Access to affordable child care has been on San Leandro’s radar for years. On Monday, the San Leandro City Council backed it up with approval of an $800,000 loan for a 4,850 square foot child care center and adjacent playground at the Marea Alta affordable housing development, near the San Leandro BART station. However, barring any unforeseen problems over the life of the 20-year-old loan, the city will ultimately forgive its contribution to the project.
The loan offered to the non-profit BRIDGE Housing is part of an $11 million investment by the city in the Marea Alta project, which includes 115 units of affordable housing. Greatly underscoring the need for more housing in the East Bay, the Marea Alta apartments gained attention a year ago after attracting 18,000 applications for its 115 affordable units. An additional 85 units for senior housing is due for completion in late 2018.
The Davis Street Family Resource Center will partner with BRIDGE Housing to operate the child center, according to the agreement. Rose Johnson, founder of Davis Street Family Resource Center, said a market study found about 200 pre-schoolers in the area need child care. "The need is clearly there," said Johnson. The facility, though, is licensed to care for 60 children, two-years-old to Kindergarten age.
"This is a major public investment towards child care, which is a major need in San Leandro and the San Francisco Bay Area region," said Tom Liao, San Leandro deputy director of community development. Because of the lack of state and federal funding for child care, city’s like San Leandro are forced to find alternatives, said Liao. The source of the city’s funding comes from former Redevelopment Agency money repaid to the city by the state in 2015, he added.
The loan approved to BRIDGE Housing Monday night includes a one percent interest rate. paid over 20 years, but forgiven annually by $40,000 absent a breach of contract. "The city is basically, assuming there is no default, gifting this money to the facility," said San Leandro Councilmember Corina Lopez.
Councilmember Benny Lee added the facility will allow working families the ability to provide for their children without additional worries of child care. “I think the investment is well worth it,” he said.
Although the shell of child care center is already constructed, work on its interior will begin in August and take two months to complete, said city staff.
Desire for a child care center has been long on the radar for the area. In 2008, a previous incarnation of the overall project, also featured a child care center originally slated on west side of BART, where the Tech Campus now exists.