Palo Alto Weekly

News - June 11, 2010

Meeting June 16 on Foothill 'Palo Alto Campus'

Three-way meeting between Foothill-De Anza, Palo Alto and school district will explore possibilities

by Jay Thorwaldson

The future of a proposed new "Palo Alto Campus" for Foothill-De Anza Community College District will be discussed at a three-way meeting of the entities involved on June 16: the Palo Alto Unified School District, the City of Palo Alto and Foothill-De Anza officials.

The joint meeting will determine if there is sufficient interest in or too many barriers to proceeding with negotiations relating to sale or long-term lease of a portion of the Cubberley Community Center site on Middlefield Road.

The meeting has been scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday at the City Hall Council Chambers, 250 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto.

In 2008, Foothill-De Anza officials proposed buying 8 acres of the 34-acre site to build a modern building within the aging Cubberley complex.

The city owns 8 acres of "covered" or built-on area and leases another 8 acres of building-covered land from the school district. The balance of the site is fields and open space.

The lease provides several million dollars a year to the school district, and the city subleases space to community-based organizations and artists. The sale or lease to Foothill-De Anza reportedly will not displace existing community tenants at Cubberley.

But the college district backed off after several City Council members said they would only consider a long-term lease, not a sale. College officials said they would look at other sites for an expanded new campus.

Yet last March Foothill-De Anza reopened discussions with hints that a lease might be possible if it's long-term enough, and they said that changed financial conditions may require a phased redevelopment of the Foothill-De Anza portion of the Cubberley site.

The primary reason for phasing a development is that state funding has been sharply cut, including state reimbursement for Foothill students, which has created a budget problem for the college district.

The City Council held a "land-negotiations" closed meeting in late March, and the Palo Alto Board of Education has also discussed the matter in closed sessions.

Mayor Pat Burt told the Weekly this week that there are many questions that all entities have about the possibilities. He said he personally feels that keeping a close alliance with the college district potentially could be of strong benefit to students in Palo Alto high schools, some of whom already attend a "Middle College" run by the college district, where they get college credit for some classes.

"I'm impressed with the vision" of the proposed new campus and some of the ideas for joint curricula, he said.

School district officials may hold the key to whether a sale or long-term lease is possible, and Foothill-De Anza officials will have to decide whether a long-term lease is adequate to protect their investment of voter-approved construction-bond funds.

Editor Jay Thorwaldson can be e-mailed at jthorwaldson@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by Jag, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 7, 2010 at 7:25 pm

I am in favor of a long term lease. I do not think that the city of Palo Alto or the PAUSD should sell off an asset such as this. We saw what happened when so many precious school sites were sold off in the past, leaving us to scramble and put up portable classrooms on our limited school campuses. It is very short sighted to sell off land whenever some bucks are needed. We should not do what is expedient but rather have some vision. We can never get the land back. We are already hurting for land for school sites yet our population and number of children in our city is growing!


Posted by A Palo Alto parent, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 8, 2010 at 8:49 am

I'd be interested to hear the number of PA high school students (from both Paly and Gunn) who use the Middle College option. Any numbers on that in recent years, Palo Alto Weekly? How many this year? I suspect the numbers are somewhat significant, and climbing in recent years.


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 8, 2010 at 9:25 am

Middle College takes 87 students, one junior class and 2 senior classes. Students from Paly, Gunn, MV High School, Los Altos HS and Alta Vista are eligible. I think PAUSD is allotted about half the spots, so there really can't be a big increase in the kids attending.

I am more concerned about the number of Paly kids who have ended up at Palo Alto Prep.


Posted by More info, please, a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 8, 2010 at 9:40 am

How many Paly (and Gunn) kids have landed at Palo Alto Prep? Why are they there? Numbers matter.


Posted by Don, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 10, 2010 at 7:26 pm

Jag. The issue of selling unused school property in the early '70s was not taken lightly. The Closure Committee of that time was faced with difficult choices. The structures were built for use as schools, not for any type of business. If the land and buildings were retained (several were), they would have had to be maintained and guarded by the School District - with no money do so. Instead money from the sales was used to upgrade existing schools because a bond measure to do that was defeated.

Consider how Cubberley High School is now used. Rents do not pay for maintenance and insurance and thus the site becomes a drain on City funds. Since it is becoming increasingly run down and expensive to maintain, is seismically unsafe, full of asbestos, it must be torn down eventually.

The most cost effective way to use the site, whether for Palo Alto or Foothill/De Anza, is to tear down the present buildings, float a bond issue, and build a new facility. Since F/DA has access to some money and PA does not, the choice is simple.


Posted by JW, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 10, 2010 at 7:57 pm

As a neighbor of Cubberley, I'm very much in favor of selling the City's 8 acres (those closest to the Charleston Shopping Center) to Foothill College and providing our High School seniors with a facility that will help them move forward into college.

I believe in looking forward not backwards. A brand new Foothill College facility on that site will benefit everyone.

Right now Cubberley is so run down it's becoming blighted. It is loaded with asbestos and lead paint, it needs new buildings built to modern earthquake standards. Foothill would be a great neighbor and I welcome them to south Palo Alto.


Posted by JW, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 10, 2010 at 8:24 pm

Jag says: "We are already hurting for land for school sites yet our population and number of children in our city is growing!"

If the School District is hurting for land why don't they reopen Garland, Greendell, Fremont Hills, and Ventura. The School District has plenty of empty school SITES they could reclaim.


Posted by Jag, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 11, 2010 at 11:43 am

I think that selling the school site is short sighted. We have 2 high schools that are full to capacity. The district reopened Terman after having sold off much of its campus, now it cannot get that land back.

When I was pregnant 25 years ago, the talk was about selling off the Jordan school site because the demographics said that it was not needed! There was a community meeting and thank goodness and sanity that the Jordan school site was rented to Cogswell College and not sold at that time to build homes, which was the proposal. The demographic studies were wrong and as a result Jordan was sorely needed and hence reopened several years later. We need to think outside the box here and not just do what is expedient to solve our cash flow problems. We will regret it in years to come.


Posted by JW, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 11, 2010 at 1:25 pm

Jag says: "I think that selling the school site is short sighted." The 8 acres being offered to Foothill College does not even belong to the School District, it belongs to the City of Palo Alto.

Jag says: "The district reopened Terman after having sold off much of its campus, now it cannot get that land back."

Wrong, the School District owns all the buildings on the Terman site. Some 30 years ago when it was closed as a Middle School, the City bought the entire Terman site. The School District did a land swap with the City in which they got Terman back and the City now owns the 8 acres of Cubberley where it is proposed a Foothill College campus be built.

The City still owns the playing fields at Terman but would love to swap those playing fields for equal acreage at Cubberley so the School District could easily have the entire Terman site back, but so far the PAUSD has not wanted to.

High School seniors need an updated new Foothill College facility at Cubberley, which will be built on the City owned 8 acres near the Charleston Shopping Center. It will compliment their final year in high school and better equip them for College. This is a good deal for the PAUSD and our high school students.

Ironically, the School District will still own 27 acres of the Cubberley site, quite big enough to build a Middle or Technical High School on.


Posted by Keep Cubberley as is, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 13, 2010 at 10:27 pm

I have lived in this area for about eight years and one of the biggest assets for our community is the Cubberley Community Center and sports facilities. I started out at Cubberley taking my son to one of the fantastic preschools here and as a new resident I was pleasantly surprised by the wide variety of businesses and services available. As the years went by, I have continually made use of the many wonderful facilities at Cubberley whether it was the Friends of Palo Alto Library book sales, artists open studios, classes on composting, concerts at the Auditorium, tennis on the courts or summer basketball camp for my sons. It goes on and on!!

Foothill College proposes to tear down the the Piazzas side of Cubberley and build a 2-story college campus. They also plan to have a circular drop-off on that side of campus, where cars enter and exit from Middlefield Rd. This will have a huge impact on traffic along Middlefield, which is already congested.

In addition, the expansion in the number of students means there will be less parking for the general public. There are already times during the day and evening when parking is extremely tight. This causes people to look for parking in the Piazza's lot, on Middlefield Rd, or in the Montrose neighborhood.

There are very few, if any, facilities like Cubberley that rent space to such a diverse group of service providers and businesses. These service providers and businesses have no other alternative than the Cubberley campus. They have been a consistent source of revenue for the city. A partial list of Cubberley tenants includes:

five dance studios
two private high schools
three preschools
after-school care
two symphonies
numerous artists studios

When the city needed a temporary location for the Mitchell Park library and where did they go?? Good ol' Cubberley! If the city sells its part of Cubberley it can NEVER get it back -- NEVER.

Admittedly, Cubberley needs renovation, but not at the expense of the community space, valued tenant businesses and reduction of parking for general visitors. Cubberley is a treasure. Let's keep it as is!


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