Berkeley school employees could soon be able to rent housing units on district campuses

Joshua Jordan /File

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BUSD discussed the possibility of providing rental housing units to school district employees Wednesday because of Berkeley’s growing housing crisis.

The housing proposal falls under Senate Bill 1413, which allows school districts to provide affordable housing to employees in need. The standard cost for the housing is based on the median income in Alameda County, which is less than $100,000 for a four-person household.

Executive Director of Facilities Timothy White led the meeting’s discussion about housing and said the goal is to house about 1,250 district employees.

“We are not the only school district that has expressed this interest: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Santa Clara, San Mateo County and even Oakland Unified have all looked into teacher housing,” White said. “There is a healthy debate about the need of employee housing.”

White said the proposed sites for the housing units are 1224 University Ave., 1720 Oregon St., the Berkeley Adult School parking lot and the Berkeley High School parking lot. Each site will have mixed housing of one to three rooms per apartment, and the cost per site ranges from $32 million to $74 million.

Some board members, however, expressed concerns about the proposal.

BUSD Vice President Josh Daniels said he was most concerned about where the funding for the housing would come from. BUSD board member Karen Hemphill said she was concerned about how the prioritization of building housing units fits into the district’s goals for education.

“Building housing is far from our core values of educating our students,” Hemphill said during the meeting. “I am very very cautious because we could very well be looking at needing parcel taxes.”

Former superintendent Javetta Cleveland attended the meeting — her last BUSD meeting — to propose a new fiscal budget for upcoming years. Under her proposal, there would be an ongoing $1.8 million cut for the 2018-19 school year and then an additional $600,000 cut for the 2019-20 school year.

Cleveland added that she left room for “unknown” factors that could offset the budget, such as enrollment, special education, food services and child development.

“This is how we approached it during the recession — we made cuts over a four-year period.” Cleveland said during the meeting.

Daniels made a motion, which was later passed, to have the superintendent use the budget advisory process to identify an ongoing reduction of $1.8 million cuts with an additional $300,000 in optional ongoing cuts. The motion also included that the superintendent would have to come back to the board no later than its December meeting with those recommendations.

Jessíca Jiménez covers schools and communities. Contact her at [email protected] and and follow her on Twitter at @jesscajimenez_dc.