Homes under construction in Santa Clara's Tasman East neighborhood
Cities across Santa Clara County are trying to add housing, but most are far behind the pace needed to meet state goals. Photo by B. Sakura Cannestra.

Santa Clara’s housing plans are still out of compliance with the state, but the city hopes its newest draft will be the final effort.

The Santa Clara City Council on Tuesday unanimously voted to rezone more than 27 acres along El Camino Real for mixed-use redevelopment, opening the possibility for more housing in the area. The city also approved its final housing element 6-0, with Councilmember Raj Chahal absent.

The state’s Housing and Community Development department issued a conditional approval on the housing plans on April 11, pending the rezoning.

The 27 acres along El Camino Real come from 17 sites, mostly near the intersections with Lawrence and San Tomas expressways. Mayor Lisa Gillmor said she heard from residents that they were concerned about losing retail space. But Reena Brilliot, acting community development director for Santa Clara, clarified the rezoning is separate from the city’s specific plans for developing El Camino, so it will not affect future retail opportunities.

The city is working on updating its development plans for the El Camino area, aiming to finalize the draft by this summer.

Brilliot said during her presentation to councilmembers that the state’s conditional approval gives her confidence the city’s housing element will be certified. Santa Clara is one of six cities in the county with a housing element that has yet to be certified.

“They’ve given us a sorta thumbs up, as much of a thumbs up as they can give at this moment,” Brilliot said.

Santa Clara has to account for 11,632 new homes by 2031, with 6,506 below market rate, or below 120% of the area median income. In 2023, the area median income for a family of four in Santa Clara County was $181,300. The city would have to facilitate building 1,454 homes, with 813 below market rate, every year until 2031 to hit that goal.

The Housing Action Coalition filed a letter in opposition to the city's plans, claiming Santa Clara has overstated how many sites it might redevelop. Brilliot said the plan is to show the city has the capacity to build enough housing to meet state requirements, and acknowledged the city’s sites inventory is not a fully comprehensive list.

“We can’t promise that any of these sites are going to develop,” Gillmor said. “We can just do our best to see the ones that are likely to be develop.”

Brilliot’s presentation included the city’s housing sites inventory, which showed Santa Clara already has 12,209 homes approved for development, though only 2,008 will be affordable. Overall, the city has planned for about 19,233 homes across all housing types, which includes accessory dwelling units.

She added that bulking up the city’s affordable housing will take more work, stressing that building housing at the very low and low income levels necessitates partnerships with other organizations.

“I don’t want these numbers to look like a slam dunk,” Brilliot said. “This is a lot of hard work on those very low and low income affordability levels.”

Contact B. Sakura Cannestra at  or @SakuCannestra on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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