Palo Alto school board members Tuesday indicated they want to begin discussions with the City of Palo Alto on renewal of the city's lease of Cubberley Community Center, which expires in 2014.
The city must give notice by the end of this year whether it wants to renew the lease, for which it pays the school district $6.98 million a year. The city uses Cubberley to provide low-cost space to a wide range of nonprofit organizations.
But a community advisory committee in March, which included several former mayors and school board presidents, concluded the lease arrangement in its present form is no longer viable.
If and when it is renegotiated it must contain provisions for longer-term planning and capital investment in the aging and outdated former high-school campus, the Cubberley Community Advisory Committee said.
"We -- all citizens of Palo Alto -- are sitting on a wasting asset," City Council member Larry Klein said at the time. "Significant amounts of money" must be spent in the short term to make sure that Cubberley doesn't "fall apart," Klein said.
The citizens committee urged the city and school district to collaborate on a long-term vision for Cubberley that would accommodate both community needs and the school district's potential need to re-open a comprehensive high school on the site.
Three advisory committee members appeared before the school board Tuesday to stress the need for collaboration so that short-term investments can align with a longer-term vision.
Board members said they were willing, but noted that the district and city have "different timelines." While the need for investment in upgrades at Cubberley is urgent, the need for a new comprehensive high school is far less clear and probably would not happen until after 2020, at the earliest.
The city owns eight acres in the middle of the 35-acre Cubberley site and, theoretically, could redevelop that section on its own.
But advisory committee members pleaded for near-term collaboration on a joint, longer-term vision.
"There's a hurry to get moving," committee member and former school board president Diane Reklis told the board Tuesday. Reklis urged the board to hire planning consultants to help them think ahead.
Committee member Rachel Samoff, who directs the Children's Pre-School Center at Cubberley, said, "Keep an open mind about doing some very high-level planning together with the city."
A strong vision for shared use would maximize the efficiency of Cubberley's valuable acreage for the whole community, Samoff said.
A smart plan, she said, could yield "a full-service high school plus all the activities that are there now with no problem."
Board President Dana Tom said while he supports joint planning, the different time horizons present a challenge.
"If the city wants to develop their eight acres we need to coordinate with them so whatever development they decide to do would not preclude things we want in the long term," Tom said.
"But in order to achieve efficiencies of joint use, we have to have a coordinated plan. A lot of things point to doing that planning together and not waiting a terribly long time to do that."
Superintendent Kevin Skelly said he plans to meet Friday with City Manager Jim Keene and that he would return to the board, probably after the summer break, with a firmer plan for discussions with the city.