East San Jose School District Aims to Place $60M Housing Bond on March 2020 Ballot

With teachers struggling to stay afloat in Silicon Valley’s exorbitant real estate market, the East Side Union High School District Board (ESUHSD) voted to place a $60 million bond measure on the ballot to fund an apartment complex for its employees.

If voters OK the measure in the March primary, the district would build 100 below-market-rate homes—an array of one-, two- and three-bedroom units—alongside its headquarters at 830 N. Capitol Ave. ESUHSD trustee Pattie Cortese said she hopes the units will go for 25 to 30 percent below market rate.

The building would only break ground, however, if the City Council agrees to rezone the 4.5-acre site from light commercial to residential. And only employees who aren’t already homeowners would be eligible to live there. At build-out, the district expects rent from the apartment complex to generate about $1 million to $2 million in revenue.

“The units will support not only our teachers, but our classified staff too,” Cortese said in a phone call with San Jose Inside. “Without our custodians, tenant clerks, cafeteria workers and bus drivers, schools won’t function.”

Classified staff—employees like cafeteria employees—make up 22 percent of the district’s workforce. According to Superintendent Chris Funk, the starting salary of a classified worker comes to $40,000 while the starting salary for a teacher is $61,000. As rents continue to surge in the Bay Area, Funk said many employees opt to move an hour or more away in their quest for cheaper rents.

“Our employees are having to double up where they live—take on roommates or go to more affordable areas,” he said. “Teachers are spending less time preparing, supporting extracurricular. That impacts their work and personal life balance.”

Some 14 percent of the school district’s employees live outside of Santa Clara County, according to the agency’s data. Around 32 percent of employees commute 21 minutes to an hour to get to work. And 47 percent of employees rent instead of own their own home.

“Every year, we have teachers who have to relocate to less expensive area or even move out of California,” ESUHSD board Vice President Lan Nguyen said. “We also have so many teachers and staff who have to live far away like Los Banos and Hollister. They have to drive almost an hour and two hours to go to work. We worry about [retaining and recruiting] young teachers. We have staff retiring. This is something we need to do.”

The Santa Clara Unified School District was one of the first local districts to build affordable housing for teachers—and that was way back in 2002. Now, other school districts, universities and corporations are following suit. San Jose Unified School District is studying potential sites for employee housing, while Facebook recently gave $25 million to the county to build new homes for teachers and staff. Meanwhile, Santa Clara University has partnered with Cristo Rey Jesuit High School and Bellarmine College Preparatory to build an employee housing project.

If East San Jose residents pass the $60 million bond measure on the spring primary ballot, Funk said they would be taxed at 2.75 percent for every $100,000 of assessed property value. That is, on average, about $18 a year.

The district has already polled likely voters about the bond measure, and Cortese said the findings are promising. “The community is very supportive of this,” she said. “The voters in our community have been extraordinarily generous with us in terms of supporting our school facilities. That’s very encouraging.”

Nicholas Chan is a journalist who covers politics, culture and current events in Silicon Valley. Follow him on Twitter at @nicholaschanhk.


  1. > . . . to fund an apartment complex for its employees.

    > “The units will support not only our teachers, but our classified staff too,”

    Sneaky! Sneaky! Sneaky.

    This is really an attack on single family homes, which is all the rage in San Jose city government circles and among city council members.

    The “narrative” is that single family homes are expensive for the city in terms of the amount of city “services” they require. High rise, high density housing is cheaper for the city because they require few expensive services per person.

    And corporate “residents” are even more wonderful for the city because the bring gobs of tax revenue with them.

    People who live in “single family homes” are a different “demographic” than people who live in urban stack and pack housing. There are differences in income, differences in age, differences in politics.

    PARENTS and CHILDREN live in single family homes.

    People WITHOUT CHILDREN live in urban high rise apartments, have more abortions, fewer marriages, and vote for Democrats more often.

    The central planners of big government are changing our society right in front of out noses.

  2. This article misleads the public into believing that public school teachers are underpaid. When quoting compensation amounts of public workers, reporters need to include the additional guaranteed yearly tax-free deferred income that California teachers now enjoy.

    In east San Jose, public teachers are paid more than medical doctors because of the additional yearly tax-free deferred income. See: http://somefyi.org/eesd_compare.html

    Reporters need to start asking hard questions and check facts. The public would be outraged to begin realizing that the median compensation of California government workers far exceeds the median compensation of private sector workers having the same education and experience. Moreover, government workers work far less hours for their compensation and enjoy job security that significantly increases lifetime compensation even further. The disparity of compensation of government vs. non-government workers now occurring parallels the corruptive practices of many disreputable foreign governments.

    How did such disparity occur? Why are Trustees promoting to provide more benefits for government workers and cause more disparity? Reporters should check the background and FPPC 460 forms of ESUHSD Trustees who are now promoting the bond measure. Years ago, ESTA provided large financial gifts and direct campaign mailing benefits candidates willing to benefit ESTA and then having majority in the Board, the board pushed compensation to be 22% over the State average for teachers even though the cost-of-living in east San Jose is less than the State average.

    How to stop this corruptive practice? The County DA and State Attorney General need to get involved. If an elected official accepts a personal benefit from an entity during their campaign or while in office, then the public official should be (is) prohibited from giving a special government benefit to the entity. ESUHSD Trustees who have accepted financial gifts (or other indirect personal benefits) from ESTA should be recusing themselves from voting to approve ESTA’s periodic no-bid government contracts and not promote special tax bonds to benefit ESTA.

    Newspapers are not investigating serious issues affecting community welfare.

  3. Oh yes, please float another bond measure driving up tax rates, and driving tax payers out then wonder why your teachers are driving two hours into work instead of the one hour they used to drive before you passed your stupid bond.

    Of course you were educated/ indoctrinated in California that would makes sense to all of you!

  4. This is a slam dunk. I’ll support public education and the people who make it work Every. Single. Time.

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