With teachers struggling to afford housing, Sonoma County last week unveiled a partial solution in a long-delayed project: publicly-financed housing dedicated to public employees.
On Nov. 30, the Sonoma County Office of Education (SCOE) announced that it had purchased a Juniper Avenue home located next to Amarosa Academy in southwest Santa Rosa. With the addition of the newly purchased property, SCOE now owns a parcel of land stretching from the front of the school campus along Dutton Avenue back to Juniper Avenue.
Next, the county agency plans to rezone the property and construct “a high-density housing development” with 60 rental units for educators and other public employees.
According to a SCOE announcement, the project, dubbed Casitas de Amarosa, was a priority for three-term Superintendent Steven D. Herrington.
“Casitas de Amarosa was one of my main project goals during my last term,” Herrington said in a statement last week. “COVID delayed the project from moving forward, but I am so proud to have it back on track.”
SCOE first announced plans for a three-acre property next to Amarosa Academy in August 2018. That month, the Press Democrat reported that SCOE planned to build 30 to 35 townhomes on the property, with hopes of finishing the project in three years.
Now, the delayed project will be picked up by Amie R. Carter, who will take over as superintendent later this month.
“Building housing that school staff can afford is essential to our mission of serving students,” Carter said. “This housing will help us realize our goal of strengthening and diversifying our educational workforce.”
The teacher housing problem is not new in California or Sonoma County.
Other Bay Area municipalities, including Daly City, have built housing for teachers and, with laws passed in recent years, the state legislature has attempted to make the process easier.
AB 2295, a bill passed this year, would allow school districts to build worker housing on their property without requesting zoning changes from the relevant city or county beginning on Jan. 1, 2024.