As the Ravenswood City School District plans to soon lease its district office in East Palo Alto to bring a steady stream of funds, district officials are wondering if building workforce housing on open space at its middle school could help fund a smaller, $10 million replacement office.
Some school board members expressed concern about adding housing to an already congested area of East Palo Alto during a Dec. 8 meeting and putting housing so close to classrooms.
At the meeting, district staff presented the idea of developing three- to four-story affordable housing on the field along Bay Road at Cesar Chavez Ravenswood Middle School, at 2450 Ralmar Ave., to close a $4 million funding gap for the new office at 2120 Euclid Ave., which the district plans to build at the school. Teachers, staff, municipal workers and nonprofit employees would get preference for the housing, according to a district staff report. The school board gave the go-ahead to prepare a request for proposals to gauge interest in developing the site, Chief Business Officer Will Eger said at the meeting.
The city of East Palo Alto may be interested in rezoning a portion of the site to meet its state mandated housing goals, or the district could take advantage of a new law, AB 2295, that allows school districts to build housing on properties that are not already zoned for residential use, Eger said.
The district could also draw from some of its roughly $16 million in reserves and keep the space at the middle school site as a field and park. The district has historically planned on spending this money on programs.
Trustees Ana Maria Pulido and Tamara Sobomehin both said they were not proponents of placing housing at the location. Traffic and the proximity to classrooms were both concerns.
"It feels like a lot of action for a school campus," Sobomehin said. She asked that staff look into other options for the district office funding gap.
There is significant change happening at the middle school, which is in the midst of a $50 million makeover. It also recently received a $30 million donation from the SHP Foundation to build a community hub on the campus, with a new gym and other community spaces.
The district made an agreement with Madison Capital to lease out its district office site to bring in about $1.5 million annually.
The new district office will be a smaller, single-story building that would comfortably fit about 30 employees.
"It is designed to be as small (and affordable) as possible, while still meeting all of our needs (e.g. maintenance and fleet year)," according to the staff report. "We are hoping to create a space that fosters a sense of togetherness (as opposed to the physical silos we have now). Moving to a school site will literally bring us closer to students — and hopefully metaphorically as well."
Flood School site
Ravenswood is already in the process of trying to build workforce housing at another school site across city lines. It faced substantial resistance to develop the former Flood Magnet School site in Menlo Park when a community group, Menlo Balance, sponsored a measure for the November ballot that would prohibit rezoning of single-family properties (where the school site resides) without a public vote.
The initiative, Measure V, failed to pass last month. The district is now working to finalize an agreement with Alliance Development Services at the former elementary school campus. Eger hopes the Menlo Park City Council allows them to build 90 units on the vacant 2.6-acre lot.
Watch a video of the meeting: