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Housing Element

About the Plan

What is the Housing Element and Why Does it Have to Be Updated?

The Housing Element (a required element of the City’s General Plan) is a set of goals and policies adopted by jurisdictions that guide long-term decision-making around housing.  At its core, a housing element is an opportunity to have a community conversation about local housing needs and to develop policies and find solutions.

The Housing Element identifies areas in Clayton where new housing may be built and estimates how much housing could be built in each area and for different income levels. Changes in zoning may be recommended to meet housing construction goals. The Housing Element also provides goals, policies, and programs for future housing needs for all residents. It does not obligate the City or any landowner to build housing.

All California cities and counties must update their Housing Element every eight years and have it certified by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD).  This Housing Element covers the period of 2023-2031.

The 6th Cycle Housing Element will build on the City’s previously adopted 2015-2023 Housing Element but be more complex. The Housing Element must respond to the current housing crisis, recent state laws including the Housing Affordability Act (HAA), and the four-fold increase in the number of housing units allocated to Clayton. The Housing Element must be adopted by January 2023.

What are the components of a Housing Element?

A housing element typically examines housing trends, zoning, economic and market constraints, and approaches to meeting housing needs across various income levels.  A key component of housing elements is the Sites Inventory where the City will identify (as it did in the last cycle) where the City has sufficient land zoned for housing (or available for re-zoning in some circumstances) to meet the future need.

What happens if a jurisdiction does not adopt a Housing Element?

If the City does not comply with state law to adopt a compliant housing element, it can be sued and lose eligibility for certain funding sources.  In addition to facing significant court costs and fines, a court may limit local land use decision-making authority until the jurisdiction brings its housing element into compliance. Additionally, local governments may lose the ability to deny certain projects.

  • Legal Suits and Attorney Fees: Local governments with noncompliant Housing Elements are vulnerable to litigation from housing rights organizations, developers, and the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). Consequences may include mandatory compliance within 120 days, suspension of local control on building matters, and court approval of housing developments.
  • Loss of Permitting Authority: Courts have the authority to take local government residential and nonresidential permitting authority and bring the jurisdiction’s General Plan and Housing Element into compliance with State Law. The court may suspend a locality’s authority to issue building permits or grant zoning changes, variances, or subdivision approvals.
  • Financial Penalties: Local governments are subject to court-issued judgements directing jurisdictions to bring Housing Elements into substantial compliance with State Law. If a jurisdiction’s Housing Element continues to be found out of compliance, courts can find jurisdictions up to $100,000 per month, and if they are not paid, multiply that by a factor of six.
  • Court Receivership: Courts may appoint an agent with all power necessary to remedy identified deficiencies and bring the jurisdiction’s Housing Element into substantial compliance.

What is the Regional Housing Need Allocation (RHNA)?

The State of California has required all local governments to adequately plan to meet the housing needs of everyone in our communities since 1969. Each city and county must develop a Housing Element as part of its General Plan to meet state requirements. There are many laws that govern this process, which are collectively known as Housing Element Law.

The Regional Housing Need Allocation (RHNA) process identifies the number of housing units needed across all income levels for regional governments and each jurisdiction. This process is repeated every eight years. The current Bay Area RHNA cycle plans for housing needs from 2023 to 2031.

Project Schedule
Summer 2021
Community Outreach and Engagement (Understanding the Community) 

Project Website

Stakeholder Interviews

Background Reports

Review of Existing Housing Element

Review and Tailor Data

Fall 2021
Community Outreach and Engagement (Community Values and Priorities)

Planning Commission and City Council Work Session

Date: September 28, 2021, 6:30 p.m.


Pop-Up Events

To be determined

Online Survey

To be determined

Community Workshop #1

Date: October 20, 2021, 6:30 p.m.

Meeting Link:

Zoom Webinar ID: 882 0435 1379

Existing Conditions

Housing Needs

Housing Constraints

Sites Inventory

Winter 2021
Draft Housing Element

Draft Goals, Policies and Programs

Consistency Analysis with General Plan

Housing Plan Draft

Spring 2022
Environmental Review

Notice of Preparation (NOP) / Environmental Impact Report (EIR)

Community Outreach and Engagement (Feedback on Draft Plan)

Community Workshop #2

Public Hearings

Council and Commission Hearings

Fall 2022

Council and Commission Hearings (Adoption)

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the General Plan?

The General Plan establishes the framework for decision-making regarding land use, housing, transportation, infrastructure, resource conservation, parks and recreation, public safety, and equity. This framework includes a vision for Clayton supported by goals, policies, and implementation strategies.

The General Plan identifies a vision for the future and provides the foundation for all development decisions. The current General Plan was adopted in 2000 and amended in 2016. The General Plan addresses many topic areas such as where housing can be built, where new commercial businesses are needed, how the road network can better accommodate cyclists and pedestrians, how parks can be improved, and how public safety is addressed in our daily activities.

How does Regional Housing Need Allocation (RHNA) Assist in Addressing the Bay Area’s Housing Crisis?

State law is designed to match housing supply with demand, particularly for affordable homes. Each new RHNA cycle presents new requirements to address dynamic housing markets, which have recently seen demand drastically outstrip supply.

RHNA provides local governments with a minimum number of new homes across all income levels. The Housing Element must include sites zoned to accommodate enough capacity to meet the RHNA goals and policies and strategies to expand housing choices and increase affordability. The RHNA is NOT an obligation to build housing.

Who is Responsible for completing the Regional Housing Need Allocation (RHNA)?

Responsibility for completing RHNA is shared among state, regional, and local governments:

  • The State identifies the total number of housing units each region in California must plan for to meet the housing needs of Californians across income levels. This is developed by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) and is called the Regional Housing Need Determination (RHND).
  • Regional governments allocate a share of the state determined RHNA to local governments. As the Council of Governments (COG) for the nine-county Bay Area, the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) is responsible for developing methodology to share the RHND among all cities, towns, and counties in the Bay Area. ABAG does this in conjunction with a committee of elected officials, city and county staff, and stakeholders called the Housing Methodology Committee (HMC).
  • Local governments participate in the development of the allocation methodology and update their Housing Elements and local zoning to accommodate their share of the RHND following the adoption of ABAG’s RHNA methodology.

Can Clayton appeal its Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) of 570 housing units?

Clayton appealed its 6th Cycle RHNA assignment of 560 housing units in June 2021. The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) will conduct public hearings to consider appeals and public comments in September and October 2021. ABAG will ratify a written final determination on each appeal and issue Final RHNA Allocations that adjust allocations for successful appeals. The ABAG Executive Board will conduct a final public hearing to adopt the Final RHNA Plan in December 2021. Clayton’s Housing Element Update will be underway before ABAG adopts the Final RHNA Plan.

More than half of the cities in the Bay Area registered formal objections to their draft RHNA numbers. Many of the objection letters share common themes, including problems with the data and underlying assumptions and assignments that cannot be realistically achieved in an eight-year timeframe.

The Los Angeles and San Diego regions completed their 6th Cycle RHNA Appeals Process in the Spring of 2021. An overwhelming majority of appeals in these regions were denied. For example, the City of Costa Mesa saw its RHNA increase from 5 units in the 5th RHNA cycle to 11,733 units in the 6th RHNA cycle. Costa Mesa filed an appeal and was denied.

How long will it take to prepare the Housing Element Update?

A complete review and revision of the existing Clayton Housing Element will be developed and adopted by the City Council by the end of January 2023.

Is there an Environmental Review / CEQA Component?

Environmental documentation in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA, Public Resources Code Section 21000 et seq.) is required for the Housing Element. The level of environmental documentation required will depend on the potential environmental impacts of implementing the Housing Element, and it will significantly affect the ultimate cost of the Housing Element update.

The environmental review will begin with an Initial Study, which will evaluate whether the Housing Element would have significant environmental impacts and whether those impacts can be mitigated. If no significant environmental impacts are found (or if the impacts can be mitigated), a Negative Declaration (or Mitigated Negative Declaration) can be prepared. However, if there are significant unavoidable environmental impacts that would result from implementing the Housing Element, Clayton will work with its planning consultant to complete an Environmental Impact Report.

Why is it important that I participate in the Housing Element Update?

At its core, a housing element is an opportunity to have a community conversation about local housing needs and to develop policies and find solutions. Input from the community is essential to the development of goals, policies, and programs that reflect the community’s values and vision for the future. The Housing Element project will provide many opportunities for you to participate. Sign up for email updates here to ensure you receive the latest information.

How will COVID-19 affect the Housing Element Update process? Following COVID-19 guidance from public health agencies, engagement activities will primarily be held online. In-person, socially distanced pop-up activities will be held outdoors as long as public health officials continue to indicate it’s safe to do so.

Who is preparing and reviewing the Housing Element Update?

In May 2021, the City approved the selection of MIG, Inc. (MIG) as the consultant to lead the Housing Element Update. The Housing Element Update must be certified by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) by 2023.

How can I stay informed and provide comments as the Housing Element Update is being prepared?

The Housing Element project will provide many opportunities for you to participate, including an online survey, two community workshops, pop-up activities, and public hearings. Each activity will be announced by email, listed on the project webpage, and posted on social media. If you have questions or would like to comment, please email

What is the Housing Element Sites Inventory?

A key component of housing elements is the Sites Inventory where the City will identify where the City has sufficient land zoned for housing (or available for re-zoning in some circumstances) to meet the future need.

If you have additional questions or comments, please email

Glossary of Terms

Here are some common terms you will hear throughout the Housing Element Update process.

Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU)

Also known as granny flats and in-law units, Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) are attached or detached residential units located on the same property as single-family homes. Junior ADUs are no larger than 500 square feet and are contained within an existing or proposed single-family home or accessory structure. It may include its own bathroom or share with the existing home. Although promoting development of ADUs can be one solution to increasing the supply of affordable housing, cities cannot rely entirely on ADUs to meet its RHNA.

Affordable Housing

The ratio of housing costs to household income for all income levels and price ranges. State law defines affordable housing as, “not more than 30 percent of gross household income…” (Health and Safety Code Section 50052.5). HCD has determined that a project can be considered affordable if there are a minimum of 20 units per acre.


Association of Bay Area Governments

The regional Council of Governments for the San Francisco Bay Area, including the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, and Sonoma. The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) is part regional planning agency and local government service provider and is responsible for developing a methodology to divvy up the State-developed RHNA among all Bay Area jurisdictions and assigning a RHNA to each city and county.


California Department of Housing and Community Development (HDC)

Reviews every local government Housing Element to determine whether it complies with state law and share feedback. The California Department of Housing and Community Development’s (HCD) approval is required before local governments can adopt their Housing Elements as part of their overall General Plans.



The number of residential units on a given piece of land. Examples of different densities include one unit per acre, four units per acre, or 20 units per acre. The higher the number of units per acre, the higher the density. Higher densities can be achieved on smaller lots by building up and allowing more stories to be built.

Density Bonus

The development right under State law that requires local governments to allow additional residential units, building square footage, and other exceptions to development standards in exchange for the construction of affordable units under specific circumstances.

Developers and Property Owners

Typically lead the construction of new housing. Developers purchase land, obtain the necessary approvals and financing, design and build structures, and sell or rent out and manage housing. There has recently been a shift in the way the State views cities’ obligations related to their Housing Elements. Rather than viewing the planning for housing as the responsibility of local governments and housing development as the responsibility of housing developers and property owners, the State has adopted new laws requiring cities and counties to take increased responsibility to ensure that the State-determined housing needs are built.

Environmental Impact Report (EIR)

A report to inform the community and Clayton’s elected officials of significant environmental impacts of proposed projects, identify ways to minimize those impacts, and describe reasonable alternatives.

General Plan

A City’s long-term policy document that guides and manages physical, social, and economic resources. The General Plan identifies the community’s shared vision for the future and addresses the City’s unique character and needs. The General Plan is used as the foundation for decision making regarding future growth and development. General Plans must address seven topic areas organized into chapters called “elements.”

Height Limits

Define the maximum height new buildings can be built, which can be defined by the number of permitted stories or by feet.

Housing Element

One of seven elements of a local General Plan required by the state. The Housing Element is the blueprint for future housing development and assesses existing and projected housing needs for all income levels, identifies potential sites, and establishes goals, policies, and implementation programs to preserve, improve, and develop housing. Under State law, Housing Elements must be updated every eight years.

Income Levels

Based on the Area Median Income (AMI) and determined by HCD for each county. Housing Elements are required to plan for housing for all income levels.

Land Use and Zoning

Tools that cities use to govern which uses (e.g., residential, commercial, or industrial) are allowed in specific areas. Land use and zoning also identifies the size of buildings (e.g., height and density) and how buildings relate to their surroundings.

MIG, Inc. (Consultant)

MIG, Inc. (MIG) is a planning and design firm hired by Clayton to help them prepare their Housing Element Update. MIG will prepare site inventories and suitability analysis, evaluate existing programs, conduct public engagement activities, develop the Draft Housing Element, and prepare environmental review documents.


A land use and zoning designation that permits development projects with both housing and commercial and/or office uses. Mixed-use developments can integrate these uses in a single building or on a single site.

Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA)

The Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) is a process that determines projected housing needs for all cities and counties in California and is required by State housing law. The process to determine the RHNA is conducted every eight years. Every jurisdiction is required to plan for its RHNA allocation in its Housing Element and to ensure that zoning regulations and housing sites can accommodate their allocation of housing units.

Senate Bill 35 (SB 35)

A statute aimed at streamlining housing construction across California. In cities and counties where development is not on track to meet projected housing needs, qualifying multi-family residential projects are subject to by-right approvals. This means there cannot be discretionary review or public input processes for these projects. This is all required to happen on an accelerated time frame.

Site Inventory and Feasibility

The Housing Element must identify specific sites that are appropriate and available for residential development during the planning period. Sites that require rezoning can be included in the inventory if the Housing Element includes a program to accomplish the rezoning concurrently with the Housing Element. Cities must prepare a site-feasibility analysis to demonstrate which sites can accommodate housing needs at different income levels.

Get Involved

Input from the community is essential to the development of goals, policies, and programs that reflect the community’s values and vision for the future. The Housing Element project will provide many opportunities for you to participate. Sign up for email updates below to ensure you receive the latest information.

Community Engagement Activities

Planning Commission and City Council Work Session
September 28, 2021


Community Workshop #1

Date: October 20, 2021, 6:30 p.m.

Meeting Link:

Zoom Webinar ID: 882 0435 1379

Community Workshop #2
Date, Time and Location – TBD

Online Map-Based Survey
Coming Soon!

Sign Up for Updates!

Sign up for updates to receive the latest information around project milestones, community engagement opportunities, and project documents.

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Historic Downtown Site Project

As the Housing Element Update moves forward, associated documents will be posted for public information and review. Check here frequently as documents will be posted on a regular basis.

Background Documents

5th Cycle Housing Element

Community Engagement (coming soon)

2023-2031 Housing Element

The Housing Element is one of the seven mandated elements of the General Plan. The City of Clayton is required by the State of California to adopt a Housing Element, as part of the General Plan, every five to eight years in order to adequately plan to meet the existing and future projected housing needs of all economic segments of the community. The latest City of Clayton adopted Housing Element is for the 2015-2023 housing cycle, which was adopted by the City Council on November 18, 2014.

The City is required to file an annual report with the State of California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) on the status and progress in implementing the Housing Element.