Foothill-De Anza college board adds housing to bond measure

Foothill College

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.

Enrollment dropping

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.

Endorsements

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.

11 Comments

  1. Before we vote, is it too much to ask where they intend to put this housing? Where on the Los Altos Hills campus would it be located? How many units? How many stories? Before I vote on this, I think I’m entitled to more details than the district has put on its website.

  2. Measure G Bond is an open-ended candy jar for a very vague plan. As noted by Mr. Landsbruger’s comments, they threw in a $200-300M housing element at the last moment. How does this integrate with the plans for the Flint Center replacement at De Anza which may have faculty housing? There is NO overall comprehensive plan.

    “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.”Dr. Miner, the Chancellor stated this could help with the declining enrollment at both campuses. Reviewing the list, it is hard to see how this measure will stop the enrollment downturn.

    Using De Anza college research data, Page 7 shows headcount by zip code and FHDA district is the first line. De Anza district student headcount is 4,033 out of 17,274 which is 23.4%. Page 9 shows International enrollment as 1,702 which is 9.9%. 67% of the students come from homes NOT in our tax area. FHDA and Foothill do not provide the data.
    https://www.deanza.edu/ir/deanza-research-projects/enrollment/Census_Enrollment_Comparison_Report_Winter2020.pdf

    If you review your tax bill, we are currently paying for FHDA’s 2 prior bond measures (E: $248M and C: $491M). This bond measure will go until 2050 and cost well over $1.5B with interest! Each bond measure is twice the first. Under Measure C, FDA built 3 new instructional buildings and 1 administration for the district’s oversight. Measure G bond offers a list of possible projects, but there is no actual defined need. Many upgrades listed were updated under Measure C.

    While I am 100% in favor of supporting schools, this bond measure for Foothill/DeAnza Community College is (a) fiscally reckless and (b) an unfair and anti-housing tax.A major point NOT broadly discussed is the unfair tax mechanism used to pay for this. If passed, every homeowner’s property taxes would be increased by an additional $160/year for every $1000k in ASSESSED value (not market value) until 2054. Measure G’s approach burdens recent home buyers and makes it even harder for would-be-buyers to afford a home. Resident A owns a house worth $3 million but bought the house decades ago so the assessed value is only $150k, thus would pay $24/year for Measure G . In contrast, Resident B rents and is trying to buy a similar house at market price but would be faced with an incremental tax of $480/year (20x as much!) for Measure G.

    The statement in the article about this is the best time to try and pass this ill defined Bond Measure. The district took a poll last year and decided they would NOT get the required 55% approval vote. So this is the same bond one year later and FHDA has not put any meat on the bones.

    • I am hurt by Colby Jones’s comment above, which points out that 67% of De Anza students do not come from homes in the relevant tax districts. The numbers aren’t fictional, but the interpretation of those numbers as a metric for deciding who is not a contributing and deserving part of the community is arbitrary and callous.

      Let me begin with the international students. Not only do they travel from overseas in search of the, frankly, world-class education they can get through FHDA, but they literally live in the tax district! They spend their money in the tax district! When they transfer to a four year school, they are transferring to places like Stanford. Palo Alto, Mountain View, and Cupertino become more than their homes — they become their vision of what life in the US can be like. International students return to this district for work! The district is their community. They contribute to it. There can be no question about that.

      What about those other students who attend school from outside the tax district? Jones is essentially using De Anza’s numbers to begrudge these students’ membership in the community. This is the exact logic that grabs service workers, food workers, teachers, and child care givers by the collar, and then boots them clear out of the circle of care. And, as a consequence of being kicked out of the circle of care, we are forced to settle for less and less pay, and for housing that is farther and farther away from the places where we make our living.

      As if the students who commute from San Jose don’t work in the district! As if they don’t spend their money here! As if they are not community members whose contributions make life possible for those who are wealthy enough or lucky enough to be able to afford housing in the district.

      I’m one of these people. I’m an anthropology instructor at De Anza, and a former community college student. I teach my students perspectives that help them understand and empathize with persons whose lifestyles are unfamiliar to them — an essential skill in our culturally diverse neighborhoods and workplaces. My spouse is an early childhood educator. She teaches the next generation of pre-K teachers at Foothill. Moreover she cares for the children of Stanford professors and Palo Alto engineers. She not only facilitates’ children’s development, but she frees university and tech professionals to do their own essential work.

      While we don’t make enough money to live in Cupertino, Los Altos, or Palo Alto, we spend most of our time in these places. We, like the numerous students who are served by FHDA but who cannot afford to live in the FHDA district, are contributors and vital parts of the community. We serve the district’s students and families, but we also eat here, seek our entertainment here, and form our friendships and our professional relationships here. We are community members.

      People like us — the child care givers, the teachers, the service workers, the international students, and the students who slog through traffic in order to reach the quality, affordable education we provide at FHDA — we are essential to the community and to the lifestyles of those who can afford to live in the tax district. We are part of what makes life in the district great!

      Colby Jones find us undeserving because of our zip code. Yet, in shrinking the circle of care, he refuses us (your students, your teachers, your employees) the means to improve our situation. As if it weren’t bad enough that we two educators and our students have been pushed to the geographic margins by the high cost of living! We also have to endure being number-crunched into the margins of our professional and social communities.

      I trust that the voters can see that $160 per $1,000,000 of assessed value is not really a big ask when weighed against the needs of the students and teachers who make up FHDA and our shared community. We are not outsiders — we are your colleagues, your students, and your employees.

      • Who is coming up with terms like “circle of care”? Sounds like the “circle of trust” Robert Di Niro talked about in Meet the Fockers. But this isn’t a comedy!

        • Hi “Form a Circle,”

          I may have originally heard the term “circle of care” from my pastor when I was growing up, but I don’t rightly remember. Anyway, I’m using it here to indicate the group of people that a person cares about.

          Contrary to Measure G’s detractors, I suggest that the boundaries of the tax district is not a good way to imagine the community of people who make Silicon Valley great.

          Rather, I want the citizens of Silicon Valley to take a good look at the service workers, the emergency workers, and (in this case) the educators and others who cannot afford to live in the tax district, but who nevertheless are essential contributors to our community. Measure G will support their work and educations as well as the work/ educations of the families who happen to live within the boundaries of the tax district.

          When I ask that you expand your circle of care, I am asking that you exercise compassion. I am asking that you take those folks into consideration. After all, we serve you and your families, we are part of the economy that keeps Silicon Valley afloat, and we make the work of more highly paid professionals possible.

          Thanks to you, “Form a Circle,” for giving me an opportunity to clarify that point! 🙂
          D

  3. I am a Cupertino resident and our home has an assessed value of just under $2M. This will be a $320/year expense. This will be at least $16,000 over the life time of the bond. We are still paying for Measure C & E which were approved in 2006 and 1999 respectively. Measures C & E had actual lists of new building projects as well as maintenance. Measure G has a laundry list of “sample” projects. It was just recently that the “housing” project for $200-300M which the Board Member Landesman kept saying that was not the purpose of the bond materialized. Under Measures C & E, the new buildings and goals were part of the Master Plans at the college and district levels. Measure G asks for a undefined housing facility which may have an overlap with the planned Flint Center Replacement housing concept. The bond will actually cost over $1.5 Billion for a list of sample maintenance projects and undefined housing project. FHDA did a poll prior to the last election with the same $898M budget but the polling was negative. FHDA has had a year to identify significant needs and hasn’t.

    I am very familiar with both campuses and their students. I understand the international students (mostly Pacific Rim) desire to attend Foothill and De Anza. Both have excellent transfer records to UC Berkeley and UCLA which is their real goal. The CC is much cheaper than going directly to a UC and they can also take the ESL/Basic English classes to become proficient before transfer. If you have proof to support your assertion that they come back to the FHDA tax base area, it would be very interesting. From history the 2 colleges don’t have student data once they transfer.

    Both colleges have unique programs which are work force related. These do attract students from outside of the FHDA tax base. The CC try not to compete with the same programs in a close geographic area. That said, this number of students are a small part of the out of area headcount. ALL CC offer the same transfer and core courses. Do they need to attend DA & FH? Should FHDA consider downsizing versus maintaining the large number of buildings which have low utilization rates?

    I have contributed to the FHDA Foundation and fully support the missions of the colleges. My ask is to have the Master Plans updated with identified goals and impacts. The enrollments at the district have been on a downward slide and the worse in the Bay Area except for Ohlone. How is the Bond going to impact the enrollment decline? You identified online classes which is the one area that is increasing. Measure G focuses on the brick and mortar fixes and some online. Is the FHDA facilities models similar to what happened with Sears stores versus Amazon?

    If the bond value was in the range of Measure C ($500M-ish) and a more detailed plan resubmitted at another election, it may be more realistic. I will vote for H and O (local school parcel tax).

    • On this lovely Saturday afternoon, I really ought to get back to work reading my students’ papers. 🙂

      But I felt that it was important to highlight something Colby Jones has written above:

      He’s going to vote YES on Measures H and O.

      That means that both social care-oriented types like myself AND numbers people like Jones agree:

      Measures H and O are wins for local education and for the community!

    • Hi Bryan in Palo Alto,

      Thank you for asking, “What the hell is a ‘social care-oriented type’?”

      My politics are about taking care of the community, including those essential members of the community who unfortunately are priced out of the tax district. Despite the fact that I can’t afford to live in Palo Alto, PA is my community and I want to see its people taken care of.

      My friends and colleagues in Palo Alto understand that the Palo Alto community does not end at the boundaries of the tax district. The majority of Palo Altans are as understanding as the hundreds of families and thousands of students whom my wife and I have educated and cared for over the years, despite our inability to reside in Palo Alto itself.

      I think that if I had written “community care-oriented” my comment may have been more clear to you.

      Thank you again for giving me the opportunity to clarify that.
      D

    • Hi Bryan in Palo Alto,

      Thank you for asking, “What the hell is a ‘social care-oriented type’?”

      My politics are about caring for the community. Even though we two teachers are priced out of life in Palo Alto, we consider PA to be our community because we have spent years of our lives educating and caring for Palo Alto’s families, and especially for its preschool age and college age students. I want to take care of Palo Alto — and Mountain View, Cupertino, and all the other towns where my community dwells. That’s my orientation.

      My friends and colleagues in Palo Alto understand that the community does not end at the borders of the tax district.

      The hundreds of families and thousands of students we two teachers have served over the years understand that my spouse and I (like the service workers, emergency workers, and other lower-paid but absolutely necessary personnel) are real, contributing members of the community despite our inability to pay Palo Alto rent or mortgages. And they get that Measures G and H are for *all of us* — for you, for me, for themselves, and for everyone here. Measures G and H are wins for the community.

      Next time I’ll use the word “community” instead of “social,” though they mean the same thing here. It’s all about taking care of the people who care for us. I hope you’re on board with that. 🙂

      Thanks, Bryan in Palo Alto, for giving me the opportunity to clarify my position.
      D

  4. If the teachers at this college use jargon like “social care-oriented”, then it’s no wonder kids are getting a poor education. I’m voting No on both measures!

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