TEACHER HOUSING PROJECT APPROVED
SAN JOSE – Today, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the 110-unit teacher housing project to be located at 231 Grant Ave. in Palo Alto. The project on County-owned land was proposed by County Supervisor Joe Simitian in 2018 to help local teachers and school staff live in the communities they serve, and to help local school districts attract and retain top-quality staff.
The approved project will provide 110 affordable rental apartments for teachers and other school employees from a half-dozen school districts in Santa Clara County and southern San Mateo County.
“As a former school board member, and the son of a local school teacher, I know this housing project has the ability to greatly affect the lives of teachers and their families and benefit our schools and our students,” said Simitian.
Simitian noted that “No one wins when local teachers have to commute from miles and miles away. It’s just that much harder to attract and retain the best teachers available. Time in the car is time not spent with students or preparing lesson plans. And our teachers become more and more remote from the communities where they teach. By having teachers work and live nearby, we’re strengthening their role in the community.”
The project also has an environmental upside in that it dramatically reduces the need for teachers to commute long distances, reducing emissions and congestion on our busy highways.
The project is expected to offer approximately 77 of its 110 units to teachers and staff employed by Palo Alto Unified School District, Mountain View Whisman School District, Los Altos School District, Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District, and Foothill-De Anza Community College District, though the project developers are still negotiating final agreements.
An additional 32 units will be offered to teachers and school staff in southern San Mateo County with an emphasis on the Ravenswood City School District near the Menlo Park campus of Meta (previously known as Facebook). The company has been supporting Ravenswood teachers with subsidized rent since 2017. In 2019, Meta announced a commitment of $25 million in grant funding to support the 231 Grant Ave. teacher housing project as a way to help create a new, permanent supply of affordable housing for educators (one unit will be set aside for an onsite manager).
“Foothill-De Anza’s longstanding reputation for delivering outstanding education is built on the quality of our faculty and classified professionals, and ensuring that they can afford to live locally is a paramount concern for our district,” said Judy Miner, Chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District. “Affordable housing for eligible faculty and classified staff members is a tremendous need in our district and one which we are hard pressed to address alone.”
In 2018, the Palo Alto City Council voted to reserve $3 million to support the project, contingent on a formal proposal acceptable to the City. The Council is scheduled to consider ratification at an upcoming meeting.
“Palo Alto is an enthusiastic co-sponsor of this project which will support 110 teachers and education staff to live closer to their work,” said Palo Alto Mayor Pat Burt. “We thank the County Board of Supervisors for their leadership and vision in the innovative use of public lands near transit and services which aligns with our city housing goals; particularly the challenge of providing “missing middle” moderate-income housing for vital public employees. We look forward to welcoming teachers and staff from throughout the area to Palo Alto.”
The County of Santa Clara selected non-profit development partners Mercy Housing and Abode Communities in 2019 to develop and manage the site. Over the past year, the development team has met with school districts, the City of Palo Alto, neighborhood groups, community members and various other stakeholders to increase awareness of the project and solicit community input. In addition, the team surveyed more than 1,300 teachers and school employees and used their findings to help determine the unit mix and income levels that the project will serve.
“This teacher housing project has long been on our wish list, and now that it’s finally received full approval it makes the dream one step closer to reality,” said Kate Schermerhorn, President of the Los Altos Teachers Association and teacher at Springer Elementary. “We’re grateful for the community’s support of this project and for helping to make teachers' lives a little less stressful by increasing access to affordable housing near our school communities.”
At the January 11, 2022 meeting, the Board of Supervisors adopted the environmental impact report and provided approval for County staff to move the project forward with ground lease and financing.
“Great teachers and staff members are the heart of Mountain View's great schools,” said Devon Conley, Member of the Mountain View Whisman School District's Board of Trustees. “Considering that living expenses are cited as the number one reason why we lose staff members, this partnership will ultimately benefit our students and families. We are grateful for the Supervisors' foresight and this opportunity for our employees to live close to work in affordable, quality housing."
Next steps are for County staff to negotiate and finalize funding agreements with Palo Alto Unified School District, Mountain View Whisman School District, Los Altos School District, Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District, and Foothill-De Anza Community College District. Developers hope to begin construction in fall 2022 and anticipate to complete work in 2024.
“The 231 Grant project offers an exciting opportunity to create much-needed, affordable rental housing for teachers, school employees, and their families near their places of work,” said Simitian. “It’s a model I hope we can improve, and then replicate in other communities across the region. We know the need is there, it’s just a matter of getting the right partners involved.”
The complex will also include indoor and outdoor communal spaces, landscaped courtyards, automobile parking, secured bike parking, and other residential amenities.
For more information and updates about the 231 Grant Educator Workforce Housing project, please visit sccgov.org/231grant.