SOLEDAD — A special collaborative meeting of Soledad Unified School District and City of Soledad took place last month, during which members discussed the future of the teacher housing project made possible with funds from Measure N.
Interim superintendent Randy Bangs provided an update on the district’s efforts toward the teacher and staff housing at the March 30 meeting. He said the district has had discussions about the processes and policies that have worked in other school districts that pursued such housing projects in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.
“The project is unique in the sense that there is not a high frequency of teacher-staff housing attached to school districts,” Bangs said.
The Nov. 4 passing of Measure N authorized $13.75 million in bonds to be adopted for staff housing by the school district in order to attract and retain qualified employees by constructing local teacher-staff rental housing. The measure also was aimed at paying for equipment upgrades to improve student access to modern technology.
Since November, Bangs said the authorization of sale of bonds has begun and a walkthrough of the possible development site has taken place on Soledad Street.
The district would not manage the property, but would hire an outside property management company to oversee the teacher housing. The below-market rental fees paid by teachers and staff would cover those maintenance costs.
“The idea is to make these units attractive and aesthetically fitting for the city in its vision for a downtown and attractive to the prospective teachers and staff that would occupy the facility,” Bangs said.
He noted one effect seen by other districts has been young teachers able to save enough money to then purchase a home in the city they teach.
Opportunities for partnership existed between the city and district, especially with the city’s ability to provide additional funds in collaboration to meet other interests.
One idea brought up was having a multi-story building where the ground level could be used as commercial space. Measure N funding, however, does not allow for commercial property, which means the city would have to oversee and fund any commercial components on its own.
Another idea was expanding the project to include city employee housing.
City Manager Brent Slama explained the costs would rise with such partnership considerations.
In addition, Mayor Anna Velazquez said if the project was more than two stories, it would cause need for development guideline updates and require the city to have access to a ladder truck for fire prevention. The city currently doesn’t have such a truck and would either need to obtain one or form a partnership with a neighboring city that would have one.
The composition of the housing would likely be one or two bedrooms, as Bangs said research showed districts provided too many two-bedroom units at first before focusing more on one-bedroom units in subsequent projects.
Velazquez said the more units squeezed into the project, the more they would run into constraints on square footage. The district currently has 18 units planned, but if the city joined in, more would need to be added to accommodate city staff.
“If we’re talking about 18 units, the City of Soledad really wanted to have the partnership so we can also be able to create additional housing for our employees,” Velazquez said.
Though no final plans have been confirmed, she said the timing is right to get a partnership spelled out as to what would be expected from the city and school district.
“We’re in the process this year of initiating our general plan, which is going to take us to the next 10 years of development and construction in the city and what we want that to look like,” Velazquez said. “Do we have opportunities for higher density that allows us really to address some of the housing issues that we all are aware of?”
The school district currently has about 550 employees, with an estimated 30% of teachers living in Soledad.
“We’re confident as a school district, there is a need,” said Javier Galvan, district board president. “I believe there’s going to be more people wanting apartments than we’re going to be able to provide.”