The Berkeley Unified School District Board of Education unanimously approved the Berkeley Adult School (BAS) front parking lot, along San Pablo Avenue, as the site for the District’s Educator Workforce Housing at the February 17, 2021 School Board meeting. An optimistic timeline puts the completion date for BUSD workforce housing availability in 2025. This development could yield up to 110-120 housing units, depending on the design. Educator Workforce Housing will help the District to recruit and retain quality educators, both certificated and classified employees.
At the February 17 meeting, School Board Director and Board point person for Workforce Housing Julie Sinai explained that the Board had heard “testimony after testimony from teachers and staff about how the high cost of living in Berkeley has forced them into commuting long distances to and from work or has left them feeling vulnerable and housing unstable.”
In October 2017, BUSD conducted a housing survey which received 800 responses, or over 60% of the District’s workforce. Only 30% of employees surveyed indicated they live in Berkeley, with 20% having commutes of 40 minutes or more in each direction. The survey found that 78% of staff who are renters said that the high cost of housing has resulted in financial pressures, with 54% stating they have considered leaving BUSD as a result. Sixty-nine percent of staff surveyed believe that the cost of housing negatively impacts their long-term ability to stay at BUSD and 31% indicated they have moved residences while working for the District due to increased housing costs.
Massing studies that have been done as part of the predevelopment work show that the workforce housing project at the BAS parking lot site may be 4 stories high, dropping down to 3 stories, and constructed over a 2-story concrete parking garage. In addition to space for individual residents, the building may include a residential lobby and approximately 10,000 square feet of commercial or resident amenity space. The School Board directed staff to choose a developer who can assist with engaging the community throughout the project to listen to their ideas and understand their concerns.
At the February 17 School Board meeting, Executive Director of Facilities John Calise explained that the BAS property is properly zoned, requires no variance, and this type of planned construction aligns with the intended use of the zoning. “The analysis showed the BAS location to have positive attributes for this type of project,” said Calise. “Those include location, transportation, zoning and many others.”
The District will work with a Board-appointed design committee composed of District staff, labor partners, Berkeley Adult School staff members and community members. Additionally, a Board-appointed Oversight Committee will ensure that the property management contract is strictly adhered to, Berkeley Adult School parking is maintained, residential parking is maximized as appropriate, there will be no vehicular entrance or exit on Virginia Street, and that creative solutions are found for Berkeley Adult School to maintain its identity along San Pablo Ave.
Learn more about the workforce housing project in this Feb 17, 2021 presentation to the Board of Education.