The plan has already hit resistance on the Hayward City Council, where Sweeney presented it on Tuesday night and where some argued the idea will detract from the city's inclusionary housing ordinance.
Sweeney said he wants the program to be a "voluntary" alternative to inclusionary housing, which forces housing developers to build a portion of affordable homes every time they construct a market-rate subdivision.
Instead of putting money into building affordable housing, Sweeney said developers would have an option to pay a fee that would go toward academic after-school programs.
"It creates an opportunity for us to improve Hayward schools," Sweeney said. "Developers realize that good schools mean better projects."
Yet, strong proponents of Hayward's inclusionary housing law, which took effect in 2004, fear Sweeney's plan could damage the effectiveness of the city's efforts to make homes available for those with low and moderate incomes.
"I think it would be a mistake to pit two programs against each other," said City Councilman Bill Ward. "It's nice to have an after-school program, but if people don't have a place to stay, what good does it do? ... 'After school' is two hours. Housing is 24/7."
Sweeney first raised the idea of making developers pay for after-school programs just before he was elected mayor in June 2006.
He said he has been thinking about it since then, and proposed the idea as an alternative rather than a replacement for the inclusionary housing law. He said there are a lot of details still to be worked out.
"There are a lot of interesting questions: how you sustain the dollars, how you target those dollars on schools and particular grades, how you track performance and effectiveness," he said.
On Tuesday, with the support of some council members, Sweeney asked city staff to begin investigating the idea.
"I think it's an idea worth looking at," said City Councilwoman Barbara Halliday, adding that analyses would have to be done.
Others, such as City Councilman Kevin Dowling, were skeptical.
"We've built a lot of good affordable housing in the last few years and we don't want to give that up," Dowling said.
Ward said that most developers would probably opt out of inclusionary housing if they had the option, because it is more of a challenge than putting money into a pot for a school program.
Linda Mandolini, director of Hayward-based nonprofit developer Eden Housing Inc., said "it would be really disappointing" if Hayward's inclusionary housing ordinance were to be undone. Eden is utilizing the program to build a 60-unit downtown complex for low-income seniors and a 78-unit "family housing" project in the Mt. Eden area, she said.
"We've actually been asked to speak about it nationally," Mandolini said. "To undo that ordinance would be a loss of a considerable resource to Hayward."
Under Hayward inclusionary zoning, a city report gives the example of a developer proposing to build a 20-unit project of single-family homes. The developer would need to make three of those units affordable to households earning no more than $100,600 for a family of four, and the total monthly housing costs could not exceed $2,689. The numbers are based on 2007 median income levels and would be different for larger and smaller households, as well as rental units.
"It's intended to help a whole range of people, including seniors and others, who really need that support," Ward said. "A lot of us have been in need of affordable housing (at some time). It doesn't mean we're bad people, that we're not going to work hard, that we're not smart."
Sweeney said areas in redevelopment zones, such as downtown, the cannery district and along Mission Boulevard near the South Hayward BART station, would still benefit from property tax increments, 20 percent of which go toward affordable housing development or rehabilitation.
Last week, Sweeney also presented his idea to a small group of board members and administrators from the Hayward Unified School District and the Hayward Area Recreation and Park District.
School board trustee Sarah Gonzales said current after-school programs in the district are limited and she has heard something about Sweeney's plan.
"I think, on the surface, it sounds like a good idea," Gonzales said. "I just haven't seen the details."
Matt O'Brien can be reached at 510-293-2473 or firstname.lastname@example.org.