A central issue was how much housing the Pleasanton school district could put on its land at the corner of First Street and Bernal Avenue. At an earlier meeting, the council had ignored the staff’s recommendation for density and lowered it. That caused the school district leadership, which had been working with city staff, to cry foul. State law permits the district to build affordable housing for its staff at significantly higher densities than the council approved.
Superintendent David Haglund and the trustees had their first obligation to the students and their needs—quality teachers rank No. 1 on that list. Pleasanton has faced challenges in recruiting because of the expensive housing and rents and a project aimed at younger teachers offered the potential to reverse that situation. Other districts in expensive cities have been building staff housing on school sites.
Pleasanton already took the step of freeing up the district office site by purchasing a building Hacienda Business Park for both its staff and with some growth space that could be leased to other users.
Remember that the district enrollment has been shrinking, the worst possible trend for finances because districts are paid by the state based upon the average daily attendance. That goes down and the funding goes down. District enrollment has shrunk by 700 students over the past five years –a multi-million hit on the district budget.
The reality is that the district will need quality teachers to educate fewer students over the predictable future. That’s why the expansion of Donlon School is on hold and why using the district office site and the unused Vineyard Avenue site wisely is so important.
The Vineyard site, which the council majority insisted on reducing the density there, is surrounded by custom homes and vineyards. It’s a 10-acre site once planned for an elementary school. The maximum density there would be 3-4 homes per acre assuming a developer finds a project they think will work in the marketplace. The local and Bay Area real estate market is adjusting to the Federal Reserves’ much higher interest rates to fight the inflation that the Biden Administration and the Democrats fed with unnecessary and highly inflationary rampant spending after they took control in 2021.
This parcel should have been zoned with maximum flexibility for expensive housing because any type of multiple zoning there would be completely out-of-place.
Just what will come forth on the district office site, that is surrounded by single-family homes on two sides including the historic homes on First, Second and Third streets, remains to be seen. The school district retains some leverage and both agencies will have the incentive to play nice with each other.