Simitian proposes teacher housing near Palo Alto courthouse

By the Daily Post staff

Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian of Palo Alto announced Friday that he wants to build teacher housing on 1.5 acres of land the county owns at 231 Grant Ave. in Palo Alto, which is now a parking lot on the southeast side of the courthouse.

He would replace the parking at 231 Grant with a parking structure on the courthouse lot.

The proposal will go to the five-member county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday (Jan. 24).

The 231 Grant site could accommodate 60 to 120 homes, Simitian said.

“To make a project like this work we need three things: a piece of dirt, money and community support,” Simitian said in a statement issued Friday. “We’ve got the dirt; the county already owns the site. And I’m optimistic about public support. The piece that will require work is the source and method of financing construction. We’ll need partners, that’s for sure; and I’m sure that there’ll be twists and turns. Flexibility is key.”
The project has support from City Hall.

“Teachers are part of the fabric of our community,” said Palo Alto Mayor Liz Kniss, also former Palo Alto School Board member. “But that’s only true if we can keep them here in the community. This strikes me as an incredible opportunity to provide workforce housing and strengthen our schools. Done right, it really is a win-win.”

Simitian, who grew up in Palo Alto as a teacher’s son, said, “I can recall the days when a teacher could own their own home here in Palo Alto, or in a nearby community. I know we can’t turn back the clock, but I’m convinced that there are solutions to this problem.”

The development would be open not only to Palo Alto Unified teachers, but teachers from other nearby districts.

The development is necessary because local school districts continuously face teacher shortages and teacher retention issues due to the high cost of living, according to Simitian. It is often too expensive for teachers to live in or near the districts where they teach. As a result, teachers sometimes leave their school districts midway through their careers in order to move to lower cost areas.

“No one wins when local teachers have to commute from miles and miles away. Time in the car is time not spent with students or preparing lesson plans,” Simitian said in the statement. “And our teachers become more and more remote from the communities where they teach. This was already a challenge years ago when I was on the school board, and it’s only gotten worse with every passing year. I don’t think we have to accept this as inevitable. With a little creativity and collaboration we can make progress.”