The Santa Monica-Malibu Unifed School District is located on 16th Street.

District housing

The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) is exploring possibilities for its former headquarters at 1651 16th Street, including potentially converting the building into housing.

If approved by the Board of Education at an upcoming meeting*, the district will move ahead with a study to explore the potential of a residential development at the 22,000 square foot site. According to the district, this site could be turned into affordable housing, fair market housing, workforce housing or a combination.

Last fall, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill which loosened zoning laws to make it easier for school districts statewide to use district-owned property to build affordable housing for teachers and other staff.

As is the case in much of California, rent prices are too high in Santa Monica for many SMMUSD staff to afford, however they make too much to qualify for affordable housing. District-owned workforce housing could be a solution that would allow more teachers and other staff to live in the city where they work.

The site study and conceptual planning needed to explore the feasibility of this type of project will cost up to $35,000 and is estimated to take approximately four to six weeks if approved.

In coming months there will be informational sessions for board members and some staff as well as a survey for faculty and staff to help assess the need and desire for workforce housing. Depending on the findings and whether the district decides to move forward there will be opportunities for community input on the matter.

100% clean power transition

Following a discussion about sustainability in SMMUSD at their Jan. 19 meeting, the board is poised to approve transitioning the district to receive 100% green energy through the Clean Power Alliance.

Currently, 40% (excluding Samohi and Malibu High School) of the district’s power comes from renewable, carbon-free sources. The estimated cost of switching to a 100% clean energy plan would be an additional $30,000 to $40,000 per year. However, with new solar projects coming online in the district and plans for better energy management, it is possible this cost could be reduced or even fully eliminated.

In response to community comments in support of the move at the Jan. 19 meeting, board members appeared to be in support.

“At the end of the day we’re talking about a $30,000 investment every year, which is really nothing compared to what we spend,” Board Chair Maria Leon-Vasquez said.

The District spends an average of $1.3 million on electricity every year.

“But more importantly than anything, as we’re looking at the world and what we already have suffered in California with climate change, I think this is… the direction the board should take, moving forward on this,” she added.

Other agenda items

At the March 15 meeting, board members will also receive an update on student achievement metrics. This will include the results of diagnostic testing for math and English language arts as well as insight into attendance data.

Also on the agenda is an update on planning for phase 4 of the Samohi Campus plan which includes the demolition of the Language Building/Library and the construction of a new visual arts department and a semi-subterranean vehicle and bicycle parking structure.

The March 15 public meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. Due to the boardroom at the district’s new headquarters not yet being set up, the meeting will be held at John Adams Middle School Performing Arts Studio at 2425 16th Street. Virtual commenting will not be an option for this meeting and those wishing to speak must attend in-person and fill out a public speaking card. The full agenda can be viewed at:

*Editor’s note: The discussion and approval of exploring the possibility of converting the former headquarters into housing was pulled from the March 15 agenda.

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Grace Adams

Grace Adams is a graduate of Loyola Marymount University where she studied Spanish and journalism. She holds a Master’s degree in investigative journalism from City, University of London. She has experience...