Position Paper in favor of “Support Teacher Housing”

Stakeholders for a Safe Green Village

Position Paper

On Support Teacher Housing

Monday 31 July 2017


San Jose, the nation’s tenth largest city, is known as the “Capital of Silicon Valley” and even “America’s richest city”  In this region of technological expertise and innovation, it’s education, research, and development that drives smart growth.

But, not everyone easily benefits from the vast wealth, know-how, and the opportunities that are available here.  That’s especially if they’re not directly part of the tech sector economy.

How unaffordable has San Jose and the Silicon Valley region become FOR the rest of the population, and the area’s supporting economies?

According to a popularly cited study by the  Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey, ”San Jose is the most ‘unaffordable major city” in the U.S. & one of most unaffordable in the entire world – only behind Hong Kong, Sydney, Vancouver, & Auckland.”

There’s an ongoing challenge to our core municipal services, as well as the fundamental needs of our least wealthy citizens.  Added to this dilemma, we are seeing an increasingly divided and unequal city.  Education and teachers are now at the heart of that.

Teacher salaries in San Jose, Silicon Valley, and the San Francisco Bay Area region are not compensating for the general cost of living, and they are part of a less competitive sector of the economy that’s not commercially based like the rest of the region’s job market.  The very teachers that guide us on the path to higher education, the higher skilled jobs, and the highest paying salaries are the ones that cannot afford to live in Silicon Valley themselves — independently.

Retaining a diverse teacher’s Workforce that can afford to live here…

is one way that we can help close the academic achievement gap and ensure sustainable development for our community This helps develop the general population in our region and boost its collaboration, creativity, and global competition.  This sustains our economy and workforce without having to expend ourselves with substantial labor import and turnover.

When the people that live here are the same people that are teaching here, educated here, and working here, that’s how we develop a civic culture that’s well rooted, world class, and an example of pride and leadership.  Our citizens develop a profound sense of care and understanding of the community when the personal investment made in their education is realized in their daily lives.  This way, the Capital of Silicon Valley truly embodies the application of learning and innovation.

In both public or private schools, even if we attract and recruit talent, we must retain it

Whether we choose private or public schools, it’s the cost of land development; the building of new schools; and the quality of that education (in of itself) that are all becoming greater challenges.

The California Teacher’s Association notes that “California is already ranked dead last (50th) in student-to-teacher ratios, and would need 100,000 additional teachers right now just to bring that ratio to the national average.

Opportunities to create strong neighborhoods with good schools — plus exceptional teachers and student bodies— varies between the city’s districts.  Commuting to the best schools across (or out of town) is not feasible for everyone. We need “missing middle housing” nearby our schools, where teachers work, and where they are close to the “main street” areas.  The project by Support Teacher Housing maintains the San Jose Metropolitan area’s status relative to the other major cities in our region, the state, and the nation.

This is a replicable model, niched right in the neighborhood itself, and servicing its connected area…

This is a more appropriate model for San Jose (and the county) because of our city’s far reaching geography, its ever growing population, and its numerously diverse neighborhoods.

San Jose’s neighborhoods and districts are competing with each other; as well as with the other cities in our metropolitan area and region.  Notwithstanding, we’re responsible for the equal and balanced development of our neighborhoods, as much as for our upcoming youth, and our aging population.

According to the The National Education Association (NEA), there are four main factors affecting teacher recruitment over the next decade:

(1) a shrinking teaching force; (2) a growing student population; (3) lack of diversity among teachers to match the diversity of students; (4) a need for teachers in specific types of schools, geographic locations, and subject areas. [see here]

Nationally, it’s estimated that half of our teachers will either retire or leave in the next five to seven years, and the turnover factor is greater among newcomers. The numbers are worse in urban areas. [ibidem]

It’s more than a question of how many teachers will leave, versus staying local in San Jose’s neighborhoods and the metropolitan area.  It’s more of a growing realization that many of teachers are leaving the state of California, altogether.

Hypothetically, if a teacher’s average salary is near $70,000 in San Jose, then the take-home pay after taxes is a mere $50,000 by most estimates.  (Indeed, some estimates are lower: $45,000 to 57,000 salaries!)) Where is the incentive and dignity of work in that?  Where’s the incentive to stay in San Jose, aside from the feasibility?  Even if two teachers joined together, they still wouldn’t be able to buy a home in San Jose, because the median 20% down-payment is $192,320.  To add some perspective, “that’s median nationwide value of an entire house: $192,500.”  There’s less choice, diversity, and empowerment in that when a teacher would need to partner with someone who earns nearly double their own salary (or more), just to be able to buy a home here and to make the best of their life’s plan. [Mercury News, Jan. 16, 2017].

“Only 1% of housing built since 2015 is for the Missing Middle…

(ie. moderate-income households) in the Silicon Valley.”, as pointed out in Sarah’s presentation at the Willow Glen Neighborhood Association – WGNA Board Meeting on 13 April 2017.  Plus, “88% of Silicon Valley’s residential units permitted thus far in the 2015-2023 RHNA cycle were in the Above Moderate (120%+ of the Area Median Income) category.” [Source: Association of Bay Area Government (ABAG). Analysis: Silicon Valley Institute for Regional Studies. Regional Housing Need Allocation (RHNA)]

Unlike other proposals, Sarah’s model is genuineMissing Middle” housing.  It gives teachers the need help to afford living here, approximate to where people choose to work, live, and relax. Complete and livable communities provide us the “work-life balance of living free of the burdensome expense of long and difficult commutes; making for a decreased carbon footprint in the urban region; and, liberating us for social and participatory activities in the neighborhoods where we live.  This is the desire of the younger Millennial Generation, as much as it falls into the aging in place mindset.  In today’s world, as people age, couple-up, start families, and make lifetime plans, etc., they can use a bolster or jump-start to get on the right track towards sustaining themselvesIt’s the circle of life, as we press on to invest and capitalize on the community, and even care for aging parents, etc.

The cause for Support Teacher Housing meets San Jose’s long-term goals for the Envision 2040 general plan, & Economic Development…

In view of the salaries that are less competitive and market-driven —especially here in Silicon Valley — this fulfills a regenerative need.  This plan is a replicable and sustainable teacher housing model that benefits San Jose’s core municipal services, and it’s on privately owned land without expense to taxpayers and government funds.  This is innovative social entrepreneurship at work with green, high-quality, low-cost technology.

To the contrary, this is not a “zero-sum game”.  San Jose and Santa Clara County should no longer be building in the traditional mindset of urban versus suburban communities, no more than it should be placing the housing market against retail, or the commercial and jobs market.  This project recognizes the necessity for each of our neighborhoods to become dynamic, mixed, complete, and self-sustainable.  It builds harmony.

The region is moving towards the New Urbanism” paradigm.  Lincoln Avenue is the very axis on which the urban village and the main street commercial district is balanced.

The city has already allowed new mid-rise buildings on Lincoln Avenue and the surrounding area, in addition to other land use exceptions that are made for the public good.  Likewise, the City of San Jose can benefit its residents by doing the same for a small, private developers who are proposing a comparatively modest project for teachers and, possibly, entry-level government employees.

After all, this parcel — with its size, and its location — is more conducive to Sarah’s plan for a mixed-use, multi-modal, complete and livable design.  This is more feasible than a forced and unconventional retail concept, which really has no guarantee of success and profitability, especially given the realities of the parcel, and this part of Lincoln Avenue’s surrounding strip.

What’s the sense of advocating for business and retail development in a community, if the very people that service the residents and the main economy cannot afford to buy, aside from meet their own basic needs?  This is not just an unsustainable trend for teachers and the people that provide us our community’s supporting services.  It’s also a problem for the people that rely on this labor, and these services, in order to maintain greater economic development.

Stakeholders for a Safe Green Village supports Sarah Chaffin’s plan for affordable teacher housing at 2119 Lincoln Avenue…

assessor’s parcel #439-08-059, and San Jose General Plan project file #GP17-005. We urge Mayor Liccardo and the City Council to approve this project as it progressed with the San Jose Planning Commission’s recommendation and support.


David J. Zappelli


Stakeholders for a Safe Green Village (SGV)

PDF formatted document: Stakeholders SGV Position Paper on “Support Teacher Housing” (Monday 31 July 2017)

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