Palo Alto would build three new schools at Cubberley Community Center as part of a new concept that top city and school officials unveiled late Thursday, April 5.
The proposal, which the City Council is set to discuss Monday night, April 9, includes four concepts that a committee of top city and school officials have been considering since late last year. All four concepts include a new elementary school at 525 San Antonio Road, site of a recently closed day care center (the school district purchased the site last year).
The new plans also call for a middle school and a small high school, which would accommodate 600 and 500 students, respectively. While in the first option, the middle and high schools would stand alone, the other three options call for land swaps and shared uses between the city and the schools of gym, theater and classroom spaces.
A new report from Deputy City Manager Steve Emslie aims to establish the parameters for one of the most complex ongoing discussions between the Palo Alto Unified School District, which owns 27 acres of Cubberley, and the city, which owns 8 acres. The school district leases its space to the city under an agreement that is set to expire in December 2014.
Both sides have stressed the critical importance of Cubberley, a bustling but run-down center at 4000 Middlefield Road that currently includes a Foothill College campus and an eclectic mix of gyms, athletic fields, day care facilities and artist studios. Emslie's report calls it "a significant element of the City's complete infrastructure needs," while school officials see it as crucial to accommodating the district's surge in student population, particularly in south Palo Alto.
At the same time, both sides acknowledge that the center's dilapidated condition will require expensive upgrades. The new report pegs the cost of ongoing maintenance and anticipated capital improvements at $10 million over the next four years. The high costs of upgrading Cubberley were a major factor behind a recent recommendation to the city from the specially appointed Infrastructure Blue Ribbon Commission to terminate the lease.
The city and the school district are trying to reach a consensus by the end of this year about whether to renew the Cubberley lease. They plan to spend much of 2013 discussing the details of the potential lease renewal. In addition to discussing the new concept plans, the council will consider Monday approving a new advisory committee composed of stakeholders to work with the two sides on a solution.
This "Community Advisory Committee" was appointed by City Manager James Keene and includes former mayors Lanie Wheeler and Mike Cobb, various Cubberley tenants, PTA representatives, neighborhood leaders and local commissioners. The group will advise another new committee -- the "Policy Advisory Committee" -- which will include members from the council and the school board. Both groups are scheduled to kick off discussions this summer.
So far, most of the discussions have occurred at the top levels of the city and school district. In the past three months, Keene, Superintendent Kevin Skelly and architects from the group Gelfand Architects have been considering the district's needs and possible ways to accommodate them. The new concept plans, which the council will look at Monday, are the first publicly released byproduct of these discussions.
"The preliminary options developed jointly with PAUSD and their architect should be considered conceptual drafts intended to present alternatives for subsequent discussions," the report states. "The options only provide some high level detail as to a foundation and starting point for the Cubberley vision process."
The council will also consider Monday a set of "guiding principles" relating to the Cubberley discussion. These include a commitment to transparency; an agreement for the city and the school district to equally share the planning and architectural costs; and consideration of neighborhood concerns and transportation issues in discussions.
The proposed principles also acknowledge the importance of keeping recreational facilities and community uses at Cubberley. Many of the center's users, including day care providers, artists and dancers, attended council meetings last year and urged city leaders to retain space to meet their needs.
"The types of programs offered by the City and its contractors and subtenants at Cubberley enrich the community and should be preserved and enhanced wherever possible," the proposed principles state.