News


Supervisor Simitian proposes teacher housing in Palo Alto

Project would require 'innovative' partnerships with school districts, cities

UPDATE: The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the proposal for teacher housing on Tuesday, Jan. 23.

To help teachers cope with the increasingly high cost of living in the Bay Area, Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian is proposing the county partner with local school districts and cities to build a 60- to 120-unit affordable housing complex in Palo Alto.

The teacher housing would be built on a county-owned, 1.5-acre site at 231 Grant Ave. in Palo Alto, near the California Avenue Business District. The project would require "innovative" funding partnerships with local school districts, including Palo Alto Unified, Mountain View Whisman, Mountain View Los Altos, Los Altos and the Foothill-De Anza Community College District, as well as cities, a press release from Simitian's office states.

Simitian said he has had "very preliminary conversations," with the superintendents of all four school districts and Foothill De-Anza's chancellor, as well as spoken with the city of Palo Alto's planning director and city manager.

"It's better for everyone – folks trying to avoid traffic, kids getting an education, school districts trying to hire and retain the very best teachers for our schools, and of course our teachers themselves – when our teachers can live in the communities where they teach," Simitian said in the release. "It's never easy to develop workforce housing in such an expensive area; but we have the land, and we know there are partners who want to make this work."

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors will vote on the proposal on Tuesday.

In an interview, Simitian said that the proposal arose from a longtime desire to repurpose the Grant Avenue site, which offers the potential to tackle two challenges: affordable housing and teacher retention.

According to Simitian, local school districts are facing teacher shortages and retention issues due to the region's high cost of living. In Palo Alto Unified, teachers have spoken out about the economic and housing challenges they face in the area.

In the 2015-16 school year, according to data provided by the school district, the top five cities Palo Alto Unified teachers lived in were Palo Alto (21 percent), San Jose (11 percent), Mountain View (10 percent), Redwood City (8 percent) and Menlo Park (7.5 percent). Smaller percentages were scattered throughout the Bay Area, from East Palo Alto and Los Altos to Morgan Hill and Felton.

Most classified staff also lived in Palo Alto that year (37 percent), followed by San Jose (11 percent), Mountain View (8 percent), Redwood City (6.5 percent) and East Palo Alto (5 percent).

Simitian said he has not yet looked at hard data, but all of the school superintendents' immediate response to his proposal was, "'You have no idea the challenges we're facing in this regard.'"

"They were all anxious to take the conversation to the next level," he said.

Several school and teachers' union leaders have already expressed their support for the proposal in letters to the Board of Supervisors, including Teri Baldwin, president of the Palo Alto Educators Association (PAEA); Jeff Harding, superintendent of the Mountain View Los Altos High School District; Judy Miner, chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District; and Brian Wheatley, president of the Evergreen Teachers Association in San Jose.

Baldwin wrote that the "vast majority" of Palo Alto Unified's 900 teachers cannot afford to live in Palo Alto.

"As median income earners, we earn too much to qualify for for low-income housing, but not enough to afford market rate rents, let alone payments on a purchase," she wrote. "Even with newly constructed apartment complexes adding to the housing supply in the area, typical rent can exceed half of the monthly take-home salary of an experienced teacher."

Palo Alto Unified Interim Superintendent Karen Hendricks, by contrast, said that the district has not struggled with teacher retention and currently has only two vacant positions in special education. She said there is no evidence linking retention to high cost of living, but that the district is aware that many staff members commute to Palo Alto "and that traffic can cause a lengthy commute in some cases."

Hendricks did not say whether she plans to write a letter of support for the proposal, but if it's approved, the district "could investigate opportunities regarding this option with the county as well as other potential partners."

An increasing number of school districts across the Bay Area, including Mountain View Whisman, San Jose Unified and San Francisco Unified, are considering teacher housing proposals, while some already offer housing.

Several years ago, Santa Clara Unified School District had built a 70-unit below-market housing complex on district land specifically to house new teachers and address high teacher turnover. The San Mateo County Community College District also offers workforce housing.

Outside organizations are also working on this issue. Last summer, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative pledged $5 million to create a home down payment support fund through housing startup Landed for educators who work in the Redwood City, Ravenswood City and Sequoia Union High School districts.

While the Grant Avenue site could accommodate more than 100 units, Simitian noted that "all parties will have to be open to change as community members and funding partners weigh in on what is both possible and compatible with the surrounding community."

Simitian said that construction could cost $500,000 to $600,000 per unit for a multifamily complex.

He emphasized that funding the project will require "something other than an off-the-shelf solution."

"If we confine ourselves to the conventional solutions I think that's going to limit us," he said.

Community services currently offered at the site, including a county public defender office, could be relocated nearby or remain there on the ground floor, the release states. Parking on the site could be replaced with a structure across the street on the Palo Alto Courthouse lot. This could potentially create more parking in a heavily impacted part of Palo Alto, Simitian noted.

Palo Alto Mayor Liz Kniss, a former school board member, expressed support for Simitian's proposal in the release.

"This strikes me as an incredible opportunity to provide workforce housing and strengthen our schools," she said. "Done right, it really is a win-win."

Sarah Chaffin, a local parent and founder of SupportTeacherHousing.org, which is working to encourage Bay Area school districts to build teacher housing on privately owned land, described Simitian's proposal as a potential "game changer in terms of solving the teacher housing crisis," and one that "could inspire others to follow its example."

SupportTeacherHousing.org and Bay Area Forward are hosting a town hall at Gunn High School this Thursday, Jan. 25, for "teachers to share their stories about how the housing crisis has affected them," the release states. A panel moderated by Simitian will discuss possible solutions.

The panel will feature Miner of the Foothill-De Anza college district; Baldwin of the Palo Alto Educators Association; Stephen Levy, director and senior economist of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy in Palo Alto; and Karen Parolek, whose Berkeley design firm Opticos develops affordable housing.

The town hall will run from 4-6 p.m. at Gunn's library, 780 Arastradero Road, Palo Alto.

If the Board of Supervisors approves the proposal, they will direct staff to find a partner with which to develop the site, discuss "cost-sharing" for the project and return with a financing plan no later than May, a staff report states.

If approved, the county aims to have a partner selected no later than August.

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Comments

27 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jan 21, 2018 at 5:10 pm

I like this idea, with some caveats.

One of the biggest reasons people commute is to get not just cheaper housing but also a higher quality of life. The poster child for this is the infamous Kate Downing who beat our town up in the papers over needing to create more dense micrunit rentals, then she moved to Santa Cruz to get a big single-family home with a view. Research shows that millenials actually want single family homes to a greater degree. We don't want to create housing that brings in young teachers only to have them leave when they get more experienced because we buy into the fallacy that any housing will do. The consultant report on PAHC showed a persistent problem of empty BMR units, mainly around desirability, because poor people make choices, too.

We also already pay our teachers better than the local average pay. So giving teachers this option should be in lieu of some pay, or for merit. I would personally rather see teachers get interest free loans from the district the way the superintendent does. Maybe not a million dollars, but enough so they can own their own places and have a bigger stake in the community. I know numerous teachers who own homes in my neighborhood. Why not build the housing as condos that only teachers can buy? And they just have to buy the condos, not the land, the way Stanford does it? That way, they can benefit from the housing market, too, and aren't trapped there even as the housing remains cheaper.

I'd love the merit to be recognition for being an upstander to the community, breaking this culture of cowardice and coverup among employees in the district would make this well worth it.


10 people like this
Posted by Rex
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 21, 2018 at 5:23 pm

This is perhaps the ONLY new housing proposal for new housing specifically targeting teachers. Wailing about housing for teachers, fire and police staff as a justification for ADU's and other dense housing is complete nonsense because in the fine print, there is absolutely NO requirement that teachers, fire or police staff have any preference or reduced rates for that housing. All of it is rented at prevailing rates with nothing but lip service to those professions held up as the beneficiaries. It will be interesting to see how far housing just for teachers goes, interesting idea Joe!


70 people like this
Posted by Resident B
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 21, 2018 at 6:00 pm

So, what happens if a teacher is fired or quits (not likely if their housing is a condition)?


13 people like this
Posted by Eric Rosenblum
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 21, 2018 at 6:05 pm

Palo Alto Forward is in support of this initiative. We are sending the following letter to the Supervisors:
+++++++++++++++++

Palo Alto Forward is excited to learn about the proposal for teacher housing you will consider on Tuesday and thank Supervisor Simitian for his leadership.

This proposal can be a model for use throughout the county and region and we are pleased to learn that it will be developed with neighboring school districts and Foothill-DeAnza. As you know Supervisor Simitian is moderating a teacher housing forum on Thursday with teachers, administrators and public officials from throughout the county and beyond. They will be thrilled to hear when you move this proposal forward.

Our members hosted and attended several OnTheTable events in November and at each one there was discussion of the challenges facing teachers, staff and the district administrations trying to attract and retain the best staff.
In addition, the use of available public land can be a model that goes beyond school district employees. At the CASA (Committee to House the Bay Area) meetings members learned about the large number of vacant parcels owned by cities, counties and transportation agencies as well as school districts.

The creative and collaborative use of available public land can open up housing opportunities for thousands of struggling residents in our county and more region-wide.

On behalf of our members, I thank you for considering this positive step in addressing housing for teachers and developing a model of collaboration.

Eric Rosenblum


89 people like this
Posted by PA housing for non-PA teachers?
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 21, 2018 at 6:37 pm

PA housing for non-PA teachers? is a registered user.

I do not understand why we would allocate this real estate to house teachers who don't even work in Palo Alto. I am not for this proposal. Oddly, none of the other commenters mentions this.


17 people like this
Posted by Paly Grad
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jan 21, 2018 at 7:04 pm

The reason that this would not be limited to PAUSD teachers is that the land on which the housing would be built is owned by Santa Clara County.

"The teacher housing would be built on a county-owned, 1.5-acre site at 231 Grant Ave. in Palo Alto, near the California Avenue Business District."


17 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 21, 2018 at 7:22 pm

Take any BMR unit owner 30 years ago, and ask them would they be better off if they bought in Mt View, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale or San Jose, rather than buy a BMR unit.

The BMR unit owner would have anywhere from a $500,000 - $1,000,000 in home equity, and versus $50,000 - $75,000.

And if these are rental units, what happens when the teacher gets married, has a family etc. For example, let's say the spouse is a high tech worker making hundreds of thousands of dollars...

Other issues would be the details - if the teacher moves to a different district to they need to vacate? What are the tax implications of subsidized housing?


16 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 21, 2018 at 7:39 pm

# of teacher in PAUSD = ~900. # in all nearby districts = ~3000+? 60 units = 2%. . Financing will work how? Umm ok, I guess that earns a press release.


11 people like this
Posted by Pat Burt
a resident of Community Center
on Jan 21, 2018 at 7:56 pm

Thanks to Supervisor Simitian for initiating this project.
Providing housing for moderate income workers, including critical public employees, has been our most challenging housing problem. They make too much to qualify for affordable housing while experiencing ever greater pressure from uncontrolled increases in market rate housing rents. They provide our communities with services that are essential for a healthy society and economy, but are unable to compete for market rate housing with the explosive number of high earning tech workers.
No single project can address all of our housing needs, nor can it solve our transportation or job growth challenges, but a good and innovative project is a valuable step in the right direction. For 100 of our teachers, it will be invaluable.


46 people like this
Posted by PA resident
a resident of Mayfield
on Jan 21, 2018 at 8:53 pm

It seems that other districts (i.e. Cupertino) are providing subsidized housing only for teachers in their district. I can see why it would be in PA's interest to use valuable PA real estate to build high-density housing that may helo attract and retain PAUSD teachers. I'm not sure it's in PA's interest to do so for teachers in other districts.


14 people like this
Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 21, 2018 at 10:29 pm

We should have spent the money on buying a trailer park on something like this instead where it benefits our commmunity in a much greater way.

No one offered to buy out mg landlords house when he raised my rent. I don't know why the trailer park folks got a hand out.


45 people like this
Posted by m2grs
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 21, 2018 at 11:40 pm

What's next? Firefighters housing? What about police? City/County clerks? Before you know it everyone wants a piece.

This is a Pandora's Box. More taxes. More government rules and organizations to administrate the ins and outs.

It also creates vast resentment among teachers, because majority of them won't get it. Not good for teacher morale at all. I've seen perks only given to a few lucky ones, not based on merit, in private corporations. Believe me they were disasters to the company/department morale and productivity.


17 people like this
Posted by MV Resident
a resident of another community
on Jan 22, 2018 at 8:02 am

How about Palo Alto finally do it's fair share of providing some affordable housing for the region? You have a ton of office space, yet provide almost no affordable housing. Mountain View residents are getting sick and tired of providing all the new housing for the entire region! Joe Simitian, your Palo Alto neighbor, proposes one small building in Palo Alto, which will likely go to teachers (are you that selfish you would deny housing to a teacher even if they didn't teach in PA?) and you all have to put up a big fight even against that? Palo Alto residents, you need to check your egos and privilege once and for all. You sound absolutely silly.

Mr Simitian - I hope this project is approved. If it is not, I will pull my support for additional housing in Mountain View. If Palo Alto isn't willing to help, than Mountain View shouldn't either.


22 people like this
Posted by County Land not City Land
a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 22, 2018 at 8:15 am

To the commenters wondering why project would be opened for non PA teachers. This is Santa Clara County land, not city land and it seems only fair to the taxpayers that project would serve neighboring districts in North County.


19 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2018 at 8:16 am

I can see this eventually becoming fodder for lawyers. Discriminatory? Why should teachers get what firefighters or police don't get?


16 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2018 at 9:23 am

I'm sorry but this proposal is completely illogical. Last time I checked, Palo Alto had no trouble filling teaching slots, but, had a problem finding qualified police. Schools in the East/Southeast of Santa Clara County are having trouble finding teachers, according to the article I previously posted. So, if they are housed in Palo Alto to attract them, they will be adding a 25 mi/45 minute auto commute each way every day from Palo Alto to random East Bay schools. This makes no sense. We need to minimize auto commute times and distances, not add to them. There has to be a more logical way to handle this problem.


12 people like this
Posted by disturbed
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 22, 2018 at 10:14 am

Why should we pay for this? The city council is doing a lot of foolish things and this is one of them. Will their salaries be lowered accordingly?


31 people like this
Posted by Concerned
a resident of Woodside
on Jan 22, 2018 at 10:17 am

Why don't we just pay LIVING WAGES to teachers, police, firemen....?
Then they can live where they choose. Wage discrepancy is the real issue here - let's work on improving that!


10 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2018 at 10:49 am

Posted by Concerned, a resident of Woodside:

>> Why don't we just pay LIVING WAGES to teachers, police, firemen....?
Then they can live where they choose. Wage discrepancy is the real issue here - let's work on improving that!

Agree somewhat. (Note, in California, municipal boundaries (e.g. Palo Alto) and school district boundaries (e.g. PAUSD) are not particularly related.) Palo Alto does not, in general, have a teacher shortage, although they haven't always been as strict about certain qualifications as they should have been. For example, not all Spanish teachers have been both fluent Spanish speakers, and, good at teaching. (Seems like it shouldn't be that difficult around here, right?)

Palo Alto does not, in general, have a fireman shortage. (Does anyone?) Historically, there has been a large pipeline of trained seasonal firefighters (e.g. through CalFire) available for the few openings in permanent city firefighters, and, their schedules normally have been such that it is easy to live further afield if need be.

Palo Alto does have, at the moment, a shortage of qualified police. It may be that Palo Alto doesn't pay enough, but, there is also a long-term budget/pension cost problem, so, you have to be careful about that.

In any case, I don't see that the proposed housing approach will address any of Palo Alto's needs.


13 people like this
Posted by Annette
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 22, 2018 at 10:51 am

Annette is a registered user.

I think Liz Kniss put it best: done right this is a win-win. As usual, the devil is in the details and as others have pointed out, there are some thorny details attached to this. It benefits everyone when our children's teachers live in the community they teach in, so I hope some good minds will tackle the thorns.


12 people like this
Posted by resident239
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 22, 2018 at 10:57 am

resident239 is a registered user.

This is a fine proposal. Please give me one good reason why this building should not be 100' tall or taller. Because we don't want shadows? Our regional housing shortage is sever to say the least. Limiting a very well located parcel (close to train, downtown, etc.) to 50' tall is a waste of a great opportunity. How about 300 units? Regionally, we need 100s of 1000s of units. Without building a massive amount of housing the two hour commute will become four hours and the roads will become more and more miserable. This needs to be combined with a 200 billion dollar infrastructure plan. Without forward thinking we will continue to complain and make zero progress on these issues.


9 people like this
Posted by green bean
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 22, 2018 at 11:03 am


Very good idea! As a former teacher I can see that saving about two hours of commuting a day is a win-win for students, parents , teachers and traffic congestion. Good luck on the financing. It will benefit the community.


29 people like this
Posted by bikermom
a resident of Mayfield
on Jan 22, 2018 at 11:10 am

Has anyone considered the quality of life for the residents in this neighborhood who have spend millions on their homes and are surrounded by traffic, construction, traffic, construction, struggles to get their kids to school in the morning from most streets being blocked. I'm all about teachers, I used to be one. Do all the teachers want to live here? Why do we have to make room for everyone. The city is allowing the landscaped to be completely ruined by giant ugly boxes until we resemble a mini NYC. The building that is currently there is surrounded by beautiful trees and a setback building which allows us to breath. the problem is that no one will want to live here after we've all been boxed out. I've already seen many buildings with "for lease" signs up for over a year and yet so many more buildings are being built. We are congested.

What about down the street a little where Fry's is. Isn't that slated for a development. And note that 2 major developments are going up currently along Park Blvd which is causing a major headache and the one on the corner of Sherman and Park Blvd for the new Police station and more parking structure. It's too much. It's a strain on the current community.


5 people like this
Posted by resident239
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 22, 2018 at 11:12 am

resident239 is a registered user.

I love NYC.


13 people like this
Posted by PA housing for non-PA teachers?
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 22, 2018 at 11:14 am

PA housing for non-PA teachers? is a registered user.

Thanks for the comments indicating that the land is owned by the county, and so the housing needs to be open to all teachers in the county.

I just wish we could do something more local. It's a big county, and Palo Alto is at the far end of it. Maybe in practice that means this will largely house Palo Alto teachers. Especially if the prices get the Palo Alto premium. I hope so.


38 people like this
Posted by Me 2
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 22, 2018 at 11:17 am

Typical politics. This one is a two-fer:

1. Pander to a special interest group that will support you with money in the next election cycle (teachers union) paid by taxpayers (dues from teacher salaries, which are funded by tax money)
2. Save the children, and who doesn't want that

Great job manipulating the public with bad public policy. Should be focused on housing for all, not just a gifted segment of the population.

That's why good old Joe is where he is. When is he going to run for governor?


19 people like this
Posted by PA housing for non-PA teachers?
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jan 22, 2018 at 11:17 am

PA housing for non-PA teachers? is a registered user.

@resident239 -- You are not alone in loving NYC. Lots of people love to live in cities. But many people do not. I definitely do not. That is why there is so much heartache about what is happening to Palo Alto.


3 people like this
Posted by resident239
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 22, 2018 at 11:22 am

resident239 is a registered user.

Understood. However, if you think this place is going to become less crowded in the coming years/decades, you are out of your mind.


12 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2018 at 11:22 am

Posted by resident239, a resident of Professorville:

>> This is a fine proposal. Please give me one good reason why this building should not be 100' tall or taller. Because we don't want shadows? Our regional housing shortage is sever to say the least. Limiting a very well located parcel (close to train, downtown, etc.) to 50' tall is a waste of a great opportunity.

100' tall? No problem. I think Professorville is a perfect place for such a project. What block did you say you live on? I'm glad that if we locate the project right next to you, you will be a very happy neighbor!

Getting back to the actual proposal: someone please explain to me why it makes sense to build housing here for teachers who work in the Alum Rock area to commute to? This will add to traffic problems, not reduce them, and is inherently unfair to all the teachers and other public servants who can't receive this very limited benefit. It just isn't logical.


7 people like this
Posted by Home town girl
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 22, 2018 at 11:38 am

Don't we want our critical services people, i.e. teachers, cops, firefighters, etc. to be an integral part of the community? There is so much to be gained by providing inclusion, housing wise, to these dedicated people who care for us and our children.

Think about your kid's teachers...the amount of time they now have to spend commuting to more affordable places could be better spent grading papers, researching and generating new and compelling curriculum, and providing extra help to promising and/or struggling students to help them succeed.

Not that long ago, teachers could afford to live in and around the area. You would see them at school/community events or even in the grocery store or on the street. My aunt taught school in the PAUSD for 45 years and was able to buy a home here in the 50's. Even after she retired, she would constantly be approached by former students who would greet her and thank her for her influence on their lives. Isn't that the kind of community we should aspire to build?


30 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2018 at 11:43 am

If the County (ie--it's other people's money Simitian) is so hot on this project, why not pick some other piece of County land to build these housing units. Palo Alto is built out, and it makes no sense to build more subsidized housing for people who don't work in Palo Alto.

Will these teachers be required to use public transportation to get to/from work, and all of the other aspects of these lives? Bet that won't be the case. So, what does Palo Alto get out of this boondoggle? More traffic, and ultimately higher fees to supply the services any new residents will demand.

No thanks. Terrible idea!


12 people like this
Posted by Anne
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 22, 2018 at 11:48 am

Pat Burt, when you stated:

"...unable to compete for market rate housing with the explosive number of high earning tech workers.",

you conveniently left out heavy Palo Alto buying by overseas buyers, primarily from the PRC, many of whom don't work here. When I read the home sales section in the Daily Post, which I do almost daily, I see mostly Chinese names. No way to know where all of these buyers are actually from, of course, but we can all see how large the Chinese population has grown in recent years. The Weekly even ran a feature on this story.


14 people like this
Posted by Will
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 22, 2018 at 11:58 am

@Observer, could you clarify this statement, please: "The consultant report on PAHC showed a persistent problem of empty BMR units, mainly around desirability, because poor people make choices, too."

What report and how many or what percentage of BMR units are empty? That sounds surprising to me, so I'm hoping to learn from what you're looking at. Thanks!


4 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2018 at 1:01 pm

Posted by resident239, a resident of Professorville:

>> I love NYC.

Me too. Well, Manhattan anyway. Manhattan has a population density of about 72,000 per square mile. I hope you are not suggesting that Palo Alto become like Manhattan? If that is what you want, you are trapped in the wrong neighborhood.


16 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 22, 2018 at 2:03 pm

Marie is a registered user.

The most common phrase I've heard about NYC is "it is wonderful to visit but I wouldn't like to live there." I totally agree, which is why I moved to Palo Alto not San Francisco, the most local comparison. I recommend all those who love NYC as a place to live to move to San Francisco or downtown San Jose.


4 people like this
Posted by Marie
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 22, 2018 at 2:14 pm

Marie is a registered user.

However, I do support teacher housing for the county's teachers on county land, as long as it includes sufficient parking to not further worsen the parking deficit near CA Avenue. It should conform to zoning for multi-family housing in Palo Alto. I would like to see smaller units to accommodate the maximum number of units. This would tilt the housing towards teachers starting out - but I do believe that is where the greatest need is. Palo Alto can never pay enough for teachers to afford single family housing in Palo Alto as it is. That will have to be solved by adding more housing where possible and adding mass transit to get there or having partners with higher income.

If we are not to become another Manhattan, more viable land must be freed up, in areas not subject to future flooding from sea level rise. It is time to rethink opening up land between Junipero Serra and 280, and perhaps even up to a mile east of 280 to housing. I think we will still have plenty of open space, if we focus on green belts more than a mile from 280. The lower foothills really should be opened up for housing.


35 people like this
Posted by Former Paly parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 22, 2018 at 2:21 pm

I get the nice intent, but don’t believe the proposal is logical or fair.
I hope my tax dollars don’t go towards this.
Housing is a challenge for MOST of us. So is commuting - note: many of us have no subsidy of our commute/bridge toll costs, etc. We are sucked dry by the Democratic Party in this one party state, more and more.

Another concern is ongoing operations: the management bureaucracy and decisions/favoritism? about who is “helped” and subsidized.

Some teachers are not poor, by any means. Fact: around here they’re quite well paid and have outstanding benefits, like being able to educate their kids in PAUSD schools w/o paying our horrendously costly property taxes ((We are mid-range owners with a mortgage for about 16 yrs). Some teachers drive nice cars, some have wealthy spouses, we all have choices. Housing expenditures are one major aspect, but by no means the only choice any of us make.

If this proposal is accepted, financing IS a big question. Furthermore, if teachers from all over Santa Clara County may live here at this Palo Alto site (while benefitting from being subsidized), I assume their kids will therefore attend PAUSD schools, once again, w/o paying our property taxes. I read no acknowledgement of that (I assume no land taxed on these units or how would that work!?)

Best would be to build an array of housing options in the greater region, especially in San Jose, where there is almost unlimited potential at a reasonable price, and with greater inventory there will be greater choice of prices and housing styles.

Real estate will stop and crash, it has cyclically done that here. Then there’s a buying opportunity. One newer problem is overseas Chinese consortium money paying cash for properties. Another is AirBnB, something I strenuously oppose. Again, full agreement that housing is a problem, but I question special-interests being catered to.....


50 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2018 at 3:13 pm

These teachers will of course live in Palo Alto but will work anywhere in Santa Clara County.

They will of course, walk, bike, or use public transportation to work.

They will of course have spouses or partners that will walk, bike, or use public transportation to get to their jobs.

They will of course not own cars that need to be parked, and neither will their spouses.

They will of course not have children who will want to go to Palo Alto schools.

They will of course not want to do anything evenings or weekends that can't be walked, biked or use public transport to get to.

You see how silly this sounds?


45 people like this
Posted by Juan
a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 22, 2018 at 5:22 pm

Palo Alto is the absolute worst place in the county to build this kind of housing, anyone who has ever looked at a map should know why. Palo Alto is at the county border, meaning teachers will likely have to commute far to their jobs all over the county. It makes sense to build housing for Santa Clara County teachers in the middle of Santa Clara County, which means Santa Clara or San Jose.

Now if you want to build housing for teachers who teach in the City of Palo Alto then it makes sense to house them in Palo Alto, but that's not the proposal here. Say NO, we can do better!


25 people like this
Posted by HideThePickle
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 22, 2018 at 9:07 pm

This is just another way to obfuscate public employees pay. Hiding the cost of teachers makes it easier to cry poor and negotiate for bigger raises in the future.

If you think pension obfuscation confounds pay negotiation for public employees- try throwing in the variable value and unpredictable future of real estate.

My guess - our elected representatives will offer a huge giveaway and then value it at $0 in future negotiations.

Dumbest idea this year.


27 people like this
Posted by Boss Hog
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 22, 2018 at 11:48 pm

I like teachers as much as the next person but why are teachers being singled for special treatment? Lets call this out for what it is. A blatant attempt by Ol' Joe to use tax revenues to prepay for the support of the teacher's union in his next election campaign.


4 people like this
Posted by Teacher
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 23, 2018 at 2:10 am

The truth is this housing is usually designed for new, young single teachers, and not permanent housing for veteran teachers or larger families or for those intending to stay through retirement. It’s basically a dorm for teachers. It’s a thoughtful idea, but is just a bandaid for the larger problem of pay inequity and lack of respect for the teaching profession. Would I run to one of these temporary housing situations that was devastatingly contingent on whether I kept my job? Only if I desperately had to...and that’s not a big draw for enticing highly qualified educators. Basically, it’s a nice idea, but not a real solution to the larger problem. However, having said that, if housing for teachers is something the teacher’s in this area really want, just do it. They put up with your kids all year, and work well beyond their hours and contractual obligations. Even if teachers wanted rainbow ponies to ride to work each day, without hesitation, just give it to them. If you can’t pay them what they deserve, at the very least make something easier for them in whatever way possible because we should never forget that a teacher’s working conditions are our children’s working conditions as well.


2 people like this
Posted by Teacher
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 23, 2018 at 2:35 am

Also, I’m surprised it need to be said...but, helping teachers helps our children, and helping our children literally improves the future condition of our city, and state and country and planet. That’s a vital service our city needs which makes this definitely not a special treatment or a handout. It’s sad, for sure that the city would need to consider this, but it’s not a handout. There also wouldn’t be a single teacher who would object to fire fighters and police who were given the same opportunity to be a part of the communities they work in. Just maybe, if teachers are allowed this opportunity, it would open the doors for other important service professionals to do the same.


27 people like this
Posted by Boss Hog
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 23, 2018 at 3:46 am

Teacher Said:

"They (teachers) put up with your kids all year, and work well beyond their hours and contractual obligations"

Do you even realize the above statement also describes every parents working in silicon valley where 60-80 hour work weeks are legendary? I want to ride a rainbow colored pony to work too.

Let the victim Olympics begin!




4 people like this
Posted by Teacher
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 23, 2018 at 4:06 am

Like I said, if We don’t understand the value of education and it’s far reaching impact we miss an important opportunity for the future. Of course others who work in Silicon Valley also struggle. That’s not right either. But if we’re struggling to retain teachers in the area, what does that mean for all of us who want to educate our families here? Also there are no victims here, but if insults are your most skillful means of communication, we won’t ever settle anything. The world is in dire need of more understanding.


18 people like this
Posted by Reality
a resident of Stanford
on Jan 23, 2018 at 8:43 am

We are not struggling to retain teachers here. And the union has done more to damage self worth and attitude of teachers than missing ponies.

For example, contributions above and beyond job descriptions, which generally are the minimum required performance, cannot be rewarded per union rules.

The union sucks the soul more than commutes.


28 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 23, 2018 at 8:48 am

One thing I do want to say on this subject that hasn't been mentioned is the fact that often teachers do not want to live too close to their school. The teachers themselves may like to weigh in on this.

I had a conversation with a teacher in one of the schools several years ago. She valued her privacy and never let her students or anyone know exactly where she lived except that it wasn't Palo Alto. Her reasons were that she used to teach and live in the same community and she felt that she couldn't go shopping, see a movie, take her dog for a walk, etc. without coming across a student or a parent. Her errands and her own recreation was impacted by all these chats with students and it was the sole reason for her to look for a new job. At the time I spoke with her she said she enjoyed the drive to and from work as it enabled her to switch off from school life to home life and even though she had to spend some time at home working, it no longer took over her life the way it used to.

I have heard police say the same thing. They don't want to have their families growing up in the place where they work.

It is worth thinking about.


19 people like this
Posted by Just saying
a resident of Terman Middle School
on Jan 23, 2018 at 4:04 pm

There's a lot of opportunity to build housing in East Palo Alto at a fraction of the cost... just a thought.


2 people like this
Posted by bemused
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jan 23, 2018 at 5:28 pm

@Just saying, except East Palo Alto is in San Mateo County, so if they are looking for land in Santa Clara, that won't work.


58 people like this
Posted by microunits
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jan 23, 2018 at 7:42 pm

Simitian's proposal sounds quite a bit like last year's one to build micro-units a few blocks away on Page Mill:
Web Link


2 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 23, 2018 at 11:10 pm

Posted by Reality, a resident of Stanford:

>> We are not struggling to retain teachers here.

Agreed. Certainly true as far as I know.

>> And the union has done more to damage self worth and attitude of teachers than missing ponies.

"Missing ponies?" Anyway, what is the union doing to damage the attitude of teachers?

>> For example, contributions above and beyond job descriptions, which generally are the minimum required performance, cannot be rewarded per union rules.

You know this how? The teachers that I know can put as much time and energy into the classroom as they are capable of. And more. I've never heard of the union preventing teachers from working hard.

>> The union sucks the soul more than commutes.

Your source for this is ... ? Are you basing this on something specific, or, is this just generic anti-union hate?


Like this comment
Posted by Sea Seelam Reddy
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 24, 2018 at 3:53 am

Sea Seelam Reddy is a registered user.

It's a great idea.

Let's do it.

Thanks.


59 people like this
Posted by Nayeli
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 24, 2018 at 10:40 am

Why stop at the teachers? What about the even lower incomes who work for the district (e.g., janitors, maintenance, drivers, etc.)? What about the low-pay workers who are employed by the city and the county? CalTrain? VTA?

Ah.

I guess that it is all about which professions we place greater value on in our little utopia. Teachers (a noble profession for which I was previously employed) is valued more than the firefighters, law enforcement or those men and women who sanitize toilet bowls.

The very people who rail the loudest against Trump's proposed southern border wall have built an invisible wall around the nice neighborhoods of Palo Alto for which they are the border agents and customs (or culture) enforcement officers.

I guess that the difference between this proposal and government housing projects is that this housing project would be dedicated to individuals who work and work specifically in one profession.

How long would it take for government workers in other professions to begin demanding the same perk? Where would it end?


33 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jan 24, 2018 at 1:24 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@Formerly Paly Parent

"Another concern is ongoing operations: the management bureaucracy and decisions/favoritism? about who is “helped” and subsidized." Spot on, and it is clearly discriminatory, favoring one group. Don't get me wrong...I honor and have the highest respect for our teachers. You made several other good points. It will be challenged and I don't expect this to 'fly'. A nice gesture on Simitian's part, but even he should know there will be legal challenges.

@Resident

Very interesting input. Even though that was a sample of one, I can see the validity of that argument.

@Nayeli

You always show common sense and rational thought in your posts. "Where will it end?" Good question. You can bet there will be others who feel slighted and will want to get in on the action also. 'Me thinkest' our good Supervisor Joe, and he is good, just stirred up a hornet's nest.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2018 at 3:18 pm

Posted by Nayeli, a resident of Midtown:

>> Why stop at the teachers? (good points removed)

>> I guess that it is all about which professions we place greater value on in our little utopia. Teachers (a noble profession for which I was previously employed) is valued more than the firefighters, law enforcement or those men and women who sanitize toilet bowls.

OK point to start, but, beginning to go off the rails. How do you know the people promoting this don't want to provide the same for, e.g. law enforcement? This is all supposition.

>> The very people who rail the loudest against Trump's proposed southern border wall have built an invisible wall around the nice neighborhoods of Palo Alto for which they are the border agents and customs (or culture) enforcement officers.

Really off the rails now. This is just unsupported generalizations. Do you have statistics on the "very people who rail the loudest", on what their policy positions are on various things? Please show me these statistics.

>> How long would it take for government workers in other professions to begin demanding the same perk? Where would it end?

Good point. This would have been much more convincing without the the unsupported generalizations in the middle paragraphs. But at least it didn't include "PC" in the text.


50 people like this
Posted by peninsula resident
a resident of another community
on Jan 24, 2018 at 6:37 pm

Nayeli said:
"Why stop at the teachers?"

I completely agree with Nayeli's point.

Instead of creating these special-case special-privileges through special-interest-group housing, special-interest-group tax privileges, special-interest-group retirement plans...etc, which just creates more versions of haves-and-have-nots, how about instead...

...paying them an income that reflects what taxpayers ACTUALLY PAY.

I am ALL FOR paying teachers (and police or many of the other jobs that are typically (frequently erroneously) considered lower paying) more salary, but we need to cut out/down many of the extra perks that don't get reflected in the public's perception of their income, but that we as taxpayers are DEFINITELY paying for.

If I were king-for-a-day, I'd take every dollar that every school district pays in retirement funding, vacations, etc and hand it straight to the teachers. I'd then END the huge financial time-bomb that is the retirement compensation program that teachers get and have districts do 401k matching just like industry.

The current compensation structure, with all its perks and unfunded requirements, is a ticking time bomb and ideas like the ones that Joe Simitian floats are THE PROBLEM, not the solution.


Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 24, 2018 at 6:58 pm

Posted by peninsula resident, a resident of another community

>> If I were king-for-a-day, I'd take every dollar that every school district pays in retirement funding, vacations, etc and hand it straight to the teachers. I'd then END the huge financial time-bomb that is the retirement compensation program that teachers get and have districts do 401k matching just like industry.

Except that people apparently need to be forced to save/invest rather than spend, and, yes, it is bad for society as a whole if you have lots of very poor old people, like there were when I was a kid. Then, you have to do something about medical care. Pensions and "included" medical care (insurance or otherwise) are really important because -you don't know how long you are going to live-. If you saved enough for all contingencies, you would spend your entire life saving everything, and then, your kids would inherit most of it and spend it for you.

So, I agree with you that the school district should just pay whatever while the teacher is employed, and the benefits money go somewhere-- into a portable pension that you take with you, as well as a 401k. But, the -pension- or -annuity- portion is really important. You might die 1 or 2 years after you retire, or, live into your 90's. Enough 401k to live off the proceeds forever is too much, and, impossible for most people.


26 people like this
Posted by HideThePickle
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 25, 2018 at 7:31 am

Anon writes:”Except that people apparently need to be forced to save/invest rather than spend”


First, get transparency. Pay employees cash, no hidden perks/pensions/housing.

Then let the employees manage their own pension/annuity/housing. They have a union, let them decide themselves for their own benefit. Their union can run a pension. The union can finance housing, or build housing. Whatever the teachers want to fund with their cash salary. It’s just not a public responsibility to “force people to save”.

Nothing prevents them from having nice things while also having transparency.

And the teachers know this. They argue for hidden perks and risk sharing because it benefits them. Often over other public workers.

Still the dumbest idea this year.


2 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 25, 2018 at 11:58 am

Posted by HideThePickle, a resident of Old Palo Alto

Anon writes:”Except that people apparently need to be forced to save/invest rather than spend”

>> First, get transparency.

Agree 100%.

>> Pay employees cash, no hidden perks/pensions/housing.

Agree about hidden perks. But, for reasons I outlined before, -somebody- should get the cash, but, a certain amount of the cash should go into a fenced-off pension fund somewhere. Experience has shown that most people need this. It is a benefit to society if there are not large numbers of poor old people.

>> Then let the employees manage their own pension/annuity/housing. [...] It’s just not a public responsibility to “force people to save”.

We will just have to agree to disagree about this. Most people do not invest enough. And, not always for reasons like another trip to Hawaii. I have a lot of parents spend too much of their assets on their kids college expenses. I understand why they do it. Can you really blame them? But, it leads to kids going to colleges with, in some cases, absurdly nice gym facilities, while the parents are consigning themselves to live in a trailer park in old age.

"But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary."

The fact is, we all benefit, for our own good, from a government-protected -system- of pensions. We have also seen the evils of tying employees and employers together using non-portable pensions and health benefits. So, it all should be portable, which it isn't now.

>> Still the dumbest idea this year.

I didn't realize that it was a contest, but, compared to some big dumb ideas, it seems pretty small.


16 people like this
Posted by HideThePickle
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 25, 2018 at 9:06 pm

Anon exposes their gain:”The fact is, we all benefit, for our own good, from a government-protected -system- of pensions.”

Um, no.

*You* gain through the corrupt money game between politicians and public pensions.

I (the taxpayer) lose. When we have to bail out the opaque corrupt system.


Try to explain how “we all benefit” in a way that actually benefits taxpayers. I don’t see it.

This housing scam is just a thinly veiled giveaway which is going to add to our government opacity.


3 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 26, 2018 at 5:49 am

Posted by HideThePickle, a resident of Old Palo Alto

>> *You* gain through the corrupt money game between politicians and public pensions.

Apparently you don't understand what the word "pension" even means. Let me help you:

== Dictionary.com ==

1. a fixed amount, other than wages, paid at regular intervals to a person or to the person's surviving dependents in consideration of past services, age, merit, poverty, injury or loss sustained, etc.:
a retirement pension.
2. an allowance, annuity, or subsidy.

==

The word "government" doesn't appear. Because a pension is a pension regardless of whether a private employer provides it, or, a public employer. Back in the day, the vast majority of pensions were private. Believe it or not, employers used to pay pensions! Your confusion has caused you to misunderstand everything I was saying.

>> Try to explain how “we all benefit” in a way that actually benefits taxpayers. I don’t see it.

"We all benefit" from a system (public or private) that guarantees retirees -defined benefits- when they get old. That is what a pension is: defined benefits "paid at regular intervals". I have to point out again the economic value of -defined benefits- (pensions) as opposed to, as was mentioned, 401(k) type plans-- you don't know how long you are going to live. Some people I have known lived to, for example, age 66. Other people I know are in their late 80's. If you save enough to guarantee non-poverty at age 93, chances are your children will spend the money.

>> This housing scam is just a thinly veiled giveaway which is going to add to our government opacity.

How about we -agree- that the proposal doesn't make sense, without turning it into an attack on teachers?


2 people like this
Posted by This is Crazy!!
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 26, 2018 at 7:36 am

OK, This is what bugs me about living in Palo Alto. The total "ivory tower" mentality of the residents who live here and find themselves commenting on this board. Listen folks, Teachers who work in Palo Alto make too little money to try to live anywhere near this school district. You can look at it and see....transparent California allows you to see exactly how much our teachers make. no joke. it's there. Teachers with a ton of tenure only get paid around 100K a year.....Guys....NOT ENOUGH to live anywhere near this school district. And mind you, these are teachers who have been in the system for over 30 years....if you look at teachers who are just getting started, EVEN Worse. Why are we so anti supportive of the community that educates our children? I think its a good idea and I also think that the ivory tower residents need to take a good look in the mirror and realize that they are the problem with this city....


13 people like this
Posted by HideThePickle
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 26, 2018 at 9:10 am

Crazy plays hide the pickle:

No teacher with 30yrs earning 100k is actually earning that.

When you look through the opacity of pensions and perks, it is 1.5 -2x that amount.

Not poor.


2 people like this
Posted by This is Crazy!!
a resident of Green Acres
on Jan 26, 2018 at 9:21 am

@Pickle;

Be careful, pickle juice floats some pretty toxic fumes.....
Let's be real.....perks and Pension doesn't pay the rent TODAY.
Teachers take home Today, what they take home, and it's not enough.






20 people like this
Posted by HideThePickle
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jan 26, 2018 at 9:52 am

You’re trying to have it both ways:

“My take home pay is low - cry poor!”

While pushing much of your income into future opaque costly dark holes like pensions. Pensions which still cost taxpayers your real cost of employment: and it is high 1.5x -2x takehome pay.


Just because we can’t see the cost today doesn’t make it any less real.

And many taxpayers no longer trust our elected officials to negotiate in good faith - they sellout the future of our state at every opportunity.


If you want higher take home pay, you should argue for less pension, less opaque hidden perks (housing?) and more pay up front. That way you get what you value most.


31 people like this
Posted by Train Fan
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jan 26, 2018 at 4:46 pm

PA teachers, on average, make more than Bay Area tech workers, on average.

Anyone trying to argue otherwise hasn't looked at the data. Normalizing the data to make financial comparisons apples-to-apples makes this clear. Observe:

number of days worked/year:
For teachers that's public data on ed-data.org. For tech workers we have to calculate it by subtracting out weekends(52*2), holidays(10) and vacation time(15, which is generous for this math):

* PA teacher days worked (service days): 186 days Web Link
* average tech worker days worked: 365-52-52-10-15=236 days

* PA teacher average salary: $101,408 (2015-16 school year) Web Link
* tech worker average salary: $124,000 Web Link


So, average pay-per-workday is:
* PA teacher: $101,408/186 = $545.20/day
* tech worker: $124,000/236 = $525.42/day


Let's see what the PA teacher salary would look like if teachers had the same # of workdays as a tech worker: (101,408/186)*236 = $128,668.22/year in adjusted salary.


apples-apples normalized result:
PA teacher average salary: $128,668.22/year
tech worker average salary: $124,000.00/year


And keep in mind that this does not factor in the teacher's very generous (taxpayer backed) pension plan.


Perhaps Mr. Simitian SHOULD investigate dedicated housing for a particular class of workers: TECH WORKERS. We're getting outpriced by the income of teachers like those in Palo Alto Unified.


9 people like this
Posted by Political Power
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Jan 27, 2018 at 12:58 pm

Teachers have unions that lobby and contribute to campaigns.

Software engineers don’t.


21 people like this
Posted by to political power
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 27, 2018 at 5:12 pm

Actually tech companies (Google, FaceBook, Palantir) contribute large sums to (national) political campaigns and have many full-time lobbyists on the payroll. And of course PAF is an offshoot of Palantir...


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