Peninsula school district aims to use campus for big housing complex

Multi-use project that would bring millions to the district is being fought by vocal community farmers

San Francisco /
Nov.November 04, 2021 10:16 AM
Jefferson Union High School District superintendent Toni Presta and renderings of the Serramonte Del Ray Campus (Daly City Partnership, Serramonte Del Ray)
Jefferson Union High School District superintendent Toni Presta and renderings of the Serramonte Del Ray Campus (Daly City Partnership, Serramonte Del Ray)

A Bay Area school district is seeking a developer to build more than 1,100 apartments on an underutilized campus, a rare step to retain teachers in the wake of staffing shortfalls.

The Jefferson Union High School District, in Daly City, aims to build one of the biggest multi-family housing projects in the city in decades, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Instead of selling the 22-acre Serramonte Del Ray Campus for a quick influx of cash, it hopes to create a community of apartments, retail, restaurants and parks, as well as a regular source of income for the district. If preliminary drawings are approved by the Daly City City Council in January, it would be the first step in a 10- to 15-year plan.

While the project has the support of district staff and families, as well as the local teachers union, it was tabled by the council in September because it would displace a longstanding community garden and doesn’t have enough affordable housing.

An aerial rendering of the Serramonte Del Ray Campus (Serramonte Del Ray)
An aerial rendering of the Serramonte Del Ray Campus (Serramonte Del Ray)

School officials don’t want to tip their hand to potential developers by revealing how much they would get for by leasing the site, home to district offices, an adult and charter school, a medical office, an apartment complex as well as the garden.

It would could bring in “millions of dollars annually” Associate Superintendent of Business Tina Van Raaphorst told the Chronicle. The money would fund student programs and help hire and retain teachers, she said, sorely needed because Jefferson Union gets less per pupil than San Mateo County’s other two high school districts.

“Our salaries are much lower than surrounding districts and we lose about 25% of our staff because of this each year,” she said.

Many Bay Area cities have set aside affordable rental housing or provide special homeownership opportunities for teachers in an attempt to keep them in the pricey region. Few have leased or sold their own land to create market-rate housing to help teachers.

Jefferson Union, though, has done it before. Some 30 years ago, it developed the medical complex and residential rentals on the Serramonte campus to bring in more money. It’s also building a 122-unit development funded by a 2018 ballot measure to house teachers and staff on the same campus by next spring.

The buildings have chipped away at the open space around the two-acre community garden. Local residents have been using the plot for more than 20 years and say the district’s plan would eliminate the “only public food-producing garden” in the city, according to a Change.org petition signed by almost 3,500 people.

They say the district created an “authoritarian culture of intimidation and fear” to keep gardeners from accessing the site, including fingerprinting and background check requirements, and has offered “no alternative site for a community garden.” The district said it will relocate the garden, albeit to a smaller spot near a playground, and that the development plan calls for double the green space of the current campus.

Others in the district said that the 10 percent affordable housing component called for in the plan wasn’t enough. Nick Occhipinti, a school board trustee who opposes the development, told the city council in September that the proposed development “not only does nothing to serve the low-income community in need of shelter and housing here in Daly City, it only further impacts and reduces the limited space and opportunity for affordable housing in a community that desperately needs it.”

Still, the majority of the board seem inclined to move forward with the development. “We know there’s no plan that’s going to make everybody happy,” trustee Kalimah Salahuddin said during a presentation to the city council. “But at the same time, we’ve tried to accommodate as many things as possible.”

[SF Chronicle] — Emily Landes





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