News

City weighs school fees on new housing projects

Students from a 75% increase in Mountain View's housing could cost schools $1.2B

The Mountain View City Council last Tuesday night grappled with a difficult balancing act between two competing priorities: encouraging more housing growth and providing enough money to schools to support a deluge of new students expected from the planned rapid development.

New and planned zoning changes, along with projects already in the pipeline, show the city is slated to grow by as many as 20,000 homes -- or about a 75% increase to Mountain View's existing housing stock. The new development is expected to generate thousands of students, and school district officials say they simply don't have the money to accommodate them all.

Estimates vary, but the land and construction costs for additional school facilities could reach $1.2 billion. City Council members generally agreed at the Oct. 15 study session that the city, schools districts and developers should all share in those costs, but struggled to come up with a fair three-way split that doesn't potentially kill the feasibility of future housing projects.

The core question before council members was the so-called Local School District Strategy, a policy that requires large projects in the North Bayshore, East Whisman and Terra Bella areas of the city to finance local schools bearing the brunt of increased enrollment. Developers and school districts have struggled with how to interpret the policy.

If the city is going to allow high density housing, then it needs to mitigate the burden on local schools, said Councilwoman Margaret Abe-Koga. She said some schools are already packed with students and experiencing higher enrollment, and there's only so much districts can do to raise money for new school construction.

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Abe-Koga advocated for an aggressive fee amounting to $13.16 per square foot of development, which would place only one-third of the costs on the school districts, according to a city staff report. It may cut into the council's goals for housing growth, but she said it's important to support local schools along the way.

"I have never believed that it should be housing at all costs, and I have always said that we need to maintain our community and our quality of life as we grow and build more housing," she said.

Abe-Koga's comments were echoed by school board members and leaders of the Mountain View Whisman and Mountain View-Los Altos High school districts, which both serve students residing in the North Bayshore, East Whisman and Terra Bella areas. Mountain View Whisman trustee Devon Conley said that while she agrees housing is a priority, she urged the council to support schools and residents over for-profit developers looking to maximize their investment.

"I understand the need for housing, I desperately want more housing, and I want to make sure it happens. But when we have that housing we need a place for children to go, and there is just no way our schools can support the expense," Conley said. "It's $15 million an acre -- we just can't do that."

Councilwoman Alison Hicks said she wanted to find a way to shift the burden away from residential developers and onto commercial projects, particularly because the Bay Area's housing crisis is a direct result of office growth. She generally favored higher fees for schools, but said she didn't have enough information to back a specific amount.

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Councilman John McAlister took a different approach, arguing that schools need to bear the burden of more than one-third of the costs and have "more skin the game." He said school leaders have a responsibility to take the lead on addressing enrollment growth and increasing capacity rather than expect the city to extract fees or help pay for it.

"I'd like to see the school districts drive this issue, not the city," he said.

To date, only one developer has paid off its obligation to school districts through the existing framework of the school strategy, which was a clear example of the shortcomings of the policy. School districts demanded that Sobrato pay $24.4 million for its housing development at 1255 Pear Ave., while Sobrato countered with a $7.25 million offer. The City Council split the difference, asking the developer to pay $12 million.

Adding complexity to the discussion was precisely how many students would come from the new housing development. Demographers hired by the school districts believe 3,601 students will be generated by the city's future building plans, with about two-thirds attending Mountain View Whisman schools and one-third attending Mountain View-Los Altos. The city hired a different consultant and landed on a more conservative projections of 2,575 students in roughly the same split.

Council members did not vote, but asked staff to come up with options for a balanced fee that could be higher for commercial development. Staff is expected to return with options early next year.

Although the discussion Tuesday largely centered around monetary contributions, developers can also provide a land dedication for a school site or adjacent open space to satisfy the requirements for the school strategy. City staffers also floated the idea of using the Transfer of Development Rights (TDRs) that could shift the location of developments in order to make room for a school. TDRs were integral to an ongoing plan by the Los Altos School District to build a school in the San Antonio neighborhood of Mountain View.

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City weighs school fees on new housing projects

Students from a 75% increase in Mountain View's housing could cost schools $1.2B

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Wed, Oct 23, 2019, 10:47 am

The Mountain View City Council last Tuesday night grappled with a difficult balancing act between two competing priorities: encouraging more housing growth and providing enough money to schools to support a deluge of new students expected from the planned rapid development.

New and planned zoning changes, along with projects already in the pipeline, show the city is slated to grow by as many as 20,000 homes -- or about a 75% increase to Mountain View's existing housing stock. The new development is expected to generate thousands of students, and school district officials say they simply don't have the money to accommodate them all.

Estimates vary, but the land and construction costs for additional school facilities could reach $1.2 billion. City Council members generally agreed at the Oct. 15 study session that the city, schools districts and developers should all share in those costs, but struggled to come up with a fair three-way split that doesn't potentially kill the feasibility of future housing projects.

The core question before council members was the so-called Local School District Strategy, a policy that requires large projects in the North Bayshore, East Whisman and Terra Bella areas of the city to finance local schools bearing the brunt of increased enrollment. Developers and school districts have struggled with how to interpret the policy.

If the city is going to allow high density housing, then it needs to mitigate the burden on local schools, said Councilwoman Margaret Abe-Koga. She said some schools are already packed with students and experiencing higher enrollment, and there's only so much districts can do to raise money for new school construction.

Abe-Koga advocated for an aggressive fee amounting to $13.16 per square foot of development, which would place only one-third of the costs on the school districts, according to a city staff report. It may cut into the council's goals for housing growth, but she said it's important to support local schools along the way.

"I have never believed that it should be housing at all costs, and I have always said that we need to maintain our community and our quality of life as we grow and build more housing," she said.

Abe-Koga's comments were echoed by school board members and leaders of the Mountain View Whisman and Mountain View-Los Altos High school districts, which both serve students residing in the North Bayshore, East Whisman and Terra Bella areas. Mountain View Whisman trustee Devon Conley said that while she agrees housing is a priority, she urged the council to support schools and residents over for-profit developers looking to maximize their investment.

"I understand the need for housing, I desperately want more housing, and I want to make sure it happens. But when we have that housing we need a place for children to go, and there is just no way our schools can support the expense," Conley said. "It's $15 million an acre -- we just can't do that."

Councilwoman Alison Hicks said she wanted to find a way to shift the burden away from residential developers and onto commercial projects, particularly because the Bay Area's housing crisis is a direct result of office growth. She generally favored higher fees for schools, but said she didn't have enough information to back a specific amount.

Councilman John McAlister took a different approach, arguing that schools need to bear the burden of more than one-third of the costs and have "more skin the game." He said school leaders have a responsibility to take the lead on addressing enrollment growth and increasing capacity rather than expect the city to extract fees or help pay for it.

"I'd like to see the school districts drive this issue, not the city," he said.

To date, only one developer has paid off its obligation to school districts through the existing framework of the school strategy, which was a clear example of the shortcomings of the policy. School districts demanded that Sobrato pay $24.4 million for its housing development at 1255 Pear Ave., while Sobrato countered with a $7.25 million offer. The City Council split the difference, asking the developer to pay $12 million.

Adding complexity to the discussion was precisely how many students would come from the new housing development. Demographers hired by the school districts believe 3,601 students will be generated by the city's future building plans, with about two-thirds attending Mountain View Whisman schools and one-third attending Mountain View-Los Altos. The city hired a different consultant and landed on a more conservative projections of 2,575 students in roughly the same split.

Council members did not vote, but asked staff to come up with options for a balanced fee that could be higher for commercial development. Staff is expected to return with options early next year.

Although the discussion Tuesday largely centered around monetary contributions, developers can also provide a land dedication for a school site or adjacent open space to satisfy the requirements for the school strategy. City staffers also floated the idea of using the Transfer of Development Rights (TDRs) that could shift the location of developments in order to make room for a school. TDRs were integral to an ongoing plan by the Los Altos School District to build a school in the San Antonio neighborhood of Mountain View.

Comments

Bored M
Cuesta Park
on Oct 23, 2019 at 12:47 pm
Bored M, Cuesta Park
on Oct 23, 2019 at 12:47 pm

I really hope McAllister is misrepresented in this article. Is he saying that the City Council has no responsibility for the fallout created from its actions?

It's simple. Make sure MV schools are so well funded that we're talking about surpluses rather than shortfalls. One problem is a high quality problem and the other is irresponsible behavior that the Council is directly responsible for.


Baskin Robbins and Schools
Castro City
on Oct 23, 2019 at 2:58 pm
Baskin Robbins and Schools, Castro City
on Oct 23, 2019 at 2:58 pm

So Mcallister is against school funding? How disapointing. Do you still think parents and kids who are part of the school districts will shop your ice cream baskin robbins?

I for one will be going somewhere else.


Oy vey
Old Mountain View
on Oct 23, 2019 at 2:59 pm
Oy vey, Old Mountain View
on Oct 23, 2019 at 2:59 pm

Sounds to me like John McAlister is shoving his fingers in his ears while closing his eyes to ignore the elephant soundly in his room. Is he for real? Everywhere we turn around in Mountain View there is a new building being built, a building approved by our city council. And, for every residential building, my first thought is "where are those kids going to go to school??" when there are Mountain View elementary schools with 600 kids enrolled! Grow up, John, this is the City's problem too.


Outraged with McAlister and Matichek
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2019 at 12:16 am
Outraged with McAlister and Matichek, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2019 at 12:16 am

Some of the attitude and comments from MV council around this subject are a disgrace.

Councilman Mcallister actually said the most crazy things during the following during this study session (watch this video link at 3:48:58 Web Link)

McAlister says about sharing costs of $1.2 billion dollars between city/developers/schools: "It's their major responsibility, its up to their elected official to getting the answers, its their constituents. They are the ones who are the elected officials that they need to answer to their constituents to take care of their students...." "...And not rely on the city," "...maybe go up 3, 4, 5 stories." Watch the video and see of yourself. You can't make this stuff up.

I have news for you, John. All residents in this city, including 10,000 families with kids in schools, are YOUR constituents. Shame on you.

He also said something about if schools want more help for building these schools, they should go to state legislature and get laws changed. Oh sure, that's super easy!!!! Way to pass the buck, John. Then another councilperson pointed out that the state gov't is overrun by developers' lobbies and schools are outgunned on this issue.

Hey John, if your own city council doesn't care about it's kids' education, why would Sacramento?!?!

Mayor Matichek wasn't much better either. Only Abe-Koga and also Kamei stood up firmly for schools and families saying that schools are already overcrowded and underfunded as it is - how will they raise more than 1/3 of $1.2 billion that McAlister and Matichek want?!? The bonds are almost tapped out.

The schools are in a world of hurt if this council has its way. Its too bad only one council member has kids in school - most of the others have no clue.




School problem
Cuernavaca
on Oct 24, 2019 at 3:15 pm
School problem, Cuernavaca
on Oct 24, 2019 at 3:15 pm

The school district stands to receive millions of dollars in one time construction fees along with millions in annual income in perpetuity from higher property tax revenues. Their cry of insufficient revenues is disingenuous. If they feel the need for more revenue, they should ask for residents to approve a bond measure.


Hey School Problem
Castro City
on Oct 24, 2019 at 11:57 pm
Hey School Problem, Castro City
on Oct 24, 2019 at 11:57 pm

Is that you John? To gain profits from parents and kids selling ice cream to them, then turning your back on school funding which affect your client base is just plain wrong. Better yet, why don't you save face and recuse yourself from the vote because of conflict of interest? If you vote in favor of it, your ice cream business might gain more customers. That sounds like a quid pro co . . . You have a vested interest so you should not vote on this issue.


@Hey
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2019 at 6:12 am
@Hey , Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2019 at 6:12 am

You know where to find John. Be a man and talk to him face to face about your issues. Don't bother the rest of us with the war raging in your brain.


SC Parent
Cuesta Park
on Oct 25, 2019 at 6:57 am
SC Parent, Cuesta Park
on Oct 25, 2019 at 6:57 am

Please check your math and correct the article:

"School districts demanded that Sobrato pay $24.4 million for its housing development at 1255 Pear Ave., while Sobrato countered with a $7.25 million offer. The City Council split the difference, asking the developer to pay $12 million."

$12M is half of what the school district was owed, not splitting the difference between MVWSD and Sobrato. Splitting the difference would have been $15.9M


SC Parent
Cuesta Park
on Oct 25, 2019 at 6:59 am
SC Parent, Cuesta Park
on Oct 25, 2019 at 6:59 am

Why do we care that City Council is wringing its hands over school fees when they consistently demonstrate that they will reduce or waive the school fees if a developer whines just a tiny bit?


John McAlister
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2019 at 11:38 am
John McAlister, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2019 at 11:38 am

I would like to clarify a few items in the article and online responses.

I am a big supporter of our schools and was alway active when both of my kids went through them. Through my various businesses , I have donated and helped raise tens of thousands of dollars to help fund school activities and will continue to do so.

At the City Council meeting, 2 weeks ago ,this was a study session to gather information and provide direction, no formal action was taken.

To "Bored M" you are correct. The article did not fully represent my concerns. I never mentioned or implied that I would not support the City Contributing to the funding for schools. I do support a collaboration effort.

My point was to use a conservative approach to find funding for the schools.The dollars that are coming into the city from all the development will not last forever.The City could be facing its own financial constraints in the future, and maybe unable to help fund the school new facilities at a level once projected.

I have encouraged school districts to write to their state legislators and ask them to raise the ridiculously low development fees that schools can charge for new construction. The City has broached that issue in Sacramento.

My point was the School Districts needs to drive the issue, they are the legal legislative body responsible to formulate "Strategic Plans" for the future of our schools.Please ask to see them, to get a better idea on how to help reach their goals.

The City does and will continue to collaborate with them. The proposed Local School Strategy is an innovative example of that. With all stakeholders working together we should be able to find a path that will provide for a sustainable funding solution for our education facilities.

Education is very important to our residents and must be taken very seriously. We need to stay focused on the issue of providing the needed school facilities, and not get distracted on lesser issues. I am glad to meet with anyone, call me or email with your ideas or concerns, or to set up a meeting ( ([email protected] )


mvrenter
Registered user
Shoreline West
on Oct 26, 2019 at 1:03 am
mvrenter, Shoreline West
Registered user
on Oct 26, 2019 at 1:03 am

I'd love an honest talk, John. Let's begin with that csfra lie-riddled campaign to bolster greedy landlords at the expense of renter's.


Nice Try
Cuernavaca
on Oct 27, 2019 at 10:57 am
Nice Try, Cuernavaca
on Oct 27, 2019 at 10:57 am

Disappointing response from @McAlister...reiterating his position with some generalities thrown in. Credit him though, for responding. More credit if he genuinely studies the issue and is open to reconsidering his stance.

The City Council has created this problem by continuing to approve development while ignoring the necessary accompanying infrastructure. Councilman McAlister's strategy on schools has consistently been for the schools to figure it out. Even council's "Schools Strategy" started as council abdicating its responsibility and directing schools (who have zero clout in such a mission) to work directly with developers.

School are hand-tied in funding. They don't receive extra annual operational money for growth in enrollment; they don't have huge reserves to purchase/develop new school sites and schools. Their sole options are to pack current campuses (picture 1,000+ at Graham Middle School? 3,000+ at Los Altos High School?) or ask residents for a bond. Are 55% of residents (which includes Los Altos and Los Altos Hills for the high school district) willing to pay additional tax $ to cover MV Council's oversights in planning for the ancillary needs driven by development projects council itself has approved? Suggesting that schools need to deal with it is no different than saying he wants school districts to ask residents to cough up more to pay for schools necessitated by approved building projects.

"Splitting the difference", or "dividing responsibility by 3" are King Solomon approaches that abdicate the leadership, deep thought, hard work,and tough choices really needed. Tough issue? Divide by 3. Next.

Yes, land is expensive here, but how a council and community allocates funding is a reflection of priorities.


School problem
Cuernavaca
on Oct 28, 2019 at 6:36 am
School problem, Cuernavaca
on Oct 28, 2019 at 6:36 am

“School are hand-tied in funding. They don't receive extra annual operational money for growth in enrollment; “

This is only because our area generates far more money from property tax revenue and takes this option rather than their ADA allotment. Again, out district generates more money from higher property taxes and building fees. Also the state supplies revenue from taxing wealthy Californians , of which many live in Mountain View. There is no shortage of funds, only a lack of control by school bureaucrats who waste a lot of money on administration costs.


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