Peninsula School District opens affordable apartments for teachers and staff

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Every Monday morning, high school English teacher Hayden Morrison would drive more than an hour from Hayward to Daly City, worrying about gas prices and long commutes to work in an unaffordable neighborhood, wondering how long he could survive before throwing away his tenure to move to a less expensive area.

But this Monday, Morrison, 30, can put those worries behind him as his commute to work at Jefferson High School is now 10 minutes from his new T2 on the top floor of 705 Serramonte – opened this weekend by the first school district California public must pass a bond to build housing for teachers and complete it.

“The fact that it’s affordable means I don’t have to leave all my friends and students behind,” Morrison said Sunday.

The 122-unit complex is ultimately intended to house a quarter of the 500 employees of the Jefferson Union High School District, which includes four comprehensive high schools serving 4,000 students.

Completed by the district using its own real estate, the housing is part of Jefferson Union’s larger vision to build five buildings ranging from four to 14 stories, along with retail, restaurants, parks and trails on the 22-acre campus of Serramonte Del Rey. The concept calls for 10% of rental units to be designated as affordable and the remainder to be offered at market price. Approvals and a developer are still pending.

The mood this weekend was as giddy as a freshman dorm move-in day, as the first 19 residents moved in with moving vans scaling the hill behind the Serramonte Mall.

“I’m a Daly City girl so we don’t cry. But I’m so happy today,” said new tenant Sophia Talavera-Sibillo, district van driver and class aide. She and her two daughters had been couch surfing for two years after a divorce cost them their home.

Morrison moved from a shared apartment in the East Bay to his one-bedroom apartment in the hill-view Serramonte complex for $1,404. The one-year lease is renewable for at least five years.

Jefferson Union officials say the district receives less funding per student than other school districts in San Mateo County and teachers pay less. So, with a quarter of all teachers and staff leaving the Jefferson Union district each year, a 2017 district survey found high housing costs to be the top reason.

“We hate to lose these new teachers like Hayden that kids gravitate towards,” said Rosie Tejada, school board president and graduate of Jefferson High, where her daughter Carly Burton is in Morrison’s English class. “It’s hard for us to raise salaries, but the only thing we can do is provide affordable housing. »

In 2018, voters passed Measure J, by just over 55%, to create a $33 million bond to pay for construction. The budget is $75 million, with the gap being filled by a loan secured by rental income. Ninety-six district employees are in stages of the rental process, with eligibility based on a maximum family income of $143,000 for a couple. No one should be behind on rent because it will automatically be deducted from monthly paychecks.

Construction began in 2020. “Because it was essential, we were able to keep the project going,” Tejada said.

Proof of her truly essential character came through the door on Sunday, embodied by Talavera-Sibillo and her two daughters. They arrived at a one-bedroom apartment on the ground floor that opened onto a courtyard with play structures and barbecue grills. Across the yard was a utility room with rows of freestanding machines.

Everywhere else nearby, the monthly rent would be $3,500 minimum. Talavera-Sibillo pays $1,896 with earnings from her two jobs with the district plus a third job as a hostess at Moonraker, a restaurant with a view in Pacifica. Prior to landing Serramonte’s lease, the best deal she found was a two-bedroom studio near the Cow Palace, which would have been a squeeze at $2,000 a month.

“At my age, 43, with two young daughters, I deserve my own home,” Talavera-Siballo said, as her daughter, Lucia, 14, checked out possibilities in the second bedroom. “We went from place to place,” said Grade 8 student Lucia. “Now we have a house.”

“After the few years I’ve had, what a blessing,” her mother told Austin Worden, who left his position as assistant manager to oversee staff housing.

“Jefferson Union has become synonymous with housing for educators,” said school board vice chairman Andrew Lie, who has been invited to speak at panels sponsored by the California School Boards Association. Other teacher housing plans and projects have sprung up across the state and nation. “Districts across the state have been asking us about the process and the measurement of bail,” Lie said.

Sam Whiting is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected]

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