BY SARA TABIN
Daily Post Staff Writer
Foothill-De Anza Community College District has committed $200-$300 million from its upcoming $898 million bond measure to student and faculty housing after originally saying the priorities for the money were classroom upgrades and online classes.
The bond, Measure G, will appear on Santa Clara County residents’ ballots alongside a $48 parcel tax called Measure H.
When the college trustees approved the measures back in November they said the money would go to general infrastructure projects. But residents and students said they wanted the money to go to housing for students and employees.
Trustee Peter Landsberger said in November that people shouldn’t count on the bond money going to housing.
Landsberger said he thinks housing is important whether or not the bond passes, but said the bond is meant for broad improvements on campus. He said he doesn’t think the public wants the district to change its priorities from education to housing.
Then in December the district released a list of projects that would receive the bond revenue. The district earmarked $200-$300 million for several housing projects including money for Supervisor Joe Simitian’s shared employee housing project with the Palo Alto, Mountain View and Los Altos school districts that would result in an apartment house adjacent to the Palo Alto Courthouse.
Former trustee Bruce Swenson, who is leading the campaign for the bond and parcel tax, said the district will use some parcel tax money to help students who are in housing emergencies.
Foothill-De Anza receives money from the state based on how many students are enrolled. The college district’s state funding has declined in recent years because of a decline in students.
There were 1,149 fewer students enrolled this year than last year. Enrollment in De Anza college has dropped 13% over the past five years, while enrollment at Foothill College declined 32% between 2007 and 2016.
Chancellor Judy Miner told the Post in November that improvements made with the bond money could increase enrollment.
The bond measure would cost property owners $160 a year for every $1 million in assessed valuation, and it would last 15 years. The bond will need 55% of the vote to pass while the parcel tax needs two-thirds of the vote. Bond measures cost taxpayers more than they generate for schools because school districts are borrowing money that they must pay back.
Bond measures can’t be used for salaries but a parcel tax can.
Several local officials have endorsed the bond fundraising measures.
Palo Alto councilwoman Liz Kniss hosted a party in support of the measure at her home.
Gary Kremen, a board member for the Santa Clara Water District, endorsed the bond and tax in a January Twitter video created by the college. He said Foothill-De Anza is a resource for the community and he has hired many students from the colleges. He said the college’s physical infrastructure is decaying and there needs to be more investment in the colleges.
Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, State Senator Jerry Hill, Palo Alto Mayor Adrian Fine and Mountain View Mayor Ellen Kamei also endorsed the measures.
Opponent objects to use of number eight
Mark Hinkle, a libertarian and anti-tax activist from Morgan Hill, told the Post in December that he thinks the district is trying to trick Chinese residents into supporting the taxes by inserting multiple eights into the measure. Eight is traditionally considered to be lucky in China.
Trustee Gilbert Wong denied the accusation. Wong said that if the district were to try to appeal to voters based on race or ethnicity, they would use the number 7, which is considered lucky in European culture, because more than 50% of registered voters in the district are white.
The Foothill-De Anza measures won’t be the only taxes on the ballot.
San Jose State Political Science Professor Emeritus Larry Gerston told the Post that the March election is a strategic time to hit up residents for money because of the strong economy and the expected large Democratic turnout for the presidential primaries. Democrats are more likely to vote for tax increases than Republicans.