FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                         
September 25, 2018 For More Information, Contact:
Gabe Carhart
(408) 299-5050 office
(650) 740-9399 cell
[email protected]   TEACHER HOUSING PROPOSAL MOVES FORWARD WITH LOS ALTOS SCHOOL DISTRICT   SAN JOSE – The Los Altos School District (LASD) Board of Trustees voted unanimously (5-0) Monday night to take the first steps in supporting the creation of affordable teacher housing in Palo Alto. The Board directed its superintendent to identify sources of funding, up to $600,000, which could be used to support the effort already underway by Santa Clara County.   “Attracting and retaining quality teachers in this housing market is a challenge, not just for us, but for every school district in our area,” said LASD Superintendent Jeff Baier. “I believe that this project will help us continue to provide the high-quality education that our students deserve.”    Board member Jessica Speiser said it was a “no-brainer” as she and her colleagues all expressed support for the motion. Originally proposed by Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President Joe Simitian, the project aims to bring critically needed workforce housing to teachers in one of the most expensive housing markets in the country.   “It’s better for everyone – folks trying to avoid traffic, kids getting an education, school districts trying to hire and retain the very best teachers for our schools, and of course our teachers themselves – when our teachers can live in or close to the communities where they teach,” said Simitian. “It’s never easy to develop workforce housing in such an expensive area; but we have the land, we have some funding available, and we’re finding the partners we need to make this work.”   In January, Simitian proposed building teacher housing on a County-owned 1.5 acre site at 231 Grant Road in Palo Alto, across the street from the County Courthouse. In response to Simitian’s proposal:  

  • The Board of Supervisors agreed to set the site aside for teacher housing pending a more detailed plan;
  • Then, in April, the Board of Supervisors agreed to set aside $6 million to help fund the project (using funds from the
  • Stanford Affordable Housing Fund, which are funds the County specifically designated for the creation of affordable housing near the Stanford University Campus);
  • In June the Palo Alto City Council unanimously voted to set aside $3 million to help fund the project (again, contingent on a formal proposal acceptable to the City); and,
  • In August, the Foothill-De Anza Community College District Board of Trustees voted to identify $600,000 in funding to be used for the project.

  Following the latest action on Monday evening by the Los Altos School District Board, Simitian said he was, “Pleased the project had developed so much momentum so quickly.” He noted that he’s had preliminary conversations with three other districts (Palo Alto Unified School District, Mountain View Whisman School District, Mountain View-Los Altos School District), all of whom have expressed interest in participating. Simitian is slated to appear before the Mountain View Whisman School Board in October to discuss that district’s potential participation in the partnership.   School employees, particularly those in the early and middle parts of their careers, are part of what is sometimes referred to as the “missing middle” – they don’t qualify for traditional affordable housing, but they can’t afford market-rate housing prices that are geared towards significantly higher-incomes.   “Great teachers are moving out of the Bay Area due to the housing crisis,” said Sarah Chaffin, a local mother and founder of SupportTeacherHousing.org. “Only roughly one percent of housing since 2015 in Santa Clara County has been built for middle income earners such as teachers according to the Silicon Valley Index. This project could be a game changer in terms of solving the teacher housing crisis, and could inspire others to follow its example.”   Due to the high cost of living, local school districts continuously face teacher shortages and teacher retention issues. It is often too expensive for teachers to live in or near the districts where they teach; and teachers sometimes leave their school districts midway through their careers in order to move to lower cost areas.   Simitian noted that, “No one wins when local teachers have to commute from miles and miles away. 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. This was already a challenge years ago when I was on the School Board, and it’s only gotten worse with every passing year. I don’t think we have to accept this as inevitable. With a little creativity and collaboration we can make progress.”   The 231 Grant Ave site could host a significant number of units – anything from 60 units to 120 – but Simitian notes that all parties will have to be open to change as community members and funding partners weigh in on what is both possible and compatible with the surrounding community. Community services currently on the site could either be relocated nearby, or remain on the current site on the ground floor.   Simitian, who grew up in Palo Alto as a teacher’s son, said, “I can recall the days when a teacher could own their own home here in Palo Alto, or in a nearby community. I know we can’t turn back the clock, but I’m convinced that there are solutions to this problem.”   ###​

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