State rejects Los Altos Hills’ housing element  

The California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) has determined that the Town of Los Altos Hills’ housing element is out of compliance with state law. 

A notification of HCD’s decision was posted to its online Housing Element Compliance Report tool last Friday.  

A January 25, 2023 letter to the Town’s Planning and Building Department spelled out the state agency’s concerns with several properties listed in the housing element as potential sites for future development, including at Foothill College and Saint Nicholas Catholic School.  According to HCD, “residential development on these sites is highly unlikely in the planning period, especially at the densities and affordability levels indicated in the element.” 

In response, the Town submitted a letter from Judy Miner, Chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District, that indicated “the Town’s housing program would create new land use opportunities for the college” but noted that the District was not obligated to actually build any housing on its properties. The Chancellor’s letter comes after an August 2022 letter to the Town in which she memorialized the District’s position that it does “not envision housing on the Foothill College campus at any time in the near future.” 

 The Diocese of San Jose, owner of the The Saint Nicholas Catholic School had urgedthe removal of its property from the housing element, but the Town in response submitted several examples of faith-based organizations that pursued housing developments on their land. 

HCD was apparently not persuaded by Los Altos Hills’ response.  HCD spelled out its concerns in a March 17, 2023 letter stating that the municipality’s submittals “do not match” and are “irrelevant to the element’s conclusion.” 

The Town of Los Altos Hills now has a noncompliant housing element. Noncompliant jurisdictions may be subject to a “builders remedy” wherein proposed developments may ignore certain local zoning ordinances like limits on heigh and density, parking minimums, and setbacks.