School Funding

1,100 housing units on campus


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Like many Bay Area school districts, the Jefferson Union High School District in Daly City is struggling to fund its priorities: increasing teacher salaries, modernizing facilities, and expanding programs for students.

But unlike most neighborhoods facing financial difficulties, the authorities are turning to an ambitious plan to provide more funding: find a developer to build more than 1,100 apartments on one of its campuses.

If ultimately approved and built, it would be one of the largest multi-family housing projects the peninsula city has seen in decades, according to planners. The neighborhood envisions five buildings ranging from four to 14 stories, as well as retail, restaurants, parks and trails on the 22-acre Serramonte Del Rey campus, less than a mile from the Serramonte Mall. The campus currently houses the district offices, an adult and charter school, an apartment complex, a doctor’s office and a garden.

Rental apartments – which would be built over 10 to 15 years – would have 10% of units designated as affordable and the rest offered at market rates.

The project aims not only to help the finances of the school district, but also to create housing in an area where there is desperately shortage. While several Bay Area districts, including San Francisco, have turned to their own land to build subsidized housing for teachers, it is less common for districts to leverage their real estate for work. with external developers on housing at market price. The San Mateo Union High School District’s plans to sell 40 acres on the Crestmoor High School campus in San Bruno to a real estate developer collapsed this year, though the district said it was negotiating with another manufacturer.

But while the Daly City project enjoys wide support among staff and families, not everyone is on board. A group of gardeners who grow fruits, vegetables and flowers on a two-acre lot that is said to have been bulldozed and moved to make room for housing are fighting the project. A chapter of the Sierra Club is push back against her, citing the garden and what he says is not enough affordable housing in the project.

Jefferson Union has already looked to its real estate to generate the necessary income. Officials said they developed an apartment complex and medical office building 30 years ago in an underused part of the same campus where they are now looking to build more housing, which they described as “a source sustainable income “.

The district, which has 4,236 students and 514 staff, is also part of a growing movement among California school districts to provide affordable housing for teachers and other school employees. In 2018, it became one of the first in the United States to adopt a mandatory measure for the construction of housing for teachers and staff. Construction on the 122 unit project – also on the Serramonte Del Rey campus at 699 Serramonte Blvd. – should be finished in the spring.

Jefferson Union officials say they receive less per student – about $ 15,600 for the 2019-20 school year – than the county’s other two school districts. Van Raaphorst said the new project would bring in money that would fund student programs and help retain and recruit teachers.

“Our salaries are much lower than those in the surrounding districts and we lose about 25% of our staff because of this every year,” she said in a statement.

School officials have not publicly provided an estimate of how much money the development is expected to generate, saying this would weaken their negotiating position with potential developers, who would pay the district for a land lease to use. the site. However, Van Raaphorst said it would likely be “millions of dollars a year”.

Last month, the city council planned to discuss the project, but pushed back the article so district officials and a council subcommittee have time to discuss potentially adding more affordable units and keeping the garden after several people shared their concerns during the public comments.

During that meeting, many teachers and staff called, urging board members to adopt the proposal.

Kristen Ashford, a district education coach, told the meeting that she sees staff leave every year because they cannot afford to live in the area, and turnover is costing the district, which has to hire. and train new teachers.

“The most heartbreaking loss is that we are losing trained staff in much more progressive and effective teacher education programs than I was 15 years ago. “

The local union, which represents around 500 district employees, is also supporting the project, AFT 1481 president Monica Casey said.

The staff turnover rate “is devastating for the needs of our students, especially underserved ones, special education, young people in host families, students learning English, low income and the BIPOC “Casey said in a statement.

The full city council is expected to vote on the district’s preliminary plan at its January 10 meeting. A final plan and environmental reviews would also require city council approval, but it’s unclear when that would happen.

Gardeners opposed to the project hope they still have time to stop it. They argue that the two-acre site is a rare treasure to be preserved in a city with an urban canopy covering less than 5% of the country’s land area.

Saving the garden “is more important than anything,” said Erick Campbell, a volunteer at the site, which is home to redwoods and avocado trees and an assortment of fruit and vegetable plants. Signs on the fence read “Stop the Concrete Jungle!” And “Save the garden”.

District officials say their plan would double the green space on campus and relocate the garden, as well as improve access and infrastructure. The district says its plan will transform the garden with ADA accessible trails and sustainable water infrastructure. Renderings of the proposed development show a small garden with raised beds surrounded by a few trees, a lawn and a children’s play area.

For Daly City resident Debbie Santiago, the garden has given her and her family a sense of peace. For the past 17 years, Santiago said, she and her mother have held small ceremonies in the garden when they can’t make it to Nevada, where their Washoe tribe is from.

“It sits right in the middle of the noisy streets and the buildings there and the people who live nearby, but once you walk [into] this garden, all this noise is going away, ”she said.

Santiago and other members of the community circulate a petition on change.org urging district officials to leave the garden in its current location, as well as add more affordable housing to its proposed development.

A school counselor, Nick Occhipinti, opposes the development and has criticized the neighborhood for wanting to lease public land to private developers.

Occhipinti told city council last month that the proposed development “not only does nothing to serve the low-income community that needs shelter and housing here in Daly City,” he said. , “it only impacts and shrinks the limited space and opportunities for affordable housing in a community that desperately needs it.

But for the majority of the district administration board, the plan still makes sense as a way to help students and teachers and fill a need for more housing.

“We know there is no plan that will make everyone happy,” district administrator Kalimah Salahuddin said in a recent presentation to city council. “But at the same time, we tried to accommodate as many things as possible.”

Jessica Flores is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @jesssmflores


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