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Daly City pushes to build housing at site of school district headquarters and community garden

Daly City cash crunch pushes city to develop land occupied by community garden
Daly City cash crunch pushes city to develop land occupied by community garden 04:50

School leaders in Daly City say they need to develop land they own that is currently home to a beloved community garden in order to help fund education opportunities for students and ease the city's housing shortage.

Daly City Council Members will vote Monday night on whether to give final approval to the Serramonte Del Ray Campus Redevelopment Project, which would bring in apartments and retail space at the site of the current headquarters for Jefferson Union High School District. Opponents of the project include those who don't want to see a community garden, which is located behind the current district office, lost to the development project.

"Many people in Daly City want to keep the garden and preserve what we have," said Melissa Kallstorm with the Garden Alliance. "Because this is the only community garden that is in Daly City and it's such a unique space."

JUHSD officials say the garden isn't sustainable because the resources, including water that come from the district office, won't remain once they move their headquarters. They also point out that in it its current layout it is not ADA accessible and is a liability. 

"People who live in the community would like quality education for their children and we can't do that if we're not able to raise the revenue in order to do so," said Kalimah Salahuddin, a member of the JUHSD Board. "They don't want to see this left as blight. They would like to see a development here that would have retail and double the amount of green space."

Salahuddin and supporters of the project say it will bring in much needed money to support students and create more housing for families in Daly City. The plan would allow for development on the property owned by the district and JUHSD would remain the owner, collecting money from leases. She points out that a community garden that will be up to code and additional green space is part of the current plan. 

"We want to make this a neighborhood that is a model for any neighborhood that's built in the future," Salahuddin told KPIX. 

But supporters of the garden question the merits of the project, asking if families will be able to afford the apartments and criticizing the amount of low-income units and those designated for faculty and staff. They have also raised concerns about just how much money the project will bring into JUHSD.

"Daly City does not have the income that we'll be able to afford market rate in the Bay Area," Kallstrom told KPIX. 

Salahuddin says the current housing shortage around the Bay Area should welcome any market rate apartments to help more people find a home and believes the affordable housing units will make a difference in the community. While JUHSD cannot give an estimate for the revenue this project would generate, it does point to a previous project with the same approach of development and leasing that brings in $1 million a year three decades later. 

"As somebody herself who struggled with housing, that has been homeless in the past, you know, I wanted to build something that would be inclusive of all types of people and all types of financial situations," she added. 

Some trying to save the garden say that too much will be lost if it is built over and they will not be able to replace it. There are concerns about the native species growing inside beyond the typical produce families are able to harvest at the current site that may not be found in a new garden. Some community members also say there is a cultural value to the land and so it should not be touched. 

"This land right here is ancestral homelands of the Ramaytush," said Cata Gomes of the Muchia Te' Indigenous Land Trust. "It's part of our culture. It's part of who we are. Our ancestors are buried in this soil for thousands of years."

But JHUSD officials explained in a response posted online that while they recognize the district exists on the ancestral homeland of the Ramaytush Ohlone people, they were unable to find any record of an indigenous presence on the site. District leaders have said the same about any claims to the environmental impact related to certain plans growing in the garden. 

"We continue to be open to having discussions about how to program the green space that's available here, we're willing to work with anyone who wants to work with us," Salahuddin said. 

The City Council Meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Supporters of the garden plan to speak during public comment to try and convince elected leaders to find another way besides this project to raise funding for the district. 

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