Education in Oakland

Oakland: For Adults Only

Posted by novometro on September 6, 2006

A demographic study completed this week for Oakland Unified confirmed what we already knew. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less shocking. The 1,700 market-rate units recently built in Oakland (think: The Essex on Lake Merritt, and those boxy lofts in Jack London Square), have produced only three students attending Oakland Unified schools. The study only counted OUSD students, not kids in private schools, or children under five. But even then, Oakland could become an adults-only community.

Shelley Lapkoff, the Berkeley demographer who has made a specialty of helping school districts estimate enrollment, wrote the study, which seeks to answer this question: How many OUSD students will be generated by 14,000 new housing units slated for downtown Oakland? The answer could shape the way a deal to sell nearly 10 acres of school district property goes forward. People who are opposed to the sale have a stronger argument for holding onto the land if the district is indeed in danger of finding itself short of elementary school desks in the future.

Ms. Lapkoff arrived at three forecasts — a low, a middle, and a high. They are 425, 1,231, and 2,736, respectively.

The most influential variable is the amount of new housing that is sold at below market rates to accomodate homebuyers who can’t afford market rates, says Ms. Lapkoff. The more below-market-rate housing offered in a new development, the more OUSD students. And if the middle or high projections come to pass, she warns, Oakland Unified could find itself short of elementary school space in the area.

Read the study here.


4 Responses to “Oakland: For Adults Only”

  1. Even the lowest forecast is far higher than the percentage of children that are currently attending school from new housing. The projections also assume that all of these students will go to public school, which is unlikely. Alos, your photograph is strikingly inaccurate – the typical downtown homebuyer is a young Asian couple, not a geriatric Italian.

    There is no shortage of space for schools. Hundreds of students are attending newly-opened charter schools downtown. There is no reason why the school district cannot accomodate this growth if the charter schools can.

    It is important to note that a lot hinges on the construction of family-sized low-income housing. Federal funds are being cut. SF’s “inclusionary” mandates do not provide for family-sized, or even low-income, units (and, despite their policies, the number of children there continues to shrink). It is unlikely that the first-time homebuyers buying small, below-median-priced downtown condos will able to afford the monstrous fees that any real low-income housing set-aside would require. These units are not going to be built, and imposing huge fees will just cause the market-rate units not to be built.

  2. Alex Gronke said

    How do you know they are Italian? And where did you discover that the typical buyer in these new developments is a young asian couple? I’d love to see the primary source.

  3. V Smoothe said

    I don’t have time to dig it up at the moment, but the SF Chronicle has reported on the demographics of the new downtown condo buyers more than once.

    Also, for people who live downtown and visit the new condos, it is pretty obvious by observation. Notice, for example, the disproportionate number of the new condos being built in Chinatown.

    Jack London Square (as opposed to downtown proper) tends to attract a more elderly buyer.

  4. Sorry, Alex, I was pissed at that East Bay Express article, not at your (humorous) picture – I didn’t need to be so curt. I also confused shuffleboard with bocce ball. But the point remains – downtown condo buyers are disproportionately Asian. Jerry Brown didn’t plan that, but the 10k program is bascially Chinatown taking over the rest of downtown. While young Asians are the plurality, downtown homeowners are a very diverse group (as one would expect of those willing to live in the DTO). Many people don’t understand this, and assume that the DTO is the same as SOMA. That leads to bad calls on downtown issues. It affects this debate because many households without children are of child-rearing age, not empty-nesters (although there are plenty of those). If anything, it means that the number of children downtown is going to be quite variable, not necessarily low.

    I think that the projections are far overstating the number of students in the downtown area. On the other hand, as the DTO matures as a residential area, more parents will feel comfortable raising children here. But this is really moot – the district can by one of the many mid-sized historic office buildings that clutter downtown. Again, why can the charter schools do what the school district says it cannot (ie, grow downtown)?

    Let’s say the projections are right, and there will be 2800 new students. If we give up $60m to build schools for them, then the new “multicampus” costs $21,500 per pupil (or three years of state educational spending) in lost opportunity, let alone construction costs. It seems like we can accomodate these students for less money than that. A 50,000sf downtown office building, which could accommodate the 900 students currently on the 8.25 acres, costs, what, $3m? $1m to renovate nicely? That’s chump change, and it would be on top of BART and the bus hub.

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