photo by Sheldon Breiner

Planning for Housing in Portola Valley

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Stanford University Faculty Housing

Stanford University has submitted an application to the Town to develop a portion of University owned property on Alpine Road. Additional information and plans can be found here.


Letter from Mayor - August 2019 

Mayor Wengert mailed out a letter with an update on Portola Valley housing efforts.  There is also an overview of the efforts from 2016 until the present.



On Wednesday, March 27, 2019, the Town Council adopted a new ADU Ordinance. The final ordinance includes the following policies:

  • ADU Size limitations
    • External ADUs (new square footage) on parcels less than 3.5 acres are limited to 1,200 SF or 50% of the existing building (whichever is more restrictive);
    • Internal ADUs (conversions of existing buildings) are limited to 1,700 SF;
  • Allowing ADUs in all zoning districts and on properties less than one acre in size (with some limitations);
  • Allowing a separate address and separate utilities from the main house;
  • Streamlined review process that would shorten review times while preserving the opportunity for neighbor comments; and
  • Second driveways, in rare cases, with ASCC approval.

The full text of the new ADU Ordinance describes all of the changes (Adopted 3/27/19)

The ADU Application Path handout describes what level of review is required for ADUs (revised 3/28/19)

Thank you to all who participated in the process. The documents below were created during the review and approval process to better describe how the new ordinance would change regulations for ADUs, and are provided here as background to the recent ADU ordinance update:  Table of Public Meetings and Documents Related to the ADU Ordinance Process 

For questions or comments, please contact us at or 650-851-1700.

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 ADUs and other housing initiatives described below.

Ad Hoc - Housing on Town Owned Property Committee Meetings:

 Additional Housing Efforts and Information:

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs/Second Units)

Ad Hoc Housing Committees

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.


The New ADU Ordinance and ADU Application Path handout go into effect on April 26, 2019.

Documents related to the review process for the ordinance can be found in this Table of Documents Related to the ADU Ordinance.

For additional information about ADU design and construction, please seeSan Mateo County's second unit website.

Ad Hoc Committee on Town-Owned Property

The Town Council created this ad hoc committee to review the town’s property and make potential recommendations on those properties suitable for housing. For more information about the Committee, including the final Committee report, meeting agendas, and related materials, click here. A map of town-owned properties is here. The Committee’s first report to Council is here.


Ad Hoc Committee on Affordable Housing 

The 2014 Housing Element followed work completed by the Ad Hoc Housing Committee in the first part of 2013. Read the final report 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 3rdand 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 residentswho 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 thatcouldbe 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 theAd-Hoc Housing on Town Owned Property Committeeas part of theHousing 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, clickhere.



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