Last week, the City of San Carlos announced that its adopted 2023 – 2031 Housing Element is nearing certification by the State Department of Housing and Development (HCD). An effort which started in 2019 as required by the California Housing Law, the San Carlos Housing Element was met with both affirmation and criticism from different residents of San Carlos over the past 5 years, as it sought to change designated zones, housing limits, and building heights in order to accommodate more housing for California’s growing population.

What is the San Carlos 2023 Housing Element?

The San Carlos Housing Element is a section of the General Plan for San Carlos, which is a long-range visionary document that establishes a framework for how San Carlos will grow and change over the next two decades. It establishes goals, policies, and actions guiding growth, conservation, and enhancement. The Housing Element focuses on the provision of adequate housing for all current and future San Carlos residents.

Updates in the 2023 Housing Element

Updates in the 2023 Housing Element are often results of community engagement programs, which may include stakeholder/focus groups, online surveys, and community workshops. Whenever the draft changes, the City invites the public to review the most recent edits within a period of 7 day.

The updates below are to be reviewed by the public from April 11 to April 18:

  1. Revision to Action HOU-4.5 to update development standards if they pose a potential or actual constraint in achieving maximum densities.
  2. A new Appendix with case studies from recent development projects in San Carlos to demonstrate that newly adopted development standards support maximum densities. 

The latest changes are highlighted in the 2023-2031 Housing Element Document, which can be viewed online HERE. You may also ask for a hard copy at the Development Services Counter at City Hall, the San Carlos Library, or the San Carlos Adult Community Center.

Comments can be emailed to the City of San Carlos at by April 18, 2024.

Things You Should Know About the Housing Element

The document for the 2023-2031 is actually about 300 pages long, so we tried to list information, statistics, and pages below that might interest you as a homeowner, home seller, or buyer:

  • MAIN GOAL: From 2023-2031, San Carlos aims to construct a total of 2,735 new housing, split into the following income levels: 1,133 homes for families with above-moderate income, 438 homes for families with moderate income, 425 for low income, 369 for very low income, and 370 for extremely low income. (Page 55)
  • ZONING DENSITY AND BUILDING HEIGHT CHANGES: To accommodate the number new homes in the next decade, zoning densities and building heights for condominiums, apartments, townhouses have been increased mostly for the mixed-use and multi-unit zoning areas located in downtown San Carlos. Target residential units per acre in mixed-use areas have more than doubled in most areas (from its previous 20 or 50 units per acre, to 40, 50, 100, or 120). Building height in some have increased from the standard maximum height of 4 stories, to 5 or 6 stories (Page 30).
  • ZONING ORDINANCE REVISIONS: Applicable to mixed-use and multi-unit zones, these include (1) removing minimum private open space requirements, (2) removing guest parking, (3) removing side and rear yard building wall stepback requirements for mixed use and multi-family housing developments, specifically provisions pertaining to stepbacks associated with portions of the building wall containing and extending three feet on either side of any window in living rooms, primary rooms, sleeping rooms, and any other walls containing windows. (Page 29).
  • AFFORDABLE HOUSING: For below market rate housing, when they are located in San Carlos, and what year will the discounted rate for housing (rent or own) end. (Page 75)
  • NEW PROJECTS: Present and future locations of new residential projects (Page 135, 156)
  • SITES INVENTORY: A comprehensive list of addresses in San Carlos that can potentially be turned into residential units, which currently hold various commercial establishments such as restaurants, offices, parking space, retail outlets, and more. (Page A-1)

Affordable housing and new projects in San Carlos will be discussed further in the next blogs.

Updates in the Housing Element are only one of the few factors a trusted realtor will study for you to help you sell or buy a home. If you are looking for a realtor, we are here for you. Feel free to contact us.


Zoning, Housing Density and Building Height in San Carlos

To understand the changes better, here are some of the maps and charts from the General Plan above:

San Carlos Zoning Map

San Carlos Zoning Map

Zoning Ordinances, Densities and Heights (Current and Proposed)

2040 Housing Element Residential Design Standards 1

2040 Housing Element Residential Design Standards 2

2040 Housing Element Changes To Zoning And Height

About San Carlos CA

What’s Great about San Carlos?




About The Hosts of San Carlos Life

Mark Martinho and Viv Kelvin are the owners of Vabrato Real Estate

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