HAYWARD — What started out as a meeting to show the public how a joint-venture would benefit the local university and school district instead shifted toward discussing the needs of the community.

California State University, East Bay, and the Hayward Unified School District on Wednesday introduced an idea to pool 7 acres on and near the closed Highland Elementary School site for development of affordable faculty housing and shops.

But most area residents in attendance voiced opposition to such a plan.

"I don't see how I or any of my neighbors can support this," said Lisa Brunner, a Hayward Highlands resident.

Officials from the university, which owns 21/2acres near the 41/2-acre Highland Elementary site, and the school district see an opportunity to work together in addressing specific needs.

Both entities have found it hard to attract and keep faculty, given the high cost of living in California. To help remedy the situation, officials have explored combining the properties for construction of faculty housing.

The idea isn't new, as half of the 23 campuses in the CSU system already offer faculty housing or are constructing or considering it, officials said.

Meanwhile, City Manager Jesus Armas would like the process to go through the Planning Commission, in order for it to assess and evaluate the impacts associated with the project.

Assuming plans clear hurdles such as environmental and traffic studies, officials expect homes to be occupied by 2010.


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Residents questioned a preliminary schematic design of the plan, which includes 83 town homes, 14 apartment complexes, a public park and retail space.

"I don't see how having housing for faculty with their own retail area would benefitus," Brunner said to officials. "What you're doing is further separating the university from the Hayward community."

Hayward school officials would like commercial development on the site to create a continuous stream of money for the district and university.

The school district, aside from showing gains in test scores, is in bad shape. Hayward Unified hasn't passed a facilities bond in 40 years, and its schools are showing their age. The district also is projected to lose $3 million in funds from declining enrollment.

"What I'm trying to do is take an asset and create a source of revenue that isn't dependent on the state budget," Assistant Superintendent Dr. Barry Schimmel said.

Others feel the district should keep the school site in case the city demographics change, which Schimmel said would not make financial sense.

"Projections show our enrollment will not go back up to where we would need the site in our lifetime," he said. "And even if it did, the facility would be tired and not economically efficient to run as a school."

Despite the opposition, some residents supported the plans.

"I just don't want to see the site stay vacant forever," resident and former mayoral candidate Brian Schott said. "We need to do something because it's going to look like a hellhole."

Resident Marlene Teel-Heim was frustrated by some of the comments she heard.

"What bothers me is that this is just a concept and is already being met with so much negativity," she said to her neighbors. "This is exciting and a marvelous opportunity. Let's give it a chance before we kill it."

In the meantime, school officials are scheduled to meet with the city to discuss the concerns raised by residents.

"In the context of faculty housing, we'll acknowledge and incorporate what we heard from the community and see how it influences us moving forward," said Barbara Haber, university associate vice president.