Saturday, November 1, 2008

L.A. Unified seeks to build apartments on campuses' surplus land

from the Los Angeles Times:

The Los Angeles Unified School District is looking to develop low-cost apartments on as many as 12 campuses in an effort to help teachers find less expensive housing and live closer to their jobs.

District officials have begun asking real estate developers to submit housing proposals on school campuses in Hollywood and Harbor Gateway and are reviewing other campuses where apartments could be built on surplus land.

But the development plan is drawing fire from opponents of Measure Q, the district's $7-billion construction and repair bond issue on Tuesday's ballot. Critics contend that the district should not seek to increase property taxes to pay for new facilities if it has enough real estate to start housing its employees.

"They're complaining that they have a lack of revenue and yet they don't do the obvious thing with surplus property, which is to sell it to the highest bidder in a way that wouldn't conflict with . . . a school," said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn.

Coupal said the district should stick to educating children. But L.A. Unified officials say the housing initiative will meet a critical need by creating apartments for school employees who are having trouble finding reasonably priced homes near their jobs.

District officials said they could save $20,000 each year in training costs by reducing the teacher attrition rate at three campuses. And they argue that Measure Q voters should be encouraged by the district's efforts to maximize its land holdings in a way that generates long-term rental income.

"We're always trying to utilize our assets better," said John Creer, district director of planning and development. "But we're not doing it to the detriment of our core mission, which is to provide education."

Measure Q is the district's fifth bond issue in 11 years. The measure includes at least $400 million for new schools and at least $450 million for the construction and expansion of charter schools.

The campaign has coincided with efforts by the district to lure real estate developers to its school sites, particularly those with parking lots that can be converted into school parking garages with housing on the upper levels.
You can read the rest of the article here.

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