In an effort to better recruit and retain teachers, Pacifica School District is in the middle of city review and community engagement work as it contemplates workforce housing at the former Oddstad Elementary School site. The project has been discussed for about seven years.

When complete, it would have 70 residences, primarily for teachers and staff. It would be composed of 26 two- and three-bedroom townhomes and 44 one- and two-bedroom flats. At least 64 percent of the units will be subsidized for teachers and staff.

“Our hardest-to-fill positions are teachers, but we are welcoming our classified employees. It’s not housing for life but it would be something someone could use for five years,” PSD Superintendent Heather Olsen said. “They could put that money down on a house. San Mateo County has some nice programs. They could put it in a savings account.”

One playing field on the site would be retained and improved. New restrooms and a changing area will serve the playing field.

“Some of the neighbors are interested in the field,” said Olsen. “The hillside will remain unchanged.”

The project was driven by need — the high cost of housing in Pacifica, the cost of training and the high turnover for staff. When

Oddstad Elementary School closed in 2005, PSD started to think about how to use the site. Brookwood Advisors joined in 2017 as a strategic adviser.

“In general, this is a great way to use one of our assets,” Olsen said. “We are looking to the city and the community to refine the plan in the next month ahead. It’s a win for the neighborhood and, ultimately, the winners are students. To have a teacher live in the community is really helpful. This is a solution for the greater community so grandchildren can live here.”

The district’s objectives are many. Among them to provide housing to enable recruitment and retention, to optimize district assets to support the educational mission, to retain long-term ownership of real property assets, to avoid adverse impacts to operating budgets, to have safeguards that advance and protect interests, to be a positive community advocate and to be a good neighbor.

“Most people recognize the severe housing shortage puts limits on who can teach for Pacifica,” said Olsen. “I hear overwhelming support for this project.”

Several smaller buildings will be constructed on site, including a community recreational building overlooking the playing field, and a leasing office located at the project entry drive.

Right now, PSD is holding community meetings and the city is reviewing the plan. In 2022, officials estimate the final design and financing plans will be done. In 2023, construction would begin. It is expected to be finished by 2024.

“We want to be good neighbors and good citizens. We have already made some changes to the project due to feedback we received,” said Olsen. “We want to fit into the neighborhood and craft the best solution we can. We are trying to get the word out.”

Jane Northrop has covered Pacifica for the Pacifica Tribune since 1996. She has won first place John Swett Awards from the California Teachers Association for her coverage of education.

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