The Los Altos School District may have an unexpected ally in its lobbying of the city of Mountain View to secure a school site in the high-growth areas along San Antonio Road and El Camino Real.
The housing advocacy group Campaign for a Balanced Mountain View promotes a higher housing ratio to address the city’s jobs-to-housing imbalance. The additional housing would increase the need for a new school in the area to accommodate the jump in school-age children new housing may bring.
The district has not updated its San Antonio-area demographics during the past year, but the number of students has increased steadily since the district began tracking during the 1996-1997 school year. That first year reported 216 students in the area. Figures from 2012-2013 totaled 598. The Mountain View-San Antonio Visioning Area surveyed numbers of Mountain View students living north of El Camino Real, between Del Medio and Ortega avenues.
“It paints a very clear picture,” said Randy Kenyon, assistant superintendent for business services. “We do know that, historically, student generation rates from multifamily housing have grown, and that as units age, more families seem to move into them.”
Longtime activist Lenny Siegel, founder of Campaign for a Balanced Mountain View, said the demographics are clear.
“The school district has long been in need of a school facility in its northern area,” he said. “The San Antonio area presents an opportunity for a unique, more urban style school, but the rapid pace of change means the window for this opportunity is closing quickly.”
Siegel said finding a site would require “thinking outside the box.” He maintains that the traditional school site with single-story buildings would not be realistic in an area where open space is limited. Instead, he envisions a multistory housing development where the school is part of the complex.
“Just as we put retail under housing, you could put a school under housing,” he said.
The new type of district campus could cost less to build and would boost the value of the new housing, Siegel added.
To date, the Los Altos School District and Mountain View officials have had few meaningful discussions regarding locating a school site in Mountain View. Some Mountain View councilmembers claim that there is little the city can do – it can’t force developers to build a school, and it can’t invoke eminent domain as the district can.
Siegel disagrees. He cited language in Mountain View’s general plan that outlines the city’s obligation to provide land for schools.
Tammy Logan, president of the Los Altos School District Board of Trustees, suggested some “outside-the-box” scenarios for placing a school in Mountain View’s San Antonio area.
“Some sort of similar arrangement could be made with a big-box retailer on the ground floor or floors – shared parking underground and classrooms on the second and third floor,” she said. “One could likely also have some play space on a roof.”
Logan and Siegel noted examples nationally and abroad where new schools have been built as part of new developments.
“We are calling on both entities (the Los Altos School District and the city of Mountain View) to improve the entire Los Altos-Mountain View ecosystem by collaborating on ways to build a school and park space in San Antonio,” Siegel wrote in an Aug. 4 letter to the district and city.
Siegel wants a school site incorporated in the city’s ongoing Precise Plan for the San Antonio area before its scheduled November adoption.