Mountain View Whisman finds itself $500K short on developer fee split with high school district | News | Mountain View Online |


Mountain View Whisman finds itself $500K short on developer fee split with high school district

Fees from North Bayshore housing project aims to help local school districts deal with influx of children from new residents

Mountain View's first North Bayshore housing project generated $12 million in funding for local school districts to offset the cost of new students. But when it came time to approve the funding last week, Mountain View Whisman district officials said they found out they were getting the short end of the stick.

The Sobrato Organization is planning to build a 635-unit apartment complex at 1255 Pear Ave., and won City Council approval for the project in 2018. Council members required the real estate giant to pay $12 million in fees to offset the cost of facilities for the additional students generated by the new homes.

But how that money would be split between the two public school districts -- Mountain View Whisman and Mountain View-Los Altos High -- was apparently unclear. As it turns out, the city opted to give $6.5 million to the high school district and $5.5 million to the K-8 Mountain View Whisman district. Mountain View Whisman school board members voted unanimously to accept the money, but said it shouldn't set a precedent and shouldn't happen again.

The imbalanced agreement reportedly came as a surprise to Mountain View Whisman officials. Superintendent Ayinde Rudolph told trustees at the Jan. 23 meeting that the city, in deciding the fees, determined that the high school district ought to receive more funding because of the greater acreage required at high school campuses. At the time, Mountain View Whisman was exploring dense, urban school models in order to find a way to fit a campus in a neighborhood with limited, expensive real estate abutting 15-story buildings.

The expectation was that Mountain View Whisman would receive $6 million of the school fees, but district administrators and its legal firm did not realize it would be receiving less until after it was approached by the City Council. Board member Laura Blakely said she was willing to accept the terms of the funding agreement, but was not excited about the amount.

"I am disappointed that the city tried to dictate the parameters," Blakely said. "That doesn't feel appropriate to me."

City staff contend that the final negotiated amounts for each district were roughly based on a proportional share requested by the school districts themselves, rather than its own concocted formula. The city was involved, but the terms of the funding contract were brokered between and agreed on by all the parties involved.

"The school districts submitted a report to the city," said Aarti Shrivastava, Mountain View's community development director. "That breakout they put together themselves was used to facilitate the agreement between the developer and the districts and all parties agreed to it."

After the meeting, Mountain View Whisman spokeswoman Shelly Hausman clarified that the split was based on the total estimated cost of $193 million for both school districts ($109 million for the high school district and $84 million for the elementary district), which amounts to approximately 56% for Mountain View-Los Altos and 44% for Mountain View Whisman.

California school districts receive state-mandated developer fees for new residential and commercial construction, which can vary from one district to another but rarely, if ever, cover the full cost of housing additional students. This is particularly true in cases where an expected burst of enrollment growth would require school districts to purchase land and construct a new campus.

City Council members have endeavored to ask housing developers to pay beyond that state-mandated fee, but doing so has been a balancing act. Asking for too little would leave school districts without the resources to house more students, but asking for too much threatens the financial viability of residential projects and runs contrary with the city's housing goals.

Mountain View Whisman currently collects $2.53 per square foot of new residential development and $0.41 per square foot of commercial and industrial development. The Mountain View-Los Altos district collects $1.26 per square foot in residential fees and $0.20 for commercial, or about half of Mountain View Whisman's fees.

Going forward, Blakely said it would make sense for the city to follow that ratio, and give Mountain View Whisman two-thirds of negotiated school fees from developers -- something Rudolph said would be the standard for future projects.

"Moving forward our expectation is that we will get the two-thirds share of the developer mitigation," he said.

The subject of school fees has been a difficult and occasionally contentious three-way debate between school districts, the city and developers over the last year. The city is planning for 20,000 new homes primarily located in the North Bayshore and East Whisman areas of the city, transforming lower-density tech parks into urban mixed-use hubs. That magnitude of growth could mean anywhere from 2,500 to 3,600 additional students, and could end up costing school districts in excess of $1 billion, according to one city staff report.

Sobrato's project is the first one approved in North Bayshore, and the first to test-drive the city's policy on school fees. Originally, school districts requested that Sobrato contribute $24.4 million, but the City Council bent the rules in 2018 and accepted roughly half that amount after the developer complained that the high fees made the project financially infeasible. Council members insisted that Sobrato's deal was not intended to set a precedent for future housing proposals.

The largest landowner and prospective homebuilder in North Bayshore, Google, has been in talks with Mountain View Whisman for years on school fees and where a school could potentially be located. The last proposal considered by the school board was a small, 2.5-acre property on Plymouth Street between Huff Avenue and Joaquin Road.

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36 people like this
Posted by Uh Huh
a resident of Gemello
on Feb 2, 2020 at 8:47 am

Yet another deer-in-the-headlights moment for Superintendent Rudolph and Board Member Blakley. One would think the public would get tired of it. Let's now wait for the explainer-in-chief Wheeler to come out and put it all the backroom fumbling in perspective for us.

30 people like this
Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of North Bayshore
on Feb 2, 2020 at 10:11 am

Shame on MVLA for agreeing to take more money when they already have more resources than their feeder district and MVLA already passed a $295 million bond last year. MVLA cannot close the achievement gap if it does not see that investing in students earlier in their education before they get to them in high school. It doesn't help that MVLA also takes Shoreline funds when their teachers already make $20,000 to $50,000 more than the K-8 district ( Web Link Web Link ), not to mention hire away middle school teachers. Young children need more space than older students who spend more time indoors. This is one more reason why our community should consider unifying the district with one school board, and to sync student experiences, interventions, data, and over time, teacher salaries. LASD, MVWSD, and MVLA combined is about the size of PAUSD (approx 12,000 students), yet we have three boards, three superintendents, three district offices, three foundations, and three competing agencies for funds. PAUSD has just one. Past article on the Grand Jury recommendation to unify our school districts: Web Link

18 people like this
Posted by @ chris
a resident of another community
on Feb 2, 2020 at 10:53 am

Chris, I’m sad you’re blaming another district when we are aware of some past incompetence with money. I don’t think now is the time to blame anyone, even though there is likely some blame to go around.

Let’s move forward. Every student can benefit a lot from this money. There are a LOT of people who were involved in this decision from the beginning (how much to require from the developer) to the end (how much to ask for).

The fact is this is already happened, something to learn from, and not time to be a Monday morning quarterback.

10 people like this
Posted by Botpa
a resident of Whisman Station
on Feb 2, 2020 at 11:36 am

And people think that housing is expensive. We just made it $12m more expensive with this policy. We need fix the housing situation, and increasing the cost of each apartment by $20k just doesn't create affordability.

I'm sympathetic to the needs of the schools, I'm just not convinced that the right way to solve it is to make the housing even more expensive.

11 people like this
Posted by SRB
a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Feb 2, 2020 at 11:54 am

What is the formula used to divide shoreline tax district's funds between the two school districts? It could make sense to use the same formula.

But regardless of the formula it shouldn't be decided solely by the City.

City should stay in its lane and let school districts decide on how to divide/use the fees and more generally how to run their education programs.

23 people like this
Posted by Not a Tug of War
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Feb 3, 2020 at 3:09 pm

MV Voice -

Don't pit the 2 districts against each other. Shame. They both educated kids in our community. The high school district was likely unaware of the city decision (in terms of the split), and almost certainly was not working against MVWSD.

Both districts are receiving FAR less than they need in these deals. They are not the ones generating more students!

10 people like this
Posted by Robyn
a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2020 at 3:14 am

Who failed to get it in writing? This is incompetence.
There should be an audit of Sobrato for the project to determine their version of feasibility. It must be done by competent auditors, not those responsible for the $500K shortfall.

16 people like this
Posted by negotiator?
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2020 at 7:09 am

So, again the Superintendent is shown to "not be a great negotiator." Oh well, it's only half a million dollars this time, less than Teach To One / services and No Contract /. I just hope the board is not going to give him yet another raise! (it's on the agenda Thursday - his contract that is). Or is the board going to give him - unlike anyone else in the history of the district - A Housing Allowance?

13 people like this
Posted by George
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 4, 2020 at 10:02 am

This district couldn’t track a piggy bank.

14 people like this
Posted by Not mentioned
a resident of another community
on Feb 4, 2020 at 3:16 pm

State law limits the total amount for developer impact fees of the normal sort, as imposed by school district. The current limit is $3.48 per foot for residential. The split between Elementary and High School districts applies where there is not a Unifed School District. The article fails to mention that the prescribed split is the reason the high school district only gets $1.23 whereas the MVWSD can collect $2.53 The consideration as to how to split the normal fees is imposed by state law. That's the reason the idea of splitting them according to the state formula makes sense. There are only 4 grades during which a student will attend high school, but the elementary school district has to house the student for 9 or 10 years. The amount of land required is not normally a factor. Elementary schools often have 10 acres for 500 students and Jr High schools 20 acres for 1000 students and High Schools 40 acres for 2000 students. The amount of land is the same.

Around here, Los Altos High school houses 2300 students on 30 acres. They are also not that much different from an elementary school district.

12 people like this
Posted by negotiator?
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2020 at 10:05 am

@Not mentioned seems to understand the math, of how the NEGOTIATIONS SHOULD HAVE PROGRESSED. Too bad the Board and Superintendent did not knowingly apply the math to the negotiations!

I guess MVWSD should have left their lawyer in the office, and brought along @Not mentioned. At the table with the Trustees, in closed session, he could have told them about the math.

17 people like this
Posted by Skeptical
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 5, 2020 at 7:36 pm

How many times does MVWSD have to show us their poor math skills. Maybe it's not the kids who need i-Ready math assessments.

Of course they want more money from us (Measure T). If the school board gives this superintendent and the school district's top heavy administration any more raises, maybe it's time to send them a message and say no to Measure T. Maybe they can come back to us for more money when they've demonstrated they know how to properly spend it instead of mismanaging their infrastructure projects. Fun fact: Vargas only got their electrical hookup a few days before school got out for the December holidays. I wonder how much money they had to spend running the school with a gas generator.

12 people like this
Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of North Bayshore
on Feb 5, 2020 at 10:38 pm

Please vote for Measure T. A no vote on Measure T does not punish the adults, it punishes the children and teachers. Measure T immediately saves the district $2.6 million annually by paying off its non-bond facility debt and expands supports for teachers. Not to mention the energy savings.

Should the board have pursued this bond earlier, yes, but better late than never. It would be tragic for MV to have passed a similar bond for the more well-funded high school district last year, and not its poorer K-8.

It's already tragic that MV K-8 teachers make $20,000-$50,000 less than their HS district counterparts. K-8 teachers work with the same families, work just as hard, suffer the same cost of living, and on average, pay more out-of-pocket to hide these discrepancies from the view of the children. Throwing MVWSD into a financial crisis just leads to higher teacher turnover and future leaders to avoid working for the district. I have never seen a school district become better policymakers by being starved of funds. The most dysfunctional districts in California are usually correlated with low funding, while well-funded districts often magically look better run.

If one is unhappy with the school board, vote for a new school board in November, three out of the five seats (a majority) are up for election. Run for school board if you do not like the candidates. But please, if Prop 13 didn't already hurt schools enough, please do not starve schools of further funds. Vote Yes on Measure T.

6 people like this
Posted by MV Resident
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2020 at 10:52 pm

This funding split is a bit of a non-story. Both districts will need funding, not only to build more schools but also to acquire land along the way. Whichever district gets the short end of the stick has to go to the taxpayers and fee payers to close the gap.

People should be more agitated about why the total number is so small. We've got to build a high school north of El Camino, and dramatically expand K-8 capacity (and preschools too!)... a new high school means a huge campus, and a massive undertaking to find and acquire the space.

21 people like this
Posted by Crittenden Parent
a resident of Monta Loma
on Feb 7, 2020 at 6:18 am

I'm sorry Mr. Chiang, but I will very much not be voting for Measure T.

What is hurting the children is our out of control executive leadership. The more money we give them, the more red ink seems to appear.

I received a 4 page flyer from the MVWSD advertising these measures the other day. It was full color, high weight paper stock, and I'm willing to bet it will be the most expensive political advertisement I receive this year. That is where our money is going, into advertising.

Dr. Rudolph has a doctorate in education, and yet spends his time playing amateur real estate developer. We need the Dr. of Education to worry about improving our test scores, not playing at a profession that he is clearly not trained in or qualified for.

There are plenty of very experienced and qualified real estate developers in the city. If that is what we need, let's make one of them superintendent. We are certainly not seeing the academic improvements we hired these people to generate.

3 people like this
Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of North Bayshore
on Feb 7, 2020 at 3:46 pm

Dear parent above, I urge you to vote accordingly in the November school board election, where the majority of the board's seats are up.

Please, however, consider voting for Measure T. A no vote on Measure T does not punish the administrators, it punishes the children and teachers. Measure T immediately saves the district $2.6 million annually by paying off its non-bond facility debt and expands supports for teachers. That's equal to 4% of the annual budget. The energy savings and possibly future rent can add a million more. That's just the savings, the facilities and upgrades, the bulk of the spending, themselves can benefit the community for generations to come.

It's already tragic that MV K-8 teachers make $20,000-$50,000 less than their HS district counterparts, which passed a similarly sized bond last year. K-8 teachers work with the same families, work just as hard, suffer the same cost of living, and on average, pay more out-of-pocket to hide these discrepancies from the view of the children. The challenge with housing is reported by teachers as the #1 issue that keeps them in the Bay Area. Throwing MVWSD into a financial crisis just leads to higher teacher turnover and future leaders to avoid working in the district. I have never seen a financial crisis lead to better governance.

7 people like this
Posted by Patrick Neschleba
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Feb 7, 2020 at 7:09 pm

@ChrisChiang and Crittenden Parent: it’s also worth pointing out that the school district isn’t the one sending out this material, and isn’t paying for it either. Bond campaigns are run by a separate organization, and donations come in from various private individuals and organizations to support them... some give because it will help their property values to have strong schools, some give because it directly benefits programming the organization wants to see, others might have an interest in expanding the market for their products and services, and some just think it’s the right thing to do.

I will say that if you’re a school parent, go to your PTA meetings and make your opinions known. We had a great discussion about a specific Crittenden facility need at the last one, and actually got some help from the district on it. Yay. If you prefer to help with money that’s not under district control, PTAs are great for school-specific support (ask me offline about Panther Prowl!) and MVEF is great for supporting all kids in the district (Gala is tomorrow night!). But do get involved. It’s way easier to make things better when people come together on stuff.

14 people like this
Posted by Still Skeptical
a resident of Waverly Park
on Feb 7, 2020 at 7:24 pm

In 2016 Menlo Park did not vote for two parcel tax measures and they got a new superintendent.

11 people like this
Posted by Crittenden Parent
a resident of Monta Loma
on Feb 10, 2020 at 8:34 pm

I definitely will be exercising my voting privilege in the upcoming election by voting for anyone not currently holding a seat, and I encourage everyone else to do the same, thanks. Our current situation has devolved into a bad Star Wars movie, complete with an "emergency powers" act.

I don't really want to get into the "savings" Mr. Chiang mentions, projecting savings that may or may not materialize is obviously a dangerous game. To treat potential, unrealized savings as an absolute is not financially responsible. I think we've had enough financial adventuring for awhile.

The argument that it's not the school district spending money on advertisements is misleading. Is it possible that the extraneous money spent on advertising could have instead been directly contributed to the MVEF? Isn't there an opportunity cost, what would MVEF have done with those tens of thousands of dollars? This accounting game is circular and never-ending, but worst of all, produces nothing. The MVWSD is not a business concern and there is only so much money to go around. What is spent on one thing is necessarily not available to be spent on other things. Money went to advertising instead of doing whatever the MVEF would have done with those funds. There is no magic money from outside.

Mr. Neschleba misses the point, in my opinion, in the same way the superintendent and board do. The issue does not revolve around facilities. The facilities discussion is an ongoing red herring that allows us to avoid making any progress on our real issues, namely our teaching corps issues.

We have had an ongoing teacher crisis since the minute Dr. Rudolph stepped into the roll, which has been exacerbated by the current boards Walter Mitty like attitude. It's not about bigger and shinier buildings, or warehousing for unborn children that may arrive in 2040. The fundamental building blocks of education are the student-teacher relationship, and we are failing in that critically. The ra-ra stuff just comes off as so much pedantic lecturing and is not helpful, and by the way, not everyone that has a stake in the district is eligible for the PTA. As a matter of fact, I'm willing to bet that most people eligible to vote in the MVWSD election are not eligible to participate in the PTA or would have no reason to. The PTA is far too particular and exclusionary a body to lead on an issue like this. The issue is not solvable by the PTA, it's a real problem with executive leadership and the electorate need to address it. There are maybe a few thousand parents in the collective PTA's of the MVWSD, while there around 75,000 MV residents. The scale of this issue is well beyond the PTA level.

2 people like this
Posted by Get the facts
a resident of Castro City
on Feb 13, 2020 at 3:12 pm

City determine the split you can thank Dan Rich and his team on that. It was based off of the ask, in this case for North Bayshore the high schools ask is higher than the 1-2 elementary schools that will be located there.

Crittenden parent, I guess you’ve missed the 10 percent increase that has occurred. I’m sure you’ll love the next superintendent who blames the current one; similar to the way a certain president blames the previous one... but that’s just my guess

Ohh and since the math is off, guess you haven’t heard about the 2.4 million dollar savings that Rudolph just led for tax payers. Add that to the extra 5 million that was brought in as a voluntary contribution - I’ll take those numbers any day of the week.

Finally, guess you missed the board meeting where Rudolph corrected Steve Nelson - the districts retention rate has improved from 44 to 78 percent for teachers. Guess those numbers don’t matter either. But hey I’m sure after Rudolph is gone you’ll be glad that you’ll have a Make Mountain View Great Again superintendent

6 people like this
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Feb 13, 2020 at 6:22 pm

I Certainly Didn't miss that Meeting "Get The Facts"! Obscuring the Teacher Retention Data from the State (CDE - partnership)? "Average Teaching Experience" is the metric I showed and discussed in my public comment (on Rudolph's new contract item). Following is a link to the state data in
Web Link

District 08yr, 08yr, 08yr, 08yr
County 10yr, 10 yr, 10yr, 10 yr
State. 12yr, 12yr, 12yr, 12 yr

Administrative overhead? I did not discuss this time, but:
County 289.6. MVWSD 253.3. "Per Pupil Ratio: Administrators"
County 265.0. MVWSD 205.0

Both County average and MVWSD are 'packing on district administrators. MVWSD more so!
More district administrative staff, does NOT TRANSLATE to more student learning! (IMO)
{7% budget for MVWSD administrators / 6% state-wide average. SARCs}

Also, check teacher salary as a % of Budget (less in MVWSD than state average) in SARCs

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