photo by Sheldon Breiner

Planning for Housing in Portola Valley

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The Planning Commission recommended the draft Accessory Dwelling Unit Ordinance to the Town Council. Please attend the Council's review of the Ordinance: Wednesday, February 27, 2019 at 7:00 PM in the Historic School House at Town Center.

If you are new to the conversation on Accessory Dwelling Units, here are some Frequently Asked Questions and a handout with a side-by-side comparison of current and proposed regulations.

Portola Valley is having a rich conversation about housing. Recent meetings are listed here, with additional information, history, and links to Portola Valley's efforts around housing described below.

ADU Meetings:

Ad Hoc - Housing on Town Owned Property Committee Meetings:


 Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs/Second Units)  Ad Hoc Housing Committee
The Housing Element of the Portola Valley General Plan calls for the Town to encourage the construction of second units, commonly called Accessory Dwelling Units or ADUs. ADUs are a key way for the Town to accommodate new housing while preserving the rural character of the community.

Existing regulations are described in the Ordinance and Handout

The Town Council is currently reviewing a draft ADU Ordinance which, if approved, would replace the regulations liked above. The Ordinance is expected to go into effect in the Spring of 2019. More information on specific regulations can be found via the links at the top of this webpage.

For additional information, please see San Mateo County's second unit

The 2014 Housing Element followed work completed by the Ad Hoc Housing Committee in the first part of 2013.

For more information about the Committee, including the final Committee report, meeting agendas, and related materials, click here.

Community Conversations on Housing

Home for All

The Town utilized a grant from San Mateo County’s Home for All initiative to conduct two “Community Conversations on Housing,” or convenings, in 2018. The first convening was held on March 3rd and focused on participants sharing their ideas, thoughts, and stories about housing in Portola Valley. As a result of interest expressed at the first meeting, the Town held a second Community Conservation on May 5th that focused on second units, Town’s policies on second units, and converting a bedroom to an independent unit.

Community Conversations About Housing webpage

Report from the March 3, 2018 Community Conversation on Housing

Report from the May 5, 2018 Community Conversation on Housing

Town of Portola Valley was awarded a grant in 2017 from Home for All to pilot new approaches to community engagement around the topic of housing. Home for All is a community collaborative addressing housing challenges in San Mateo County through convening community, sharing information and promoting innovation.
Council Study Session on Second Units (ADUs) Rich Gordon's Housing Element Task Force
Council Study Session on ADUs (Second Units) On July 11, 2018, the Town Council held a study session on ADUs. This study session was in response to suggestions from residents who participated in the May 5, 2018 ADU Convening and helped the Council to develop a priority list for the Planning Commission’s work on ADUs in the next few months. It is anticipated that the Council will review the Commission’s work for potential adoption in early 2019.

To kick off the discussion, staff shared information about the Town’s current ADU regulations and shared a list of ideas that could be considered to encourage their construction. None of the staff-generated ideas were recommendations; instead, they were offered to provide the maximum number of ideas that could be considered. The Council also heard from residents who attended the meeting, who overwhelmingly supported efforts to expand second unit opportunities.

Town Council Study Session Presentation

Assemblyman Gordon has assembled a task force to identify legislative options to address the pressing needs to balance local control and state mandates, while also addressing the need for affordable housing in the region. Councilmember Derwin and staff will continue to be active participants in this effort.

Notes from 7/15/13 Housing Task Force Meeting
Housing Strategic Plan

State Housing Element Requirements

In 2016, the Town Council identified housing in Portola Valley as a priority and formed the Ad-Hoc Housing on Town Owned Property Committee as part of the Housing Strategic Plan.The Committee's mission is to examine the possibility of whether any Town-owned properties may be appropriate for modest housing opportunities to support the communities, teachers, public safety workers, and employees. The Committee will not recommend any projects to the Council; rather, they would formally suggest that the Council further review recommended properties for potential housing at a future Council meeting.

The Town's overall plan for housing is set forth in the Housing Element of the General Plan, which describes the Town's goals for housing and programs to plan for and encourage housing in the Town.

California law requires that all Housing Elements be updated on a schedule set by the state. The Town’s most recent Housing Element is from January 14, 2015, and will need to be updated in 2022.

For more information about State requirements for the Housing Element, click here.


If you have questions or would like more information, please contact the Planning Department at 650-851-1700 or