An idea from San Mateo Union High School District officials to construct a Millbrae workforce housing development financed through the sale of a former campus is being received by neighbors with tepid enthusiasm.
Neighbors raised concerns during a town hall meeting Tuesday, Feb. 1, regarding the interest of officials to construct 140 affordable units for educators and staff on the Mills High School campus.
The concept potentially funded through the sale of the former Crestmoor High School campus in San Bruno was met with criticism from those fearing their neighborhood would be overwhelmed with traffic and parking issues.
To dispel fears regarding logistics, Superintendent Kevin Skelly said there is plenty of room for improvement because the concept is still in its formative stages, but noted his belief the development could improve the quality of local education.
“We think this is a tremendous winning option,” said Skelly, to the crowd of dozens assembled in the Mills High School library.
Officials have shown an appetite for selling at least a significant portion of the 40-acre former Crestmoor High School site, currently home to Peninsula Alternative High School and district support services, to raise revenue for the construction of below-market rate housing offered to teachers who are struggling to keep their head above water amidst the rising tide of rents flooding the Peninsula.
To vacate the campus closed decades ago, a restructured alternative school is slated to soon move to a property leased from the San Mateo County Office of Education in Burlingame, closer to the homes of most students. Should the site ultimately sell, San Bruno residents have expressed interest in preserving the athletic fields below the school for community use.
Skelly said such an affordable housing development, similar to those offered at the San Mateo County Community College District, would make the high school district a more appealing place to work for the best and most desirable educators.
Young teachers could live for a limited time in the affordable housing at a reduced rent allowing them to save money for purchasing a home, and ultimately granting an opportunity to establish roots in the community where they teach, said Skelly.
As it stands currently, he said many of the district teachers are forced to commute long distances each day to a Bay Area community more affordable than San Mateo County, limiting their capacity to participate in extracurricular activities.
He said the affordability issues facing teachers eventually may roll down to the classrooms and students, ultimately harming the quality of education offered at local schools.
“This has a big impact. It makes the experience at school not as strong and makes our schools a less vibrant part of our lives,” he said.
Citing the proximity of the Mills High School campus to public transportation lines, Skelly said a development including one- through three-bedroom units offered to teachers at a reduced rate could be a tremendous recruiting asset for the district.
Should demand among high school district teachers not meet the amount of units developed, Skelly said officials may consider making spaces available to educators from neighboring districts.
“This is just in the idea stage, but I believe this is a community that values education,” he said.
Variety of concerns
Some residents of the Windwater Mills condominiums adjacent to the high school campus did not share the superintendent’s enthusiasm for the development though.
Pointing to plans showing only one access point from surrounding streets, residents shared fears the project would further inundate a neighborhood already struggling to accommodate cars and traffic with more congestion.
Some suggested they believed hosting the development at the Crestmoor campus would be a better fit, as the surrounding neighborhood is not as densely populated. Or if the district is concerned about offering teacher incentives while remaining committed to selling Crestmoor, some suggested officials could use the revenue from the property sale to offer higher wages.
Skelly said he appreciated the variety of perspectives offered by residents, and said the input would be considered as officials move ahead while examining the project’s future.
“Our purpose here is not just to offer perspective, but to hear a variety of feedback,” he said.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 105