February 12, 2019

Palo Alto: Council Finalizes Updated Housing Ordinance


The Palo Alto City Council discussed and approved (with some amendments) the final components of a proposed update to the city’s housing code at its meeting on January 28th. With their votes, the City Council concluded a process originally launched in November 2017 by Councilmembers Fine and Kniss, and former Councilmember Wolbach to incentivize new housing development in Palo Alto.

In December 2018, the Council passed a number of changes but left several items for the January 28th session.

Key developments from the January 28th meeting include:

  • The Council re-affirmed the exemption of 100% affordable developments in multi-family zones from the city’s retail preservation ordinance but only for developments that provide homes for families who make at or below 80% of the Area Median Income.
  • The Council approved staff recommendations to allow increased FAR and density for housing developments along the California Avenue and El Camino Real corridors.
  • The Council passed a package of city-wide changes which made numerous improvements to the city code to incentivize housing development, including by right-sizing open space requirements.

SV@Home is excited that Palo Alto has taken these important steps towards incentivizing the development of housing and affordable housing in the City. It is hoped that these measures will  help Palo Alto reach or exceed its goal of building at least 300 new homes per year. While the new council is off to a good start, having just approved the first 100% affordable development in seven years, reaching the annual 300 home target will take an active commitment on behalf of councilmembers and community advocates.

We look forward to continuing to engage with the City Council and staff to identify and support opportunities for housing development in the city. Current major planning areas in Palo Alto that are well positioned for housing development include the North Ventura Coordinated Area Plan and the Cubberley master plan. The city should take advantage of these plans in order to provide new housing opportunities for people of all incomes and abilities.