School board backs teacher housing proposal

Palo Alto Unified joins city, three school districts in supporting project

A proposal to build affordable housing for local teachers and staff in Palo Alto took another step forward on Tuesday with the Palo Alto Unified school board directing staff to identify a funding source to contribute to the project.

The board took no formal action but all expressed support for the project, which has been spearheaded by Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian since early last year. He is hoping to build from 60 to 120 housing units on county-owned land at 231 Grant Ave., across from the Palo Alto Courthouse, for teachers and staff from districts who agree to support the project financially.

In order to fully fund the project — now estimated at $48 million — Simitian is banking on five regional school districts to pay $600,000 for their share of the units. The Foothill-De Anza Community College District, Mountain View Whisman School District and Los Altos School District have taken action to find funding and the Mountain View Los Altos District is in process of doing so, Simitian said.

The Palo Alto City Council has also set aside $3 million in developer fees for the project and the Board of Supervisors, $6 million from a fund generated by Stanford University under the university's 2000 general use permit with the county. The county is also contributing to the 1.5-acre site, valued at $12 million.

To construct a 60-unit building, it would cost about $600,000 per unit, Simitian said.

Supporters of the housing proposal have described the cascading effects the region's increasingly unaffordable housing has on teachers, staff and students, from long commutes that make it difficult for employees to participate in after-school events to the district's ability to attract and retain quality staff. School employees are often described as belonging to the "missing middle" — making too much to qualify for low-income housing but not enough to afford costly rents or housing prices in the cities they work in. Several Palo Alto teachers shared their personal experiences with this on Tuesday night.

It's not yet clear exactly how many units will be available and what each district's share will ultimately be. Simitian told the board that the "modest" estimate of 60 units is "not a solution" but a starting point to solve a complex problem.

"If you want people to build other projects and other units you have to demonstrate that it's doable, that there's a model that works," he said Tuesday.

Board members agreed and expressed interest in taking advantage of as many units as possible at the future complex. They also asked staff to take a more comprehensive look at the problem by examining other funding options and housing alternatives.

"The more dollars that are involved, the more incumbent it is for us to understand what the alternatives are," said board member Ken Dauber.

The county is currently putting together a request for proposals to find a nonprofit partner to lead the project through the design and development process.


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20 people like this
Posted by Build It Somewhere Else
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jan 16, 2019 at 9:14 am

> the "modest" estimate of 60 units is "not a solution" but a starting point to solve a complex problem.

Another PA housing complex = another eyesore leading to even more vehicle congestion (i.e. parking to accommodate 60+ additional cars along with the related traffic).

Build it in East Palo Alto. They've got the available land and could use some municipal/residential rejuvenation. Easy commute to PA/MV/Foothill as well.

Everybody wants to reside in Palo Alto these days...and quality of life issues continue to spiral downwards. Will it ever end?

9 people like this
Posted by Hefty Price Tag
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jan 16, 2019 at 9:26 am

Hefty Price Tag is a registered user.

It looks like these 60 units will cost a minimum of $21M, which is $350K/unit. I'd like to hear how much a developer would think it would cost to build 60 units in Santa Clara County outside of the country's most expensive city. $12M for 1.5 acres of land?

How many teachers are in SCC? I understand the "this is only a piece of the solution" argument. But, there must be a more efficient way to spend $21M

13 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 16, 2019 at 9:33 am

I can't see that this helps at all unless it is primarily for teachers who work in Palo Alto, Mountain View or Los Altos.

Any other school would be much too far away for the teachers to benefit. They would still have to commute a long distance to get to places like Milpitas or Campbell, or even San Jose. Not many teachers will happily use Caltrain or other public transportation method - if one exists.

This means that the units will have to have parking.

Not enough is being discussed about what will happen if a teacher moves schools, or changes professions. Will they also lose their housing? Is that legal?

22 people like this
Posted by Voter Initiative
a resident of Professorville
on Jan 16, 2019 at 9:58 am

What we need is a voter initiative putting a moratorium on all new development that increases density in Palo Alto, which is already far beyond the town's infrastructure capacity.

If the city counsel thinks Palo Alto schoolteachers should be entitled to live within the city limits, rather than in Menlo Park, East Palo Alto, or Redwood City, they should convert one of those eyesore office complexes into apartments.

Better yet, just give them free Caltrain passes. If it's good enough for me, it's good enough for those living on my tax dollars.

2 people like this
Posted by Gethin
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 16, 2019 at 3:35 pm

Gethin is a registered user.

It's not just a question of building them, its also a question about what the selection process will be and who will oversee it. I think that needs to be clarified before any money is spent.

6 people like this
Posted by dtnorth
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 16, 2019 at 4:23 pm

So it all seems a bit weird to be housing only teachers in one spot. I am not sure if the teachers all want to live under one location. Talk about no diversity. I agree for more low cost housing and maybe you allow teachers, fire and police people to be able to apply. Maybe it is just me

3 people like this
Posted by Teacher
a resident of another community
on Jan 21, 2019 at 8:21 pm

Dtnorth, I could not agree with you more! Open it up to a wide array of public employees! As a teacher, I would not want to be surrounded by people all working for the same school or school district.

12 people like this
Posted by All about votes
a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 21, 2019 at 9:34 pm

For gods sakes, when are people going to wake up and realize that this is just political posturing and incredibly misplace ideologies? Palo Alto is one of the most educated, intellectual centers of the US and yet you’re making such ridiculous policies!!

Teacher housing. Ok, so what happens when they decide not to teach anymore, do they have to move out? What if they take a job teaching in SF, are you Palo Altans still glad to subsidize them?

Since when is it a “right” to live close you ones job? We bought in MV near my husbands office, shortly after they moved it to Burlingame so now he commutes there every day.....Burlingame should subsidize us right?

Like this comment
Posted by @All about votes
a resident of another community
on Jan 22, 2019 at 12:44 pm

You're exactly why the abuse of local control is coming to an end. What an utterly selfish worldview.

4 people like this
Posted by C
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jan 22, 2019 at 12:53 pm

This is insane. The other districts only pay $600k for a share of the units, when 600k is the construction cost of ONE unit? Make them pay their fair share.

I have no objections to subsidized housing for teachers as long as there is a limit on how long any individual or family can stay, as is the case at other developments. This spreads the benefit around and ensures we are subsidizing current employees, not retirees.

2 people like this
Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Jan 22, 2019 at 10:16 pm

The story glows incandescent over the wonderful warm fuzzies our government officials get from thinking about their creation, but it does not indicate if anybody has asked our teachers if they want to live in a government housing project.

2 people like this
Posted by Decisions decisions
a resident of Mountain View
on Jan 22, 2019 at 10:35 pm

Ah yes, socialism. Arguing over who gets to get the the money, who gets to keep it, who gets to use it the longest.

2 people like this
Posted by RV Dweller
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 23, 2019 at 8:48 pm

Why not just buy some used RVs and let the teachers park in the school lot? Or erect some of those temporary buildings with shower/toilet facilities? Add a small kitchen unit if desired as well.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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