Daly City Council approves 1,200-unit apartment project near Serramonte shopping center


A plan to build 1,200 apartments on the site of a former high school in Daly City gained city council approval Monday evening over objections from residents who said the development would be too big, too expensive for many families and would eliminate a sprawling vegetable patch.

Daly City Council voted 4-1 to approve the preliminary development plan, which would be built on 22 acres on Serramonte and Callan boulevards, across from the Serramonte Center shopping mall. The project, which is due for environmental reviews, would still need final approval.

The Jefferson Union High School District owns the land and wants to partner with a developer to build the project – five rental apartment buildings that are expected to rise over the next 10 to 15 years at its Serramonte Del Rey campus – to generate much-needed income. . The district includes students from Brisbane, Colma and Pacifica, in addition to Daly City.

During Monday’s hearing, school district officials said the district was struggling to increase teacher pay, modernize facilities and expand student programs. It loses about a quarter of teachers each year, often to other districts that pay more and have more modern facilities, they said. District officials presented a graph showing teachers in Jefferson starting at $ 53,000 and peaking at $ 83,000, while teachers in the San Mateo Unified School District start at $ 75,000 and can earn up to 139,000. $.

The development would generate between $ 800,000 and $ 1.3 million per year for the school district, officials said.

The fight for the future of the site has become a flashpoint in the Bay Area housing battles. Proponents argue the new housing would not create desperately needed apartments, but generate millions for a school district in dire need of resources. Critics say housing would likely be unaffordable for many Daly City residents and that the plan to offer just 10% of units at below market rates is insufficient.

While council approved the preliminary plan, council members called on the district to make a “good faith effort” to double the percentage of affordable units to 20% or more. Jefferson Unified High School District Administrator Kalimah Salahuddin said the preliminary vote will allow the district to work with affordable housing developers to see how many units can be installed at the 1.8-acre site reserved for children. housing below market price.

“I am committed to building as much affordable housing as possible as long as it does not have a fiscal impact on our ability to complete the project,” said Salahuddin.

In December, the median home price in Daly City was $ 1.1 million, about 8.2% higher than a year earlier, according to Redfin. According to Zumper, the median rent for a one-bedroom apartment is around $ 2,200, a 6% jump from the previous year.

The only vote no came from board member Glenn Sylvester, who objected to the height of the buildings and the fact that affordable units would be concentrated in one structure rather than spread throughout the complex.

This is not the first time that the school district has embarked on housing development. Three decades ago, she built a 396 unit apartment complex on the Serramonte Del Rey campus, also to increase her income. This project, which is 20% affordable, generated $ 1.2 million for the school district last year and has injected about $ 20 million into district coffers over the past 16 years.

In addition to the proposed development of Serramonte Del Rey, construction of faculty and staff housing has already started on campus at 699 Serramonte Blvd. Approved in 2018 by means of a bond measure, this 122-unit project should be completed in the spring. Of the apartments, 110 are for staff members with households earning no more than 80% of the median average income, and 12 are for those earning 70% or less.

Several critics of the new project have argued that the development will be “90% luxury housing” and further increase housing costs in the area. During Monday’s hearing, Sabrina Brennan, who heads the Loma Prieta section of the Sierra Club, said the project should be at least 30% affordable. “By building exclusively for the rich, everything you do gentrifies Daly City and reduces diversity,” she said.

But the fact that the city has moved forward with teacher housing first shows that it is committed to building residences for the local workforce, said Kelsey Barnes of the Peninsula For Everyone group. . She said the market-priced housing would be occupied by local professionals, but not by the wealthy.

“How many rich people do you know who rent apartments?” ” she said. “The rich on the peninsula buy single-family homes. This is real luxury accommodation.

The projects come at a time when the state is finalizing each city and county’s housing production requirements for the next eight years, a process called regional housing needs allocation. But unlike previous RHNA cycles, when the majority of cities ignored their production targets, the state now has an enforcement unit responsible for ensuring housing is approved as long as it meets local zoning goals. and the general plan.

The school district project represents approximately 23% of Daly City’s allocation of 4,838 units.

While several speakers at the meeting lamented that the council twice postponed voting on the plan, project opponent Xavier Gomez said the delay was justified.

“I think three meetings are acceptable for a 12-story building that will last for hundreds of years in our community,” he said.

Vice-mayor Raymond Buenaventura, who proposed in October to postpone the vote on the plan, said he was satisfied to have enough information to move it forward.

“I don’t see myself standing in the way of this project,” he said. “It’s not perfect. It will not make everyone happy. But I think we have to fall back on the real mission here, which is to support our teachers and support our students. “

JK Dineen is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: jdineen@sfchronicle.com

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