News

Supervisors set aside $6M for teacher housing in Palo Alto

County seeks funding partners for affordable housing project

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to set aside $6 million in an affordable-housing fund toward the potential construction of a below-market-rate complex in Palo Alto for teachers and school staff.

The board approved a staff recommendation on a 4-0-1 vote, with Supervisor Dave Cortese abstaining. Supervisor Joe Simitian proposed in January that the county seek funding partnerships with local school districts, cities and private funders to redevelop a county-owned site at 231 Grant Ave., near the California Avenue Business District. His office, local teachers unions and housing organizations have described teachers' desperate need for more affordable housing closer to where they work.

Simitian described the $6 million — which will come from a fund generated by Stanford University under the university's 2000 General Use Permit with the county — as a "modest commitment" that will be leveraged to find further financial support for the project.

Cortese, however, said he wasn't convinced this is the best model for addressing teacher housing needs.

"In my years as a school board member we looked at this kind of a model and then dismissed it as an inefficient way of providing affordable housing for teachers relative to putting money aside in funds that would be used for actual, direct cash subsidies for teachers," he said.

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The county could instead use $6 million to provide $500 monthly stipends to teachers and staff rather than get tied up in fair housing rules, construction cost and debates over who can access the 60 to 120 housing units, Cortese said.

Simitian previously estimated that construction of a multifamily complex could cost $500,000 to $600,000 per unit.

Cortese said the largest teachers' association in his district, which includes San Jose, Milpitas and Sunnyvale, does not support the proposed housing model.

Simitian compared the financial pledge to one the Board of Supervisors made in 2015 to help prevent the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park in Palo Alto from closing. The city of Palo Alto and the Housing Authority of Santa Clara County committed millions of dollars in response.

"We need to put something out there that somebody else could respond to," Simitian told his colleagues before their vote on Tuesday.

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Supervisor Cindy Chavez also asked staff to return with a proposal for engaging with school board associations in a broader conversation about school districts and land use in Santa Clara County.

Several local educational and housing entities have written letters of support for the Grant Avenue housing proposal, including the Palo Alto Educators Association, the superintendent of the Mountain View Los Altos High School District, the chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District, the San Jose Teachers Association, California Teachers Association, Bay Area Forward and Support Teacher Housing.

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Supervisors set aside $6M for teacher housing in Palo Alto

County seeks funding partners for affordable housing project

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Apr 17, 2018, 3:56 pm

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to set aside $6 million in an affordable-housing fund toward the potential construction of a below-market-rate complex in Palo Alto for teachers and school staff.

The board approved a staff recommendation on a 4-0-1 vote, with Supervisor Dave Cortese abstaining. Supervisor Joe Simitian proposed in January that the county seek funding partnerships with local school districts, cities and private funders to redevelop a county-owned site at 231 Grant Ave., near the California Avenue Business District. His office, local teachers unions and housing organizations have described teachers' desperate need for more affordable housing closer to where they work.

Simitian described the $6 million — which will come from a fund generated by Stanford University under the university's 2000 General Use Permit with the county — as a "modest commitment" that will be leveraged to find further financial support for the project.

Cortese, however, said he wasn't convinced this is the best model for addressing teacher housing needs.

"In my years as a school board member we looked at this kind of a model and then dismissed it as an inefficient way of providing affordable housing for teachers relative to putting money aside in funds that would be used for actual, direct cash subsidies for teachers," he said.

The county could instead use $6 million to provide $500 monthly stipends to teachers and staff rather than get tied up in fair housing rules, construction cost and debates over who can access the 60 to 120 housing units, Cortese said.

Simitian previously estimated that construction of a multifamily complex could cost $500,000 to $600,000 per unit.

Cortese said the largest teachers' association in his district, which includes San Jose, Milpitas and Sunnyvale, does not support the proposed housing model.

Simitian compared the financial pledge to one the Board of Supervisors made in 2015 to help prevent the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park in Palo Alto from closing. The city of Palo Alto and the Housing Authority of Santa Clara County committed millions of dollars in response.

"We need to put something out there that somebody else could respond to," Simitian told his colleagues before their vote on Tuesday.

Supervisor Cindy Chavez also asked staff to return with a proposal for engaging with school board associations in a broader conversation about school districts and land use in Santa Clara County.

Several local educational and housing entities have written letters of support for the Grant Avenue housing proposal, including the Palo Alto Educators Association, the superintendent of the Mountain View Los Altos High School District, the chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District, the San Jose Teachers Association, California Teachers Association, Bay Area Forward and Support Teacher Housing.

Comments

Sheri Bortz
Rex Manor
on Apr 18, 2018 at 2:17 pm
Sheri Bortz, Rex Manor
on Apr 18, 2018 at 2:17 pm

Probably a stipend of 1000 dollars a month would do the job and people could use in any way they wished. Faster. Integrates teachers into community rather than teacher ghetto low income housing.


MVFlyer
Monta Loma
on Apr 18, 2018 at 2:36 pm
MVFlyer, Monta Loma
on Apr 18, 2018 at 2:36 pm

Wait for the normal NIMBY reaction from the neighbors.


Seriously?
Old Mountain View
on Apr 18, 2018 at 6:58 pm
Seriously?, Old Mountain View
on Apr 18, 2018 at 6:58 pm

Why are teachers an anointed group? What makes them more special than nurses, other medical professionals, plumbers, clerical workers, etc.? Nobody can afford to live in Silicon Valley anymore - everybody must commute - so why are taxpayer dollars being used to subsidize this select segment of the working population? I'm getting so tired of new taxes being levied every time there's a need of any type (sewers, water district, school improvements, etc) yet the cities and county seem to come up with money to fund entitlements.


FrankSki
Old Mountain View
on Apr 19, 2018 at 6:18 am
FrankSki, Old Mountain View
on Apr 19, 2018 at 6:18 am

The article mentions the mobile home park being used as an example the financial pledge the county made in 2015. Hate to tell you, that mobile home park is still an eyesore. :(

@Seriously: you bring up a good point. I like teachers and believe their profession is noble, but what about the other noble professions out there? What about those workers? There's no special housing for them. I think this is where you are going?

This is a way for Supervisors to leave their mark; to stay relevant. Isn't one of the last Supervisor's now the Palo Alto Mayor?


Christopher Chiang
North Bayshore
on Apr 19, 2018 at 7:01 am
Christopher Chiang, North Bayshore
on Apr 19, 2018 at 7:01 am

Attracting and retaining quality teachers is the best way to improve a community's property values and prepare the next generation of society, so schools have an outsized impact on everyone. Teachers who are local and stay around know the families and their needs better than those who aren't. While difficult to measure, the costs of losing teachers that we paid to train and develop is significant.

Given the differences in property values, parcel taxes, and foundation sizes, Mountain View does need housing assistance more than Palo Alto, and while Palo Alto housing will be available to all, it will likely benefit PAUSD most, so it's important for MVWSD to pursue its own solutions.


Steven Nelson
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Apr 19, 2018 at 10:18 am
Steven Nelson, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Apr 19, 2018 at 10:18 am

There are many opinions on this issue. I tend to bend toward the way ("the model") that Christopher Chiang does. The issue in this article is employment benefits. In this case, for public school teachers. Public school districts are EMPLOYERS. And as such they compete for EMPLOYEES.

The MVWSD teachers union has not expressed a specific, hard and fast, opinion on possible options. But please remember - land-rich capital resources are not that easy to turn into persistent operational budget resources. And some of think the efforts should but specifically to encourage local residency! (not out in Turlock)

Facebook seems to use the nearby-housing stipend (or distant subsidized bus transportation) model. Google seems to be inching towards local development of housing (company housing? or related investment housing?) and of course, it's own very well known 'subsidized bus transportation model'.

The MVWSD Board's Public Policy approach - does not at the present moment seem to include "dollar blanket housing subsidy" (for teachers or the Superintendent). Sheri Botz, if you want to push that particular policy, [email protected] will accept your comments, or they may be made in person, at Thursday's public Board meeting.


PA Resident
another community
on Apr 19, 2018 at 11:20 am
PA Resident, another community
on Apr 19, 2018 at 11:20 am

It is wrong to think that this proposed housing will benefit Palo Alto teachers more than anyone else.

This housing will be for teachers living anywhere in Santa Clara County. That could mean Palo Alto teachers, or Mountain View teachers, but it could also mean Milpitas, San Jose, Cupertino or theoretically Morgan Hill teachers.

There is nothing that I have seen that would indicate local teachers would be prioritized on any wait list for these. Unless this is done with under a certain number of miles priority over those that are over this certain number of miles, I can't see it benefiting one set over another. In fact it may not even be legal to do that.

However, it may help them afford to live in these rentals, but it will not necessarily enable them to walk, bike or use public transport to get to work or that of their spouses. I suggest that each unit will need at least 1.5 parking spaces. Something that seems to be forgotten from the articles I have been reading.


Seriously?
Old Mountain View
on Apr 19, 2018 at 6:55 pm
Seriously?, Old Mountain View
on Apr 19, 2018 at 6:55 pm

@Christopher Chang - Your rationale for subsidizing teacher housing by linking good teachers to property values is baseless. We all know that school scores are a reflection of the socioeconomic level of the students. Our kids score well, not because of fabulous teachers, but because they come from affluent, educated families that prioritize education and because they have high IQs. Property values will NOT drop as a result of teacher turnover. There's a supply and demand thing going on here that maintains our property values and the school scores are a reflection of the people that are buying these $2.5M+ homes. And to my knowledge, teachers are trained in college, and outside programs, no? Is MVSD running a teacher-training program?
You talk about the impact of teacher turnover on our schools but turnover in any sector impacts us as consumers of services and goods (i.e. would you like to have only new nurses and doctors working on you when you're in the hospital?) How about your Starbucks barista? How long are you willing to wait in line (patiently) while she/he gets trained?)

@Steve Nelson - are you comparing the school districts, as an employers, to Google and Facebook, two of the most wealthy employers in the world? Are we actually trying to compete with them on employee benefits??

I'm sticking to my story - it's unfortunate that teachers have to commute to work. And it's unfortunate that all the other workers in Silicon Valley have to commute as well. But it is not my responsibility as a taxpayer to subsidize their housing and to cherry pick a particular sector of the working force to bestow with entitlements is discriminatory, a misuse of public funds and an exercise in extremely poor judgement. Let's not get into the real estate business...


MyOpinion
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Apr 20, 2018 at 8:09 am
MyOpinion, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Apr 20, 2018 at 8:09 am

Pay teachers a living wage. If we can do It for cops why not teachers? Starting salary for cops in Mtn View 100k+ plus generous benefits, I am sure PA is similar.


Dalia Zayas
another community
on Apr 20, 2018 at 9:44 pm
Dalia Zayas, another community
on Apr 20, 2018 at 9:44 pm

I think there is short term vision. Teachers need to be part of the community, they also have families and should have the opportunity to own their homes near their work. Offering units does not seem attractive to experienced teachers with families. There is no sane reason other than greed and corporate overgrowth for housing to be so out of balance in terms of affordability for practically the entire city. Also, one of the comments that laid the foundaton for good education strickly on the parents and socio economic status has a very narrow view of the reality in the role that teachers play in the public school educational system. Raise wages, have good corporate citizens help fund affordable housing. Their numbers in terms of employees still strain infrastructure...water, power, police, fire/rescue...etc etc.


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