The Ravenswood City School District Board of Education unanimously directed staff on Thursday night to explore building affordable housing for teachers and staff on a former school site in east Menlo Park.
Staff brought a brief proposal to build below-market-rate apartments at the site where James Flood Magnet School used to operate, located west of U.S. Highway 101 next to Flood Park. The goal is to "help attract and retain outstanding teachers and staff in the cost-prohibitive Bay Area," Chief Business Officer Steve Eichman said at Thursday's board meeting.
The science magnet school moved and then closed years ago. The district has tried to lease the site unsuccessfully, board President Ana Maria Pulido said, before the remaining buildings were razed earlier this year. She and Vice President Sharifa Wilson have been "having meetings" to find potential solutions for the site, which the district could potentially lose, Pulido said. Ravenswood is under an 18-month deadline for developing a plan for use of the property.
There's also an external pressure from the Menlo Park City School District, which in initial phone calls with the district has expressed interest in the site, according to Eichman.
In a March letter to Ravenswood Superintendent Gloria Hernandez-Goff, Menlo Park Superintendent Erik Burmeister requested that Ravenswood directly notify in writing his district of any offer for sale or lease with an option to purchase the property. The letter came after inquiries about the site from Menlo Park's chief business and operations officer went unanswered, Burmeister wrote.
"Please note also that the MPCSD is interested in discussing the sale of the property as another local governmental agency," Burmeister wrote. "Such a sale to our district, if consummated, would not be subject to several of the limitations of the Education Code on sale of surplus school property and would therefore present significant mutual advantages to our respective districts."
According to the Menlo Park school district's spokesperson, Ravenswood did not respond to Burmeister's letter.
Ravenswood is now considering building 28 single-story townhome units, which is within the density limits the site is currently zoned for; 38 units of two-story housing or up to 50 units of three-story housing. The higher-density concepts would require approval from the city.
The apartments would be owned by the district and managed by an independent professional for a management fee.
There is not yet a cost estimate for the project; staff said they were waiting for formal direction from the board before pursuing more concrete design plans.
Approval of a final concept for the project will be subject to another board vote.
Many other school districts in the Bay Area are looking at building housing for teachers and staff. In Santa Clara County, a proposal for an affordable housing complex at a county-owned site in Palo Alto is gaining steam, with the Foothill-De Anza Community College District and the Los Altos School District agreeing to "identify" and set aside up to $600,000 to help finance the project.