News

PA may sell or lease Cubberley land to Foothill

Sale could net city $35 million, or a long-term lease $1.8 million a year -- present tenants would be relocated

A plan to tear down part of Cubberley Community Center to build a new "educational center" for the Foothill-De Anza Community College District is in early discussions between the district and Palo Alto city representatives.

The city could net $35 million for sale of the eight acres it owns -- or $1.8 million per year from a lease, according to a City Council Finance Committee report.

A public study session on the plan will take place Tuesday, Jan. 22, at the Palo Alto City Council meeting.

The college district, which currently houses its Middlefield Campus at Cubberley, would construct a "state-of-the-art" educational center along with joint-use community facilities on the city-owned portion of Cubberley, City Manager Frank Benest disclosed this week.

Current tenants of the city-owned parcel would not be displaced but rather housed in the Middlefield Campus buildings when the college vacates them after construction, Benest told the Weekly Friday.

But where tenants would go during construction of the center, before Foothill vacates its campus, has yet to be discussed, he said.

All buildings on the eight acres would be torn down, but the tennis courts and fields would remain, he said.

"Our goals are to maintain community-center functions and playing fields and replace some of these dilapidated facilities," he said.

The city hasn't decided whether to sell or rent, he said. A long-term lease could last up to 25 years, he added.

Foothill district spokesperson Becky Bartindale said the district is in preliminary talks with the city and not in negotiations.

"We're committed to providing better facilities for students who want to go to Foothill in that area," Bartindale said, adding that about 4,000 students take classes at the Middlefield Campus a quarter.

Cubberley is one option, since the community college already offers classes there in approximately 55,000 square feet of space.

"The district would like it to be at Cubberley, but we'll look at anything" that provides the needed space, she added.

The district is currently on a year-to-year lease, she said.

The consideration of Cubberley has been in the works for nearly a year, according to Bartindale. The district's Board of Trustees approved an agreement with tBP/Architecture on March 5, 2007, to begin an assessment process at the Middlefield campus.

On Nov. 5, 2007, the board approved an agreement with tBP to do a feasibility study of the Cubberley site and to evaluate any alternative sites, as needed. tBP was asked to prepare site plans and options for building locations, parking, car and pedestrian access, and conceptual floor plans for a maximum two-story building at Cubberley, she said. The architecture firm was also asked to evaluate any alternative sites identified by the district, including evaluating infrastructure and buildings to prepare for possible property acquisition.

Cubberley was constructed in 1955 as a high school but became a community center when the school was shut down in 1979 due to declining enrollment.

The city has owned the Cubberley land since a 2002 swap with the Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD), in which the district acquired the Terman Middle School site in exchange.

The parcel is adjacent to the Charleston Shopping Center at the northern end of Cubberley.

The city leases the other 27.45 acres from PAUSD for about $4 million a year, Benest said.

Benest initially told the Weekly the potential price hadn't been discussed, but he later confirmed the $35 million estimate that appeared in a report prepared by him and other city officials.

Presented at a council Finance Committee meeting on Jan. 15, the same day Benest met with a small handful of residents to discuss the Cubberley plan, the report estimated the site's sale could generate $35 million, while a lease could generate $1.8 million per year.

The construction alone would cost the college district $30 to 40 million, funded by the $490.8 million district bond Measure C passed in June 2006, Benest said.

Because bond funds are involved, the Foothill-De Anza district would either have to own the land or have a long-term lease, spokesperson Becky Bartindale said.

The city would have to shoulder some of the costs of building more parking lots and moving tenants from one part of Cubberley to another, but those costs haven't been calculated yet, he said.

Early plans for the 99,500-sqaure-foot center show a two-story building radiating in three wings out from a circular central atrium.

The two-story building would house classrooms and joint-use public facilities including a dance studio, art programming space, child development center and community meeting space, Benest said.

The site-plan layouts are preliminary and subject to change, he said.

Yet what is certain is the school's goal to build energy-efficient structures equipped with modern technology, in contrast to the aging classrooms now used at Cubberley, according to Andy Dunn, vice chancellor of business for the college district.

The project is designed to accommodate a 2 percent enrollment growth over 10 years, he said.

The Middlefield campus currently hosts more than 1,000 full-time students, he said -- noting that figure adds part-time students together to calculate full-time equivalency.

Benest and district representatives met with leaders of nearby neighborhood associations earlier this week to present plans.

The approximately 10 residents at this week's meeting were concerned about traffic and parking problems the facility could generate, resident Jean Wilcox said.

Students taking classes at the new center would come from the Middlefield Campus and farther afield, Dunn said.

Despite concerns, residents mainly approved of the preliminary idea, Wilcox said.

"Given the fact that I'm paying taxes to the Foothill-De Anza college system and the fact that they want to provide facilities right on my doorstep, I feel like I'm getting response for my tax dollars," she said.

If the council approves the plan, the city will hold public meetings to gather community input, Benest said.

The project would take at least two and a half years to complete, including up to nine months for environmental review, he said.

Figures were not immediately available relating to the present square footage occupied by Foothill at Cubberley, or how many additional students might be expected at the new center.

The study session will begin at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 22, in the council chambers at Palo Alto City Hall.

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by JW
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 18, 2008 at 6:12 pm

This proposal is a win win situation for everyone. Foothill would like to spend $30M - $40M of our tax dollars rebuilding a dilapidated facility right on our doorstep which will benefit the entire Palo Alto community.

I hope a long term lease arrangement can be made so that the land together with these new buildings will eventually become City property.

The School District still has 19 acres if they should ever want to open a technical high school at Cubberley. However, their old 1950s buildings would have to be torn down and a completely new facility built. This would cost the PAUSD hundreds of millions of dollars which they don't have and probably never will. The District likes the $4 Million they get annually from the City!!!

I think this is great news a brand new facility will be built with money that has already been identified.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by sara
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jan 18, 2008 at 6:25 pm

Sell??? Isn't there a mandate for continued housing developments in Palo Alto? Hasn't the school distict learned from past mistakes? Hmmm....


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 18, 2008 at 7:45 pm

Please, please, please, please, do not sell another school property.

If it isn't used for high school, it could be used for middle school, or district offices, or lots of things. Keep it in PAUSD.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Casey
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 18, 2008 at 9:03 pm

If the city/PAUSD sells the property, someone needs to be fired or recalled. Once sold, the city/PAUSD will never find the funds to repurchase the land IF the need arose. No to short-term thinking.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Frank Semone
a resident of College Terrace
on Jan 18, 2008 at 10:05 pm

What does the city get in return for its $4M that it pays the PAUSD for those 19 acres? It seems the City has more pressing needs for its money (police/safety building, new library) than spend it on empty land.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Gunn parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 18, 2008 at 11:48 pm

Cubberley is a 27 acre parcel of land. The City owns only 8 acres. This proposal by Foothill is sitting on city property, not PAUSD property. PAUSD is not planning to sell their 19 acres.

This is a great opportunity for Palo Alto!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by rick
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jan 19, 2008 at 12:40 am

The most disturbing thing about this is it has been a "SECRET" back room deal.
It has apparently been going on for months with no notices except for people who really care less about the needs of the community and more for the developers who would build this facility.

Jean Wilcox is no representative of this area than any other person. She was or is against rebuilding the Mitchell Park Library/community center.

The city should be getting at least 6 million $per acre if it did sell it. Houses in this area are being bought for about $1,000,000 then being torn down and they are on 7,000 or smaller lots. The city is in the process of buying 1.25 acres for about $10,000,000 in a lousy, isolated industrial area for the police station. This is right adjacent to the train tracks with 125 mph trains going by within feet of it. What happens if one of these trains crashes right there? Or into the Oregon underpass.

The college dosen't cater to the local Palo Alto Community. They should find a lower cost, more central location with better access, etc..
This is yet another debacle like the Terman School turned out to be.

There are possibly 1000 more students coming to this area from the housing being built and planned in South Palo Alto. This site shoud be saved for a regular school or schools.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by An Observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 19, 2008 at 12:45 am

Gunn Parent, Maybe the city could sell of the little used park in the Barron Park neighborhood and make some money off of it. Or sell part of the Gunn school property that isn't being used. It's close to the Foothill expressway and has better access.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Adam
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jan 19, 2008 at 8:52 am

It is almost certain that the 8 acres will be leased and any improvements will revert to the city at the end of the lease period.

The proposed Public Safety building is within a block of the North County Courthouse and two blocks from the extensive California Ave. shopping area. This is hardly an "...isolated industrial area".

And what if any train crashes anywhere? Why bring these two points into a discussion of the Foothill negotiations?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by An Observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 19, 2008 at 10:57 am

The issue Adam is the value of the land. The Cubberly land at about 3 million an acre and the Park Blvd site at 6 or 7 million and acre. Also Park Blvd is dead ended going south. It was a thru street to E Meadow and Charleston in the past. The Oregon Underpass was flooded and closed with the little rain we had a few weeks ago. This is why this location is "Isolated".


 +   Like this comment
Posted by An Observer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 19, 2008 at 10:58 am

The issue Adam is the value of the land. The Cubberly land at about 3 million an acre and the Park Blvd site at 6 or 7 million and acre. Also Park Blvd is dead ended going south. It was a thru street to E Meadow and Charleston in the past. The Oregon Underpass was flooded and closed with the little rain we had a few weeks ago. This is why this location is "Isolated".


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 19, 2008 at 11:12 am

The issue is a red herring. Park Blvd has a barrier which can be removed. The Oregon underpass occasionally floods, but there are other means of getting across the tracks, particularly if Park Blvd is re-opened which it will be if there is a police buiilding there, likewise the Frys parking lot will become a thoroughfare.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Gunn parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Jan 20, 2008 at 3:27 pm

OOps. I misread my own meeting notes. The city owns 8 acres as mentioned but PAUSD owns just over 27 acres, so the entire Cubberley parcel is over 35 acres. Apologies. Foothill is talking about redeveloping only the city part which already has buildings on it. This is not the same as the city selling a park or the school district selling open land. Plus, they may be able to work out a long term lease. Our city can't seem to pay for renovating our police building or libraries, and here Foothill has presented the community with a creative solution and an innovative building. I think it would be an asset to our community. My question is - is it better for the city to continue the lease, or sell and use the funds for other infrastructure improvements. I would hesitate to sell land without compelling payback.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by another resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 21, 2008 at 5:57 am

> The city should be getting at least 6 million
> $per acre if it did sell it.

Yes. This is an important point. The fact that the potential purchaser is an educational institution does not change the market value of this property. And as noted, most of these students are not Palo Altans -- so why should Palo Alto taxpayers be subsidizing these people's post-secondary education?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by alice
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jan 21, 2008 at 6:34 am

someone wrote ..

* She was or is against rebuilding the
* Mitchell Park Library/community center.

as is her right to be.

The library and the cubberley center are not linked, so this comment is irrelevant ..


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Lois
a resident of Midtown
on Jan 21, 2008 at 7:49 am

Another resident, Palo Alto is not subsidizing the construction of these classrooms for Foothill College. They are being paid for with the Foothill/De Anza bond measure that was passed by the voters some 3 years ago. It is hoped that a long term lease can be worked out with Foothill so that in 25 years the land plus the new buildings will revert to the City.

Also, as a Palo Alto resident I have taken several computer classes at Foothill at Cubberley, and I have met other Palo Alto residents taking classes there. With 4 year colleges getting harder and harder to get into, this facility will serve many young Palo Altans in the future.
Also older students, like myself, for life long learning programs.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by another resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jan 21, 2008 at 9:27 am

> Palo Alto is not subsidizing the construction of
> these classrooms for Foothill College

Palo Alto rate payers have been subsidizing the students of Foothills using the Middlefield Campus for years because the property has not been rented at market rates. The current subsidy comes from your Utility User's Tax.

Unless Palo Alto charges Foothills market rates for the property, this becomes a subsidy to the college from the City.

> With 4 year colleges getting harder and harder to get into

There is no evidence of this. What is true, however, is that there is a 50% drop out rate in 4-year colleges. Community Colleges generally only "graduate" 15% of their student body into 4-year schools.


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