Riverside Housing and Public Safety Updates and Environmental Justice Policies

Welcome to the City of Riverside’s Phase 1 General Plan Update: Housing, Public Safety Updates and Environmental Justice Policies project site. Here you will find the latest project news, information on upcoming community events and resources to track the progress of the update of the Housing Element, Public Safety Element and Environmental Justice Policies of the City’s General Plan 2025.

Help plan the future of housing in riverside, housing and public safety updates and environmental justice policies

News on the Update

The Riverside City Council adopted the Phase 1 General Plan Update – Housing Element, Public Safety Element and Environmental Justice Policies on October 5, 2021, along with amending seven Specific Plans, rezoning hundreds of parcels, adopting updates to the City’s Zoning regulations and certifying the Final Program Environmental Impact Report for the project. Click Here to access video of the City Council hearing (WARNING – video is approximately 5 hours in length).

Following the adoption of the Update, the City received comments on the adopted Housing Element from the State Department of Housing & Community Development (HCD) requesting minor changes and additional background information. The adopted Housing Element was revised accordingly and presented to the City Council on February 8, 2022 (Click Here for the agenda packet, and Here for video of the presentation).

Available Now! Housing Element Final Revisions

The next step is to submit the final revisions to the adopting Housing Element to HCD for review and certification. This is approximately a 90-day process. The City intends to submit the adopted Housing Element to HCD by no later than March 31, 2022.

The revisions to the Housing Element presented to the City Council on February 8 can be found below. These include:

  • The revised Housing Plan, which outlines the City’s proposed Guiding Principle, Policies and Programs for the future of housing in Riverside.
  • The revised Action Plan, which includes specific actions the City will take to achieve the Housing Plan.
  • The revised Technical Background Report (TBR), which contains detailed supporting information on demographics, housing needs, constraints and more including the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) Technical Background Report in compliance with A.B. 686
  • Appendix A - Housing Opportunity Sites Inventory lists the proposed Opportunity Sites on a parcel-by-parcel basis.
  • Appendix B – Development Case Studies provides background information on recent development projects used to inform the Housing Element.
  • HCD Feedback Matrix, a table listing all HCD comments received and identifying revisions made in response.


This downloadable FAQ will answer many of your questions on the Housing Element. Please see the FAQ section at the bottom of this page for additional questions and answers.

Housing Opportunity Site Maps

The Housing Opportunity Site Maps show the sites that have been identified as the best potential locations to help meet the City’s housing requirements, the final adopted Zoning for each site:


Available Now - Final Public Safety Element

The Final Public Safety Element is available at the links below and includes:

  • The Public Safety Element, which outlines the City’s approach to natural and manmade disasters, fire and police and the proposed Guiding Principle, Policies and Programs for the future of public safety in Riverside;
  • The Action Plan, which outlines specific actions the City will take to achieve the Public Safety Element; and
  • The Technical Background Report (TBR), with supporting information.


Available Now - Final Environmental Justice Policies

The Final Environmental Justice Policies and actions are available for review. These will provide the framework for incorporating environmental justice principles into all City activities as part of the future Phase 2 General Plan Update.


Available Now – Final Environmental Impact Report

In compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) has been prepared for the Update and is now available for review and comment



Public Outreach Throughout the Process

Couldn't make the previous workshops?

Head over to the City's YouTube page, to view recordings of the Virtual Public Workshop series held in January, February, June and July 2021, or click the “Resources” tab below.

View the StoryMap!

Get the story on how we developed the Housing Opportunity Sites Inventory that laid the groundwork for the draft Preferred Alternative. This interactive ESRI StoryMap gives you through step-by-step breakdown of how we’re approaching the Update. We recommend using the Google Chrome Web browser to view this StoryMap.

View StoryMap


About the Update

Project Background

Every eight years, California state law requires that all cities and counties demonstrate how they will meet the housing needs of everyone in the community. The state forecasts the need for housing based on population projections, and then each region must show how it will accommodate that need. Cities and counties must show the places where future housing can be built and identify the potential number of homes that can be built at those locations.

When these forecasts are updated, the City’s housing plan, known as the Housing Element, must be updated too. The law requires that when we update the Housing Element, we must also update our plans to protect the community from natural hazards, like wildfires and climate disruption, and to come up with ways to ensure that everyone has access to a healthy place to live, work and play regardless of their background or circumstances. These updates are what we are calling the Public Safety Element and Environmental Justice Policies.

The City of Riverside’s current Housing Element was adopted in 2017 and runs through 2021, thus the need for this update. This next update period (2021- 2029) comes when California faces a major statewide housing shortage that is impacting all Californians by raising the cost of housing and increasing homelessness. To combat this, the State has passed new laws in 2020 to support more housing, which the City will incorporate into the new Housing Element.

Why is this project important?

  • Providing housing to meet the needs of all income levels is critical to the social and economic health of a city.
  • Like cities throughout California, Riverside has seen an increase in homelessness and the cost associated with managing the effects on the community.
  • Having an approved housing plan makes Riverside eligible for state grants to help fund infrastructure improvements.
  • Without an approved housing plan, the risk of housing-related lawsuits increases, potentially adding strain to the City’s finances. 
  • Increasingly severe natural and human-made hazards make a robust public safety plan more important than ever.
  • Environmental Justice Policies are needed to address and reverse the negative consequences of past decisions about the City’s development on public health, social equity and community decision-making power.


Key project tasks are:

  • Update the Housing Element and Safety Element of the General Plan 2025
  • Ensure environmental justice policies are incorporated in the General Plan
  • Update the City’s Zoning and other development regulations to facilitate new homes planned for in the Housing Element
  • Complete an environmental analysis as required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)


As required by State law, the revised Housing Element must be certified by the Riverside City Council no later than October 15, 2021, or the City of Riverside could lose eligibility for significant sources of State funding. The City’s anticipated timeline and steps for revising the Housing and Public Safety Elements is outlined below.

Nov. 2020

Dec. 2020

Jan. 2021

Feb. 2021

Mar. 2021

Apr. 2021

May 2021

Jun. 2021

Jul. 2021

Aug. 2021

Sep. 2021

Oct. 2021

Community Meetings & Information Gathering 












Plan Development and Refinement 













State Review of Draft Plan 








Environmental Review & Environmental Impact Report 











Final Public Hearings 


The City wants to hear from you on how we can achieve our housing and public safety goals and needs. Even during the current public health crisis when we cannot hold meetings in person, the City is committed to robust and ongoing community engagement throughout the process

We will be conducting virtual stakeholder interviews, holding online community workshops, conducting surveys, and other new and innovative approaches to public outreach. We want to foster feedback and receive input from all sectors of the community. We need your input!

Please join us for the public engagement activities below. You can also stay connected and receive project updates and invitations by joining our project email list.


Virtual Public Workshop #1 – January 7, 2021

Virtual Public Workshop #2 – January 27, 2021

Virtual Public Workshop #3 – February 25, 2021

City Planning Commission Workshop – March 18, 2021

Environmental Impact Report Scoping Meeting – April 22, 2021

City Council Housing & Homelessness Committee Meeting – May 3, 2021

Virtual Policy Workshop – June 10, 2021

Virtual Policy Workshop – June 17, 2021

City Planning Commission Workshops – August 5 and 13, 2021

City Planning Commission Hearing – September 9, 2021

Get Involved

Email Updates

WE WOULD LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU! Please provide your contact information.

Contact Us

For more information please contact:
Matthew Taylor, Senior Planner, Community & Economic Development Department-Planning Division
City of Riverside
3900 Main Street, 3rd Floor
Riverside, California 92522
(951) 826-5944
[email protected]

Frequently Asked Questions


  • All cities in California are required to have a Housing Element as part of their adopted General Plan. The Housing Element is the city’s guide for meeting the housing needs of all segments of Riverside’s population and provides a plan and a strategy for promoting safe, decent and affordable housing. Per state law, the specific purposes of the Housing Element are to:
    • assess both current and future housing needs and constraints; and
    • establish housing goals, policies and programs that provide a strategy for meeting the city’s housing needs.
  • The City of Riverside has been in the State’s COVID-19 purple tier since the start of the Housing Element update.  As with all outreach, the City has shifted to a variety of virtual and on-line mechanisms to engage residents as the priority is to protect health and stop the spread of COVID-19.  The City remains hopeful that the vaccine distribution, regular testing and other important measures taken to address COVID-19 (face covering, social distancing, hand washing, etc.), we will continue to improve our collective condition and lead to the reopening of businesses, schools and other critical services.  
  • For the Housing Element specifically, our outreach strategy has included:
    • Virtual public meetings in January and February 2021;
    • Virtual focus group meetings as requested;
    • One-on-one discussions with residents;
    • Dedicated website: riversideca.gov/housingupdate;
    • On-line survey;
    • Interactive map for the public to leave comments;
    • Recorded public meetings posted online; 
    • Electronic billboard announcements; 
    • Social media outreach;
    • Meeting flyer & widgets shared by City and Councilmembers; and
    • Regular e-blasts.
  • You can also contact our Project Manager, Matthew Taylor, at: City Hall - 3900 Main Street – Riverside, CA 92522, via email at [email protected] or by phone at (951) 826-5944.

Protecting the public's safety is the most critical mission of any local government. Building codes, insurance programs, airport plans and hazardous materials management efforts are all crucial programs that protect life and safety. The Public Safety Element is another component of the City’s General Plan that identifies public safety issues and needs anticipated to be of ongoing concern to people in Riverside. The Public Safety Element’s purpose is to ensure that the City takes action to reduce natural and man-made hazards and safety threats as well as respond quickly to any public safety incident.

Similar to the Housing and Public Safety Elements, the City is required by state law to include environmental justice goals and policies in the General Plan. These policies are aimed at reducing health risks, promoting civic engagement, and prioritizing the needs of disadvantaged communities. Environmental Justice goals and policies will be developed by identifying disadvantaged communities and demographics and conducting community outreach to better understand the unique and disproportionate challenges faced by these communities. This will guide the City’s efforts to address issues related to public health, social equity and environmental justice. 

  • Housing and Public Safety are two of the 12 chapters, called Elements, that make up Riverside’s General Plan 2025. The General Plan serves as the City’s blueprint for the future growth of the City and its communities and is a key tool for influencing and improving the quality of life for residents and businesses. The General Plan helps the City plan for important community issues such as new growth, housing needs and environmental protection and sets the stage for future social, physical and economic development. It addresses issues that impact the entire City, such as how land is used, where buildings are constructed, and how the transportation network works. The other Elements of the General Plan consist of:
    • Land Use and Urban Design
    • Circulation and Community Mobility
    • Education
    • Arts and Culture
    • Air Quality
    • Noise
    • Public Facilities and Infrastructure
    • Open Space and Conservation
    • Parks and Recreation, and
    • Historic Preservation.

The Housing and Public Safety Elements must be consistent with the other elements of the General Plan. Environmental Justice will be addressed throughout the General Plan. You can read more about the 2025 General Plan and view all the Elements here.

The main components of the Housing Element are dictated by state law and typically must include:

  • A detailed analysis of the City’s demographic, economic and housing characteristics.
  • A comprehensive analysis of the barriers to producing and preserving housing.
  • A review of the City’s progress in implementing its adopted housing policies and programs.
  • An identification of goals, objectives, and policies, in addition to a full list of programs that will help the City carry out the plan’s vision.
  • A list of sites that could accommodate new housing, demonstrating the City’s ability to meet its target number of new homes established in the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA).

Because the Housing Element is updated frequently, the previous Housing Element provides a foundation for this update. This update gives us the opportunity to evaluate the previous Element and determine which parts have been effective and which should be improved.

The goal of the safety element is to reduce the potential short and long-term risk of death, injuries, property damage, and economic and social disruption resulting from fires, floods, droughts, earthquakes, landslides, climate change, and other hazards. Other locally relevant safety issues, such as emergency response, hazardous materials spills, and crime reduction, may also be included. Some local jurisdictions have chosen to incorporate their hazardous waste management plans into their safety elements. The Public Safety Element directly relates to topics also mandated in the Land Use and Urban Design and Open Space and Conservation Elements as well as a key consideration for the environmental justice policies of the General Plan. The Public Safety Element must identify hazards and ways to reduce those hazards in order to guide local decisions related to zoning and development regulations. Policies may include methods of minimizing risks, as well as ways to minimize economic disruption and speed up recovery following disasters.

State law requires regular updates to the Housing Element to ensure relevancy and accuracy. Each update must be approved by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) before it can be put into effect. Without an HCD-approved Housing Element, the City would be ineligible for some of the state housing grants and funds it currently receives. Other state funds, including those used to maintain roads and utilities, also could be jeopardized. The City would also be vulnerable to lawsuits for not working proactively to meet its housing needs. These updates are required every eight years. The time from one update to the next is called a housing cycle. The upcoming cycle for the City of Riverside will cover the next eight-year planning period (2021-2029).

  • The updated Housing Element must show the exact locations where future housing can be built and identify the potential number of homes that can be built at those locations. When it comes to these important decisions, the City of Riverside is not starting from scratch. During the beginning stages of reviewing housing locations, the City limits or eliminates sites:
  • With sensitive habitat or species
  • Where the topography isn’t conducive to building
  • That aren’t safe because they’re in a flood zone or high-fire area
  • Where voter-approved zoning rules restrict development, such as in the Greenbelt or in our arroyos and canyons

Areas that could be designated for additional housing include:

  • Vacant lots not designated as open space
  • Underutilized sites, such as lots with buildings that are empty, deteriorated or no longer needed
  • Locations where more homes could easily fit than there are today
  • Locations near public transit and essential services like libraries and neighborhood-serving shopping and amenities
  • Areas where housing could be added near commercial buildings or in business parks, creating “live-work” neighborhoods
  • Sites where infrastructure, such as water and sewer service, can support more housing

City regulations ensure housing is not located where sensitive habitats or other constraints occur. They work together with city policies, such as those in the General Plan, to identify suitable housing sites.

The State’s housing policies encourage the development of housing for all income levels, but with a special focus on affordable housing because it is the least likely to be built in many circumstances, and because there is the greatest need for it nearly every community including Riverside. Therefore, the Housing Element is required to contain strategies for prioritizing the creation of housing that people with less income than average can access. However, it should be noted that this process does not establish rental rates or sales prices. Ultimately, the type of housing built on these sites will depend on the housing market, developer interest, available funding and the local economy.

A successful Housing and Public Safety Element update and environmental justice policies will be based on an inclusive process in which all Riversiders have the chance to participate. State planning law requires that communities make diligent efforts to engage public participation that includes all stakeholders and income groups. The public process for the Update will offer numerous opportunities for public involvement, including workshops, surveys, stakeholder interviews and other various outreach activities. Later in the process, the Planning Commission and City Council will conduct formal public hearings to adopt the updated Elements. 

The City’s existing zoning regulations will remain in-place and are not being eliminated for any site or area; rather, the type of zoning applied to certain sites is proposed to change to accommodate the City’s housing needs. The State requires that the Housing Element include an analysis of sites that are available to accommodate the additional housing assigned through the RHNA allocation. This analysis must specifically identify vacant or underutilized properties (or “sites”) where this housing could be built. Some of sites may already be zoned for multi-family residential or mixed-use development. If the sites analysis reveals that the current zoning of vacant and underutilized sites cannot adequately accommodate the full RHNA allocation, the City must prepare a plan to change the zoning to allow for housing to be built, or to increase amount of housing allowed, or increase the amount of housing allowed to be built, on a particular site.

Noncompliance with the State’s Housing Element requirements – including failure to adopted the Housing Element by the mandatory October 15, 2021 deadline – can result in consequences for the City ranging from ineligibility for crucial State funding and grant opportunities; the risk of being sued in court by third parties or the State itself; Court-ordered approvals of housing development projects; restrictions on the City’s ability to issue building permits (of all kinds); and more. For more information on the possible consequences of non-compliance, click here for a Fact Sheet prepared by the State Department of Housing & Community Development.

Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA)

  • The Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA – pronounced ree-nuh) is an assessment process performed every eight years, where the State of California provides the number of housing units that must be planned for in the Southern California region. The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) takes that larger number and devises a method to distribute the needed units among the cities and counties in the area. As a part of the Housing Element, Riverside must demonstrate to the state that there is space available for the all the units allocated to the City by SCAG. The RHNA represents the projected future housing need for all income levels in a region and is used in land use planning, to prioritize local resource allocation and to help decide how to address existing and future housing needs.  The RHNA allows communities to anticipate growth in ways that:
  • enhance quality of life;
  • improve access to jobs;
  • promote transportation mobility; and
  • address social equity and fair-share housing needs.
  • This is a complex process that begins with the State of California. The state prepares projections about expected statewide population growth and then allocates a portion of the total state population growth to each region. Regional planning organizations in turn distribute the regional allocation among local jurisdictions. There are three primary objectives in allocating the units to local jurisdictions:
    • increasing housing supply, affordability and type;
    • encouraging infill and efficient development; and
    • promoting a jobs/housing balance.


  • Southern California Association of Governments’ (SCAG's) method for determining a city or county’s RHNA starts with the total number of units assigned to the SCAG region by the California Department of Housing and Community Development and separates existing need (i.e., the number of units we’re short today) from projected need (the number of units we are expected to be short in the future based on estimated growth). In determining the existing and projected need for the region, SCAG’s method uses a three-step process to determine each city and county’s assigned number of units, broken down by income category (very low income, low income, moderate income and above-moderate income).

In the upcoming 2021-2029 Housing Element Cycle, the City of Riverside’s RHNA allocation is a minimum of 18,415 new housing units. The previously adopted Housing Element cycle covering the 2013-2021 period included a RHNA allocation of 10,025 units, of which only a small portion were built during the last seven years. The increase in the City’s RHNA housing number is reflective of the State’s current housing crisis, due in part to the difficulty of enabling the construction of new homes to keep up with the need for them. In order to make sure we can safely meet our minimum, the City will need to identify space for approximately 24,000 new homes for the 2021-2029 Cycle.

While cities do not build housing – that is the function of private developers – they do adopt plans, regulations and programs that provide opportunities for how and where housing development occurs. An example of an adopted plan is the General Plan, which through its Housing Element provides housing programs and through its Land Use and Urban Design Element shows where and at what densities housing can be built. The Housing Element must identify ways to make it easier for private development to build homes in the areas designated for new housing to be placed.