FAQ on GPA, Housing Elements and other related issues (Under Construction)

prepared by BetterCupertino.org


California law requires every city and county to prepare and adopt a comprehensive, long-range General Plan complete with text and a map, to serve as a guide for the physical development of that community. The law requires that, at a minimum, the general plan identify issues and provide policies for seven broad areas, called “elements”: land use, mobility, housing, green space, conservation, noise and safety. The law permits other issues to be addressed, either within the required elements or as additional ones. State law requires that day-to-day decisions of a city follow logically from and be consistent with the General Plan.

General plans provide the overall framework for translating broad community values and expectations into specific strategies for managing growth and enhancing the quality of life. As community needs and values change, general plans are regularly reviewed and updated to remain realistic documents to achieve the community’s vision.

Here is a link to Cupertino’s existing General Plan, adopted in 2005:



A General Plan Amendment is considered to be any change to the General Plan maps or text. State law provides that each mandatory General Plan element may be amended no more than four times per year.

Q: What is  The Housing Element?

A:  Each General Plan must contain seven elements.  The Housing Element is the part of the General Plan that covers housing.


Currently the Housing Element must be updated every 5 years.  A municipality can move to an 8 year interval if elects to and is timely in meeting its next update deadline.  Cupertino must have elected to move to an 8 year planning cycle. Cupertino must adopt its Housing Element by 1/31/15 (plus a 120 day grace period) to stay on an 8 year cycle.




Q: What is RHNA requirement? What does it mean for us?

A:  RHNA stands for Regional Housing Need Allocation.  It is the total housing need for a region that the regional planning agencies for housing and transportation, the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) then distribute to local governments in the region.

Here is the ABAG page on RHNA:


Q: What are the consequences for a city that fails to provide the ABAG-mandated amount of housing in their general plan?

A: ABAG is not an enforcement agency. You don’t  get in trouble with ABAG for not meeting ABAG requirements. ABAG stands for Association of Bay Area Governments. They have set up guide lines for defining housing allocations. These guidelines are dictated by CA state law. If organizations/citizens feel they are not receiving the living conditions they deserve under state law, they can sue the city in court. It is then up to the judicial system to determine if the city has met state requirements for housing allocation. A case in point is what happened in Menlo Park which is summarized in the following web site.


Q: Is it true that the government made Menlo Park and Pleasanton provide housing when they were “recalcitrant” about meeting their RHNA mandate?

A: It wasn’t the government that forced those cities to meet their RHNA requirements.  It was housing advocacy groups that sued those cities.  They sued those cities for their failure to provide very low and low cost housing.   If you read the links below you will see that they didn’t sue over the total number of units provided.  They sued over the number of affordable units provided.  Those would be the very-low and low income housing units.  The ones that Cupertino doesn’t seem to want to do anything about.

http://www.publicadvocates. org/press-releases/tentative- deal-to-settle-menlo-park- housing-lawsuit-announced

http://www.mercurynews.com/ campbell/ci_23726203/cities- express-frustration-states- housing-element


Q: What is Oral Communications in a Council Meeting?

A:  The Ralph M. Brown Act, the part of the CA Government Code that regulates the public meetings of local legislative bodies, requires that the public be allowed to address a governing body at any open public meeting on any item not addressed by the agency in its meeting agenda.  “Oral Communications” is how the City of Cupertino designates the public comment time.


Q: How can I write emails to the Council members?

A:  The City of Cupertino has a page with City Council telephone and e-mail contact information:


Q: The minimum requirement of housing units to add is 1064. Where does that come from? Have they counted Rose Bowl and Main Street already?

The minimum number of housing units in 4 categories is set by ABAG.  The current Regional Housing Need Allocation is as follows for Cupertino:

Income Category

Very Low       Low         Moderate     Above-Moderate        Total Housing Need

    356             207              231                   270                                1,064

The Rose Bowl and Main Street have already been counted, and do not count toward the RHNA total.

Here is the entire table for all counties and cities in the Bay Area:


Here are the State defined income ranges for the categories above: