News


Santa Clara County brings nonprofit aboard for teacher housing project in Palo Alto

Development would be open to employees across five North County school districts

A proposed affordable-housing project in Palo Alto exclusively for teachers across five North County school districts gained momentum on Tuesday when the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a developer to make the plan a reality.

Mercy Housing Management Group stood out from a pool of four applicants vying for the 60- to 120-unit project at 231 Grant Ave., a county-owned site across the street from the Palo Alto Courthouse. The board cast a 5-0 vote on Tuesday to have the nonprofit design and develop the facility.

The project would provide homes for teachers across the Palo Alto Unified School District, Mountain View Whisman School District, Mountain View-Los Altos High School District, Los Altos School District and Foothill-De Anza Community College District.

First proposed by Santa Clara County Board President Joe Simitian in January 2018, the estimated $36 million project has gained financial support from the board ($6 million), Palo Alto City Council ($3 million) and the five school districts (each district has committed $600,000 for the development for a total $3 million contribution).

The remaining $24 million could be paid off through low- or no-interest loans, possibly from rent charged to the school employees.

"Now it's real," Simitian said in a press release issued Tuesday. "We have a site. We have some initial funding. We have interest from local school districts. And now we have an experienced development partner to help us organize and build the project."

The development seeks to alleviate the housing challenges faced by school employees, especially those starting or in the middle of their careers, according to Simitian's office. This group is known as the "missing middle," because they can't afford market-rate housing and don't qualify for affordable homes.

The region's housing crisis, in turn, has affected school districts that watch teachers move away due to the high costs. In some cases, teachers endure far commutes due to the high housing costs in or near their districts.

"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," Simitian said in the press release.

As plans come together for the 1.5-acre property, the involved parties will finalize how many units will be built, according to Simitian. The supervisor previously said that each unit may cost about $500,000 to $600,000 to build. Community services currently housed in the Grant Avenue building may remain on-site at the ground level or moved to another location.

Mercy Housing Management Group is made up of Mercy Housing (based Denver, Colorado) and Abode Communities (based in Los Angeles), which were recommended to develop the site. Abode Communities has experience in bringing workforce teacher housing off the ground.

Abode Communities was the developer behind the 66-unit Selma Community Housing in Hollywood that opened in 2016. A blog post published by the organization at the time said 68% of the homes are leased to employees of the Los Angeles Unified School District. A spokesperson for Abode Communities said Friday that district employees are given 50% leasing preference.

The Palo Alto project isn't the only housing development with dedicated space for teachers in the works on the Midpeninsula. Last year, the Mountain View City Council and Mountain View Whisman School District approved a 716-unit apartment complex at 777 W. Middlefield Road, with 144 units set aside for teachers, school staff and city employees.

Mountain View Voice staff writer Kevin Forestieri contributed to this report.

Editor's note: This story incorrectly stated that Mercy Housing was working with Fremont-based Abode Services on the project and the name of one of the organization's affiliates, Abode Communities. Palo Alto Online regrets the errors.

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Comments

10 people like this
Posted by Greegor
a resident of another community
on Aug 15, 2019 at 3:29 am

A credentialed teacher has the same education as a Stanford MBA.
It would be wise the give them the same starting salary.
That would help.


2 people like this
Posted by midtowngrrl
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 15, 2019 at 11:21 am

How 'bout we just pay our teachers, school and city employees a LIVING wage?! (Same goes for non-profit employees!)


Like this comment
Posted by Teacher From Afar
a resident of another community
on Aug 15, 2019 at 11:44 am

I commute from Ukiah to teach elementary school in the mid-peninsula.

It is a long drive to & from. A time-friendly commute requires that I depart Mendocino County by at least 5:00 AM & I generally get home by 7:30-8:00 PM.

Public subsidized housing for teachers would be a step in the right direction but it is not a panacea for all parties.. OK for single teachers but not so good for married teachers residing from afar with families in local schools.

I have decided to rent a dilapidated RV & remain in the SF peninsula during the mid-week. That way I can reduce commute time & spend more after hours time with my students.






5 people like this
Posted by Kate Minott
a resident of another community
on Aug 15, 2019 at 12:00 pm

BRAVO to Supervisor Joe Simitian for initiating and shepherding the proposed affordable-housing project that will be exclusively for teachers in the five north Santa Clara County school districts


16 people like this
Posted by unequal contributions
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 15, 2019 at 12:20 pm

"the estimated $36 million project has gained financial support from the board ($6 million), Palo Alto City Council ($3 million) and the five school districts (each district has committed $600,000 for the development for a total $3 million contribution)"
Since Palo Alto seems to be contributing the vast majority of the funds for this housing projects, will PASD teachers occupy a correspondingly large fraction of the available subsidized units?


Like this comment
Posted by Mila Zelkha
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 20, 2019 at 5:31 am

Fantastic news for this promising project that helps local educators with stable housing!

We need more projects like this to come together. Hopefully this one is an example that can be replicated in other communities nearby so that all these same districts can continue to have more housing options open up in future developments. Thanks to the County for showing that we can come together on this.

To the developers: please design for the full 120 units possible on the site!


3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 20, 2019 at 7:28 am

So how will these teachers get to their various schools by bus or bike?


6 people like this
Posted by Just Say NO
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 21, 2019 at 5:19 pm

Teachers should teach where they can afford to live. The same goes for the police.
[Portion removed.]


1 person likes this
Posted by Carol
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 22, 2019 at 4:48 pm

Some odd comments here. Ukiah is more than 2 1/2 hours away. Stanford MBAs make salaries in a wide range. And with houses going for $2M, how can a teacher making even $90k afford that, "Just Say No"? It's true that teachers could/should make more. But paying all of them $200k+ so they can afford $2M Eichlers doesn't seem feasible. If Prop 13 protections were reformed, we indeed could spend more on school support.


6 people like this
Posted by Boo Hoo
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 22, 2019 at 6:18 pm

Teacher from Ukiah should seek a teaching job in Mendocino County. Common sense.

Would someone residing in Palo Alto drive to Ukiah to teach? Probably not.

The same goes for law enforcement types. Live/work where you can afford.


Like this comment
Posted by Shallow Alto
a resident of another community
on Aug 22, 2019 at 6:22 pm

So teachers should teach only where they can afford to live?

Fine, then. While we're at it, let's send all of the schoolchildren from Palo Alto to Ukiah to attend class...


6 people like this
Posted by Boo Hoo
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 22, 2019 at 6:36 pm

> let's send all of the schoolchildren from Palo Alto to Ukiah to attend class...

^^^Why? People pay big money to live in Palo Alto....unlike Ukiah.

If one cannot afford to drive a Mercedes, you make do with a Toyota.


Like this comment
Posted by Shallow Alto
a resident of another community
on Aug 22, 2019 at 6:47 pm

You know what, "Boo Hoo"? You folks in Paly keep that attitude up, and you'll soon be forced to go out of town to get any services for your gilded community. WAAAAAAAAY out of town...

But you all will deserve what's coming to you. In spades.


5 people like this
Posted by Boo Hoo
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 22, 2019 at 7:56 pm

One viable alternative would be for residents ALREADY residing in Palo Alto to become teachers & members of law enforcement.

Then the city & school district won't have to hire from OUTSIDE of Palo Alto or be overly concerned about those who commute longer distances but cannot afford to live here.

I'm sure there are many PA residents (even semi-retired ones) who would qualify as educators and as far as the PD is concerned, maybe having a resident force will tone things down a bit (i.e. bullying tactics) as these officers will be actual neighbors (like in the old days) + certain problems can be handled 'unofficially'.

Let the more reactionary types of officers police in areas where they would be better accepted due to the local 'red' mindsets (i.e. Central Valley). Then they won't have to commute or be resentful about not being able to reside in PA.

The same goes for the teachers. Kids in Ukiah & Manteca need an education as well.


1 person likes this
Posted by Shallow Alto
a resident of another community
on Aug 22, 2019 at 8:28 pm

[Post removed.]


Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 22, 2019 at 8:34 pm

Average house prices haven’t always been 2M.
Many of us commute to work in other cities and areas from where we reside plus we have mobility in this society and move.


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