The local high school district expects to open 122 units of affordable housing in Daly City for its staff as early as the spring of 2022. The Jefferson Union High School District funded the $75.5 million housing, which will be available for any current district staff, through one voter-approved bond and by borrowing money through a certificate of participation, Director of Communication and Staff Housing Austin Worden said.
Located at 699 Serramonte Blvd. in Daly City, the housing is intended to be a cost-neutral program, Worden said. The goal is to keep rent at half of the current local average and fund the site’s operating costs while allowing the district to repay its loans.
The staff housing is just one part of a larger vision to develop a mix of affordable and market-rate housing as well as parks and retail space in the Serramonte Del Rey neighborhood. The project is still in the permitting stages. Worden said a private company is slated to manage the staff property while a nonprofit corporation, which the district created to gather community input, would oversee its operations.
Worden said the district, which includes Terra Nova and Oceana high schools in Pacifica, spearheaded the project to help make living in the northern part of San Mateo County possible. The area consistently records some of the most expensive rental rates in the Bay Area and across the state. The school district regularly experiences 25 percent turnover of staff every year, so officials theorize below-market-rate housing could help attract and retain teachers and other school personnel, Worden said.
“We’re hoping that by us providing staff housing, it will be a little more enticing for staff to apply to our district,” Worden said.
JUHSD isn’t the only local district getting in the housing game. Pacifica School District has been working on its own workforce housing for years, but Superintendent Heather Olsen said the pandemic delayed progress. Now, its 70 multifamily units, planned for the former Oddstad School site, are facing city approvals and environmental review with construction expected to begin in 2022.
“This is a game changer for our district,” Olsen said.
Meanwhile, the Cabrillo Unified School District in Half Moon Bay will hear a presentation this week from development consultants considering the best use of a few district-owned surplus properties located on the Coastside. Affordable housing is one possibility.
Leaders at the La Honda-Pescadero Unified School District on the South Coast of the county are also at the beginning stages of considering building their own housing. That housing wouldn’t be restricted to district staff, but would be open to local workers of any kind.
Last week, the district heard community concerns, which included whether a school district is best fit to build housing and who would be eligible.
Worden and Olsen both said their districts will require all residents of the new housing to also work in the district, and are still determining the window it will give staff to find new housing if they leave their job. Worden said, so far, enough staff has expressed interest in the Daly City housing to fill its units, and he expects demand to only increase.
Building staff housing has not been without its challenges, however. Worden said that because school districts are used to working with state architects and a relatively straightforward process, managing city and county permitting presented a challenge. He said one key part of the process was involving staff from the beginning to share their thoughts and concerns, which helped the district modify its plans to meet the needs of its employees.
“This is a newer concept for a school district,” Worden said.
Olsen said PSD drew on Santa Clara Unified School District’s experience creating its staff housing to help guide the Pacifica district’s process. In particular, Santa Clara and JUHSD’s strategy to create a nonprofit to manage the day-to-day operations is important to keep housing logistics separate from employment.
“As the employer, you don't also want to be the one telling people to put their trash away,” Olsen said. “That would be a little bit of a disaster — if your boss is your landlord and your landlord is your boss.”
Pacifica’s project won’t be profitable for at least the first decade, Olsen said, and revenue from selling Fairmont Elementary School in 2018 will help the district front the costs. Olsen said the district’s goal is to help staff save $1,000 a month on rent to help make living and working in the area more affordable.
“I know it would be a benefit to some of our employees now … but we have to also think about it as a benefit to our employees 10 years from now,” Olsen said.