A public hearing this week asking South Coast residents if the La Honda-Pescadero Unified School District should study building workforce housing on North Street brought up questions and concerns about the purpose and feasibility of such a project.

Over the summer, the district hired consultant Rinaldo Veseliza to look into the idea of moving the current Pescadero Elementary School to the middle and high school campus and using part of the North Street parcel for 50 units of mixed and single family affordable housing that would be owned by the district and open to anyone living and working in the community.

Before deciding to study the feasibility of such a project, the district voted to host a public meeting to gather questions and concerns. The Thursday night meeting attracted nearly 50 people with varied concerns, including the effect of combining the elementary campus with the already-fused middle and high school.

“I want my children to have a dedicated K-5 site,” Tanya Zavala said. “I went to school here, and I looked forward to that big move. … Let’s check in with the kids too. How do they feel?”

Infrastructure was also top of mind for residents who didn’t want to see the elementary school moved to a campus that currently lacks safe drinking water. If the board decides to move forward with studying the project, they say they plan to prioritize studying these questions and concerns.

There are some recent examples of districts spearheading housing projects, including two Pacifica school districts that have built teacher housing to lower costs and make it easier to recruit and retain teachers. But some South Coast residents were concerned about the costs of studying a project that may not be a natural fit for a district that has not served as a developer and landlord before. Superintendent Amy Wooliever brought forward barriers like funding and Education Code regulations that could make the project infeasible or prohibitively expensive.

While many attendees acknowledged the dearth of affordable housing on the South Coast, some residents were unsure if a project of that scale, located away from the center of town and the schools, would benefit the community as a whole.

“It strikes me as interesting that you’re considering becoming landlords,” Bob Mitton said. “That seems outside the board’s realm.”

Many said they were worried about a lack of communication surrounding the project and hoped for future clarity and opportunities to weigh in. Zavala suggested the board wait to continue with the process until in-person meetings are possible. Wooliever said there are no current plans to move forward with any next steps.

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