community

City Aims to Build Teachers’ Housing

Francis Scott Key Annex Site in Outer Sunset Chosen

By Thomas K. Pendergast

 

A plan to turn the Francis Scott Key Annex in the Outer Sunset District from a dilapidated

surplus school property into new housing for teachers is moving forward, as city officials

seek ways to keep educators from leaving for less expensive towns.

 

District 4 Supervisor Katy Tang and SF Mayor Ed Lee announced that somewhere

between 135 and 150 apartments will be built on the property, a 1.25-acre site between

42nd and 43rd avenues, and Irving and Judah streets.

 

“We do have a housing crisis in the City,” Lee said at a recent community meeting.

“We’ve started getting better in building low-income housing, and we certainly use

money from market- rate housing, but we never really did anything for working class

folks. This is our chance because we have a strong economy now.

 

“Our affordable housing levels are too low for those who are teachers. Maybe some of

our educators in the system can qualify, but most of our teachers make just a little bit

more than that. They don’t make enough to afford market rate housing,”Lee said.

 

Officials say the SF Unified School District (SFUSD) requires 3,600 teachers annually

but has an annual teacher attrition rate of approximately 10 percent. Meanwhile,

from 2011 to 2017 the average market-rate for rents increased by 50 percent and

home prices increased 72 percent, according to the real estate firm Zillow.

 

Lee said the skyrocketing cost of housing is contributing to the teacher attrition rate.

 

“This is why we have a crisis in regards to teaching, with so many teachers experiencing

two hours of commute before they get to their own school,” Lee said. “I think when you

think about your schools, you want, as I do, world-class schools with talented teachers;

committed, being able to stay after class and not worry about getting back home.”

 

The mayor’s office has committed $44 million from bond money and other revenue

sources to build housing on the site. It is planned to be a rental building with a mix of

one-, two- and three-bedroom units. The site will require rezoning from “public” use to

residential. Lee said now that the economy has improved, this is the time to

get it done.

 

“We have a good momentum going, so we’ve got to take care of our teachers because,

if the teachers can’t afford to stay here in the City, we’re going to lose years of talent,”

he said. “I think teachers ought to get back to having a relationship with the

community and with families. They can’t do that if they’re doing two-hour commutes

back and forth, they can’t build relationships.

 

“So, the conversation about teachers’ housing is a very serious one. We don’t get this

opportunity too often. I’m not going to squander the opportunity,” he said.

 

School district officials say the recruitment of new teachers is becoming particularly

difficult, largely due to the cost of housing.

 

“We’re having trouble recruiting new teachers. So, this year, the academic year

that just finished, this is the first time that we opened school without a permanent

teacher in every classroom,” said Myong Leigh, the deputy superintendent of policy

and operations at the SFUSD.

 

“There were dozens of classrooms that didn’t have a teacher, and that actually persisted

for months. Well into the school year there were quite a few classrooms that we

were covering with substitutes or with short-term engagements and, honestly,

that’s not appropriate. We are quite worried that this is a problem that’s going to

get worse before it gets better unless we do something strategic to confront this crisis.”

 

According to SFUSD figures, an experienced educator earning $80,700 annually,

or 100 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI), must pay 52 percent of

his or her income for a market-rate one-bedroom apartment at $3,479.

 

“If they want to get a studio apartment … they have an affordability gap of almost

$500,” said Kat Hartley from the Mayor’s Office of Housing (MOH).

The process is just getting started, so the developer, architect and property

manager all still need to be selected, and city officials plan on involving the public

to get feedback and hear ideas.

 

“We will be working very hard to engage the community. We want this development

to be an enhancement of the community, to reflect the values of the community,

to reflect the design and aesthetic values of the community,” Hartley said.

“So, the developer selection process will be inclusive. We will be back before you

many, many times. We hope you get sick of us, in a good way.”

 

Hartley said the MOH and the school district will be establishing eligibility criteria,

with teachers and paraprofessionals eligible to enter a lottery system to select

who gets first dibs on the new apartments. They must also be “income-qualified” because

some teachers might be in households that earn too much income.

 

“We really want to serve those teachers who are having trouble,” she said.

Hartley also elaborated that there will be restricted rent for the new units but not

“rent control,” as it will be more like other “affordable housing” developments that

the city loans money to.

 

“It’s a very established rent increase process,” Hartley said.

Teacher John Zwolinski said that when he and his wife first started their family in

San Francisco, they knew their apartment  would be too small, so they found and

bought a place.

 

“There is no way we could afford to do that now. There is no way we could afford

to rent a place, even the modest-sized place we live in now,” Zwolinski said.

“Young colleagues that I’m working with now really want to stay in the community

that they’re serving. They’re doubling up in small apartments. They’re taking second

jobs. They commute to stay in the City they love and support the community

that they love, but many, many of them are just not able to do it, and

there is an exodus.

 

“I know, from personal experience, my principal, other principals, are having a

hard time meeting staffing needs,” Zwolinski said. “Being able to live in the

community that you’re teaching in is transformative. I work with the kids my

kids grew up with. I’m working with their families, who are personal friends. I can’t

go anywhere in the Outer Sunset without someone saying, ‘Hey Mr. Z,’ which is

nice for me. But more importantly, it means that I’m knit into the community

and I’m better able to serve the community,serve those students and

serve those families.”

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