County seeks developer for new teacher housing project | News | Palo Alto Online |


County seeks developer for new teacher housing project

With all five school districts on board, local teachers will get access to affordable units

With five North County school districts now offering support and funds, Santa Clara County officials are seeking a developer to build a teacher housing complex in Palo Alto.

The county issued what's called a Request for Proposals (RFP) on Thursday, Feb. 14, seeking a developer to build a housing project with no less than 60 units at 231 Grant Ave. in Palo Alto, currently home to county courthouse facilities. The units would be exclusively available to five local school districts for teacher housing.

The RFP comes after a monthslong effort by Supervisor Joe Simitian to collect support ā€” and money ā€” for the housing proposal, which is still conceptual and could include anywhere from 60 to 120 units. Since August 2018, a total of five districts agreed to partner with the county and tentatively agreed to pitch in $600,000 each for an equal stake in the units built.

Partner districts include the Foothill-De Anza Community College District, the Mountain View Whisman School District, the Palo Alto Unified School District and the Los Altos School District. Trustees of the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District, the final holdout, agreed on Feb. 4 to join in on the partnership, albeit with strings attached.

In an email, Mountain View-Los Altos board president Phil Faillace told the Voice that the district would only put forward the $600,000 in funding if the project could guarantee "full and unconstrained control" over the terms and conditions of the district's share of the units, and that the costs would eventually be paid back to the district in full. The vote passed 4-0, with Sanjay Dave absent.

Simitian has talked about using the "underutilized" site adjacent to the North County courthouse for housing since early 2017, later announcing his intent to use the property for teacher housing. The estimated $36 million in required funding to build the project will come from a myriad of sources, including the county's affordable housing fund ($6 million), the city of Palo Alto ($3 million) and $600,000 from each of the five school districts ($3 million). That leaves $24 million in low- or no-interest loans that could be paid off with rental income from school employees.

The teacher housing idea comes at a time when Peninsula teachers are struggling to keep up with the high cost of living, with rent and mortgages far exceeding what's affordable on a teachers' salary. Surveys show many teachers live far from where they work, with lengthy commutes of 45 minutes to an hour each way.

Teachers often fall under what's called the "missing middle," households that make too much to qualify for most subsidized housing but not enough to afford market-rate housing. Cities report few, if any, new housing units being built or approved for people making between 80 and 120 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) each year, currently at about $125,000 in Santa Clara County for a family of four.

"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 or close to the communities where they teach," Simitian said in a statement Friday.

The RFP will accept submissions from developers through May 13, with a date to award the contract tentatively set for Aug. 13. The RFP asks developers to "strive to optimize the unit count (not less than 60 units) ... and the design should take into account the legitimate concerns of the neighborhood and be consistent with the character of the community." The mix of units, ranging from lofts and studios to one- and two-bedroom units, will be tailored for the needs of district teachers.

The RFP also calls on developers to assist future teacher residents in securing "new housing opportunities" at the end of their tenure at the site, including savings plans, homeownership counseling and "financial literacy."

The county is also hoping to hang on to the existing commercial space on the property, amounting to approximately 8,000 square feet, as well as include some open space at the location.

The project would add to another major teacher housing milestone reached last year, when the city of Mountain View and the Mountain View Whisman School District unveiled plans to build a 716-unit apartment complex with 144 units set aside for teachers, school staff and city employees.


Follow the Palo Alto Weekly/Palo Alto Online on Twitter @PaloAltoWeekly and Facebook for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Kevin Forestieri writes for the Mountain View Voice, the sister publication of

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4 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 18, 2019 at 2:31 pm

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

It's sound like a grand plan that could work out if all the necessary steps are taken and things happen that need to happen to make it viable.

I have lots of questions about it, however. Here are a few.

Is it designed/envisioned to be a home owner facility, rental only, or a combination of both?

What is the expected cost to the end users, i.e., the teachers? How much (%) of their paychecks will it consume as opposed to their current situations (only addressing the financials here, not the aggravation of their current commute challenges)?

What entity will decide on which teachers get in...and the approval process? Will the number from each district be based on the district's financial support of the project? Members of the boards of all of those districts can't agree on many things on a local level so it's a stretch to think those districts can work well together on this. I hope I'm proven wrong.

A question for my generous city, Palo Alto, to answer. What benefit will we get for our offer of $3 million support? I can think of a few but I want to hear from our city leaders first. Will that give our PAUSD teachers an edge? Our city leaders need to do some serious soul searching to decide where to spend that money in the affordable housing fund. I'm still waiting to hear about how well the BV project is working out. We kicked in $15 million so we, as voting citizens, should hear from those accountable for making that decision. And I don't want to hear the argument that it wasn't taxpayers' money anyway. I know that, and many of my fellow savvy online commenters/posters know that, but it was money that those in charge had the discretion of how well did they do?

I see it as a starting point on solving a problem for a very specific group in this crazy housing dilemma we're in. And although well intended, it is meager at best. Let's assume 12 applying teacher candidates are approved for the housing from each district. What % of those districts teachers does that represent and what is their profile? Singles, couples, families?

I have seriously thought about renting one of my bedrooms out to a young PAUSD teacher on a starting teacher's salary. I think, optimistically, that there might be 200-300 other homeowners in PA that would be willing to do the same thing...without having to build ADU's. And my rental rate would be hundreds of dollars below market rate or Craig's list rates that I see posted. I'm willing and able to do my share. Please, anybody who knows how to facilitate me doing it, give me names and phone numbers in our district office.

Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of another community
on Feb 19, 2019 at 12:53 pm

Iā€™m a full time PAUSD teacher and also work a second part time job and my commute is 1.5-2 hours. I would love to live in the city where I work.

Why are these units not exclusive to PAUSD teachers? Seems to make sense if every city has their own supply rather than teachers from other districts commuting in and out of PA contributing to traffic.

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