    • Economic Development
    • Open Space, Conservation, and Parks
    • Environmental Hazards
    • Historic Preservation and Community Design
    • Housing

California State law requires the City to update the Housing Element every eight years

Why does the Housing Element need to be updated?

California State law requires that the City of San Leandro update the Housing Element every eight years. These updates are required because housing needs change over time and housing is critical to ensure economic prosperity and quality of life00. The revised Housing Element must be adopted by the San Leandro City Council no later than January 2023.

Without a certified Element, the City would be ineligible for some of the state and other public affordable housing grants and funds it currently receives or is eligible for. Other public funding opportunities, including those streets, bike lanes, and other infrastructure fo, could also be jeopardized. The City would also be vulnerable to lawsuits for not working proactively to meet its housing needs. Typical remedies for such lawsuits include court orders to meet state certification requirements and, in some cases, court ordered moratoriums on development. These lawsuits are expensive and can have adverse fiscal and economic effects.


What is included in a Housing Element?

The Housing Element is a housing plan that identifies policies and programs the City will implement to meet housing demand. Housing Element components are largely dictated by the State. The Housing Element Update must include:

    • A detailed analysis of the City’s demographic, economic, and housing characteristics.
    • A comprehensive analysis of constraints to producing and preserving housing.
    • A review of the City’s progress in implementing current housing policies and programs.
    • Identification of goals, objectives, and policies, in addition to a full list of programs that will implement the vision of the plan.
    • A list of sites that could accommodate new housing, demonstrating the City’s ability to meet the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA).

Because the Housing Element is updated frequently, the City of San Leandro’s existing element provides a foundation for this update. This update gives the City an opportunity to evaluate the previous element and determine which parts have been effective and which should be improved. Read the 2015-2023 Housing Element for more information on existing policies and programs.

What does Housing Element Law require?

San Leandro must demonstrate it can provide 3,855 units in compliance with a wide range of state rules. Relevant housing legislation addresses a number of overarching goals:

    • Accommodate projected housing demand, as mandated by the State,
    • Increase housing production to meet this demand,
    • Improve housing affordability,
    • Preserve existing affordable housing,
    • Improve the safety, quality, and condition of existing housing,
    • Facilitate the development of housing for all income levels and household types, including special needs populations,
    • Improve the livability and economic prosperity of all City residents, and
    • Promote fair housing choices for all[1].

[1] Fair housing is the right to choose housing free from unlawful discrimination. Federal, state and local fair housing laws protect people from discrimination in housing transactions such as rentals, sales, lending, and insurance.

RHNA Questions

What is RHNA?

RHNA stands for “Regional Housing Needs Assessment.”

Every eight years, the State of California provides the number of housing units that should be accommodated in the San Francisco Bay Area region. The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) takes that larger number and devises a methodology to allocate the units among the ABAG region. As part of the Housing Element, San Leandro must demonstrate to the State that there is available capacity for the units allocated to the city.

This year the Bay Area regional allocation, and the City of San Leandro’s allocation, were significantly larger than in past years. This larger allocation was a result of the State responding to the housing crisis by considering “existing need” (i.e., units we need to alleviate challenges, like overcrowding and homelessness) and “projected need” (i.e., units we need to accommodate new residents). The allocation also takes affordability into account by identifying the percentage of units that are needed at each income level, including very low, low, moderate, and above moderate incomes.

How much new housing does San Leandro have to allow?

The draft RHNA allocation for San Leandro, as released by ABAG in May 2021 is 3,855 units.

Income Type

Number of Units

Very Low Income






Above Moderate





Visit the ABAG website for more information on RHNA and the RHNA allocation process. 

Will updating the Housing Element and meeting RHNA result in new housing construction?

Through the RHNA process, the City must show that it has the regulatory and land use policies to accommodate housing needs, but the actual development of housing is largely conducted by the private market. The Housing Element is required to demonstrate potential sites where housing can be accommodated. Identification of a property’s capacity to accommodate new housing does not guarantee that construction will occur on that site. However, if there are insufficient sites and capacity to meet the RHNA allocation, then the Housing Element is required to identify sites that need to be rezoned to allow for more residential units to increase housing capacity. The State will use each city and county’s RHNA goals to measure their housing production performance over the eight-year RHNA period.

How will housing locations be selected?

The updated housing plan must show the exact locations where future housing can be built and identify the potential number of housing units that can be built at those locations. When it comes to these important decisions, the City of San Leandro is not starting from scratch.

During the beginning stages of reviewing housing locations, the City limits or eliminates sites:

    • With sensitive habitat or species
    • Where the topography is not conducive to building
    • That are not safe because they are in a flood zone or high-fire area
    • In areas deemed off-limits by the airport because they are in the flight path or noise levels would be too high

Areas that could be designated for additional housing include:

    • Vacant lots not designated as open space
    • Underutilized sites, such as lots with uses that are no longer needed or need rehabilitation
    • Locations where housing could be become denser than it is today
    • Locations near public transit and essential services like libraries and neighborhood serving retail centers
    • Areas where housing could be added near commercial buildings or in business parks, creating “live-work” neighborhoods
    • Sites where infrastructure, such as water and sewer service, can support more housing
Will the City be changing the zoning or densities allowed?

The City is in the early stages of the Housing Element, but initial analysis shows some zoning changes may be needed to meet the RHNA. The City is not required to build housing as part of the Housing Element, but rather, show capacity for the private sector to build required housing units. The City’s role in meeting the RHNA is to ensure that enough land is zoned to accommodate the units identified in the RHNA. The City accounts for housing potential on vacant and underutilized land that is currently zoned to allow residential or residential mixed-use before changing zoning or densities in San Leandro.

What about other important topics, like housing the homeless, housing discrimination or the high cost of housing? Are those addressed too?

A housing element discusses issues, trends, and solutions for additional topics relevant to housing, including homelessness, constraints to housing access and production, and high housing costs. The City’s current Housing Element is a great resource as it shows exactly what information housing elements must contain, ranging from age of residents to supportive and transitional housing, and from building permit fees to new home prices.

Affordable Housing Questions

Housing Cost Burden Graphic
Missing Middle Housing
What is affordable or below market rate housing; and what are the definitions of very low, low, moderate and above moderate income?

This is housing that is offered at a price lower than the market rate. This is usually possible because of government subsidies and other programs that help lower the price or rent of housing. Affordable housing is usually limited to individuals and families that fit into a specific income category (ranging anywhere from less than 30% of area median income to 120% of area median income).

The City is required to facilitate the production of housing that is affordable to households across various income levels. These income categories are defined by the state and are based on varying percentages of the Area Media Income (AMI), in which earning 30% of AMI is considered extremely low income, 50% of AMI is considered very low income. 80% of AMI is considered low income and between 80-120% is considered moderate income. For each income category, housing is considered “affordable” if occupants pay no more than 30% of their income on housing costs.

The chart below shows 2021 income limits and affordable rents in Alameda County as set by the State.

Family of 4 PersonsIncome LimitAffordable Rent
Extremely Low Income$41,100$1,192
Very Low Income$68,500$1,987
Low Income$109,600$3,180
Moderate Income$125,600$3,974


Alameda County Income Limits (2021)
Number of People in Household12345678
Median Income (100% AMI)$87,900$100,500$113,050$125,600$135,650$145,700$155,750$165,800
Income Limit
<50% AMIVery Low Income$47,950$54,800$61,650$68,500$74,000$70,500$84,950$90,450
50-80% AMILow Income$76,750$87,700$98,659$109,600%118,400$127,150$135,950$144,700
80-120% AMIModerate Income$105,500$120,550$135,650$150,700$162,750$174,800$186,850$198,900
Will Housing Element sites be developed with low-income housing?

The RNHA process attempts to encourage the development of housing at all income levels, with a focus on affordable housing. There is a presumed correlation between density (i.e. the number of housing units per acre) and affordability (i.e., housing built to higher densities is affordable to a greater segment of the population). However, it should be noted that RHNA process does not establish rental rates or sales prices. Ultimately, the type of housing built on these sites will depend on the housing market and local economy.

How does the City of San Leandro support housing needs?

The City of San Leandro has played a critical role in meeting housing needs for the local community. The City has multiple housing programs in place that provide benefit to low- and moderate-income people, aid in prevention of blight, and address the urgent needs of the community. For more information, visit the San Leandro Housing Services Division website.

Community Input Questions

What role does community input play in the Housing Element update?

A successful Housing Element is based on an inclusive process in which all residents and local organizations/businesses have the chance to participate. State planning law requires that communities make diligent efforts to engage public participation that includes all stakeholders and income groups. The public process for the Housing Element Update will include various outreach events. Late in the process, the Planning Commission and City Council will conduct formal hearings to adopt the updated Housing Element. Written public comments regarding issues related to housing is always welcome. If you would like to be contacted regarding future meetings, please join our mailing list. If you have any questions about the Housing Element, email us at

How can I get involved in the Housing Element Update process?

Please sign up to our mailing list to be notified of the next meeting or opportunity for online input. The success of this update requires extensive community input and engagement. There will be multiple opportunities to participate throughout the update, both in person and online.