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School board lauds new Paly gym plan

Original post made on Mar 13, 2013

Palo Alto school board members expressed enthusiasm Tuesday night for "conceptual designs" for new indoor athletic facilities at Palo Alto High School to be financed largely by an anonymous local family.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, March 13, 2013, 9:53 AM

Comments (35)

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Posted by resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 13, 2013 at 10:46 am

More athletic facilities... What a waste.


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Posted by Alphonso
a resident of Los Altos Hills
on Mar 13, 2013 at 11:16 am

Exactly why the District needs a PR person - even a nearly free and much needed improvement brings out negative comments. I am surprised the Weekly did not have something negative to say!


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Posted by W. Jack Kidder
a resident of another community
on Mar 13, 2013 at 11:44 am

I am appalled at anyone looking this gift horse in the mouth - suggesting the gracious donation improving the athletic facilities is a waste of money. That thought appears to reflect there is only one element to a student's education -- from a book. That each student in the Paly system should have their life's experiences set on becoming a rocket scientist commencing with pre-school programs. The physical education facilities and programs have, in my opinion, provided me with a well-rounded learning experience in life -- supplementing the basic classroom learning process.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 13, 2013 at 11:45 am

Loggia??


And what about a time frame for this, will this be done so that the present kinders get to use it while the present students end up having to use portables?

My high schoolers have lived through B for E all through elementary school, disruption at middle school through remodling and now the same at high school.

Their school memories are nothing but construction! It is good for future generations, but the same kids have been disrupted all through their school careers.


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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 13, 2013 at 12:08 pm

@ Parent: did you read the article above?

Start June 2014, end August 2015. 14 months.


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Posted by Wow!$$$
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Isn't it rather PRICEY???!!!


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Posted by JA3+
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 13, 2013 at 1:19 pm

Thank you, anonymous donor, very much; it's a very gracious, substantive gift; I think the impact will be felt by many.


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Posted by Grateful
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 13, 2013 at 3:28 pm

Thank you anonymous donor. My children, among thousands of others attending Paly soon and in the future, will benefit greatly from this incredible gift to improve the facilities. Our family is thrilled. THANK YOU!!!


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 13, 2013 at 4:43 pm

Crescent Park Dad

Sorry for my skepticism, I'm just not taking at face value that a Palo Alto construction project will end on schedule, in fact the only one I have seen in my time here is the Stanford sports stadium. All the others, Mitchell Park library for example, take years longer.

I am saddened for my kids that every school they have attended in Palo Alto has been a yellow hat zone. What schoolday memories!


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Posted by Paly Alum
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 13, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Amazing donation. Thanks to the anonymous donor.

Are they going to try to replicate the basketball court view as it is now, where the players are in their own area? It's kind of unique because the players can't run into the crowd when going for a ball.

Whatever we get, it will be wonderful and two of my three children will be able to live it. Another reason Palo Alto is a great city.


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Posted by No Bid?
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 13, 2013 at 6:37 pm

Lease-leaseback opens the door to influence-peddling and campaign contributions to board members. There should not be a move away from competitive bidding. This is a whole can of worms we should not open. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Web Link


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Posted by No Bid?
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 13, 2013 at 6:56 pm

Well I guess we know where the district can find a PR officer to edit the pdfs.


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Posted by Anybody there?
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Mar 13, 2013 at 7:11 pm

Contrary what some parents in PA would have you believe (because it is what THEY want, and they are used to getting their way), high school is not completely about academics and the college competition. It is also about being a "team player", and athletics provide that in spades. It is also about healthy competition, which you also get a lot of from sports. It includes good fitness habits as well. Those who do not participate are missing out.

Parents need to think about the "whole" child, not just the book learning.


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Posted by Dave
a resident of Community Center
on Mar 13, 2013 at 9:23 pm

The lease-leaseback is the best way to go which is the only way this project will get done in the timeframe they're talking about - which is only one academic year. I get the fact that everyone's tired of the construction - but this is one year of construction for 100 years of use. Thanks to whoever is doing this.


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Posted by Rob
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 13, 2013 at 9:36 pm

People must be speculating who the donor might be? Who is the likely donor??


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Posted by No Bid?
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 13, 2013 at 9:50 pm

This is going to be a move we regret unless the board votes into place binding ethics rules now before accepting Lease-Leaseback.

This gift is really terrific. It's generous and kind. But there should be transparency into the details of what we are getting into and shouldn't be so excited to get the money that we throw away all transparency and suspend all the rules without question. If we are going to go with a no-bid program then we should ensure that we put into place good government process that will prevent the problems that other districts have experienced with political corruption from developers and contractors.

We should pass a board policy that board members cannot accept campaign donations from anyone doing business with the district in a no-bid construction context. We should also ban such donations for any revenue measures such as future school bonds and parcel taxes.

And we should have transparency about the donor identity. When a major developer like this donor gives this kind of money to a public institution, all of the negotiations should be public and transparent. The donor is the one insisting on using Vance Brown. That is why we are doing lease-leaseback, not the timeframe. We don't have any idea why the donor, who is a major developer, selected this contractor and what the other business dealings with that contractor might be. No one is even asking these important questions. No one wants to appear to be looking a gift horse in the mouth.

It is possible to be grateful and excited without surrendering all judgment and good government principles. That is what was so appalling about the 27 University mess -- City Council was so excited by the possible public benefits of Mr. Arrillaga's largesse that they forgot that they were a public agency. This is similar.

Here is what happened in San Diego as a result of going no-bid:

Web Link

"When public officials are able to award multimillion dollar school construction contracts on the basis of other than lowest responsive and responsible bid it opens up unlimited opportunities for fraud, favoritism and corruption and denies all qualified bidders with a fair opportunity to participate in the bidding process all to the economic detriment of taxpayers," Carlin said.

Carlin said the ongoing public corruption prosecutions in the South Bay over school construction contracts serve as evidence of the need for sealed, competitive bids."


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Posted by No Bid?
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 13, 2013 at 10:51 pm

Here's some more about San Diego's corruption scandal as a result of using lease-leaseback. This story is dated February 19, 2013. The problems with this form of construction are just starting to be publicized by journalists. This investigative report is excellent, thorough and harrowing:

Web Link:

Entitled, "On Local School Bonds, Big Donors Often Win Big Contracts," the story details the way that moving to lease-leaseback increased the campaign donations both to school board members who supported the superintendent (because the superintendent gets to pick the contractor) and bond issues. This in-depth actual reporting on the subject shows that moving to no bid contracting has increased all forms of influence-peddling and corruption in school finance and school board elections.

"But in some districts, the number of big donors that also received contracts was striking.
Eight companies donated more than $5,000 each to the campaign for Poway Unified School District's Proposition C, which passed in 2008. Seven of those firms won contracts with the district . . .

"This is a quid-pro-quo that would be illegal in just about any other circum
stances," said former Assemblyman Chris Norby, who introduced a recent bill aimed at barring bond underwriters from contributing to school bond campaigns. "Can you imagine a politician getting money from a company and then saying, 'You're going to get all of my business from now on?' He'd be in jail for sure."

This is all we need in PAUSD right now -- a system that increases the odds of having more bond measures by providing a steady stream of private donors to finance those campaigns in return for what they will get. And our weak and easily misled and influenced board will be like taking candy from a (potentially corrupt) baby. Please Palo Alto, read this report and take a step back. Don't be so seduced by the lure of the easy money that you abandon judgment. And to take this kind of a step into a probable ethical morass without even considering it, and with no transparency on how the developer-donor selected Vance Brown (and I am not allowed to name him since the Weekly deleted it before) is horrifying.

How about covering the issue Weekly instead of helping to grease the skids.


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Posted by Guess who
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 14, 2013 at 8:34 am

Let's guess as to who the donor is.

Likes to give lots of money for athletic facilities, use his own construction firm to build those facilities and then take a tax write off so big that it covers the entire out of pocket cost of the donation...whose grandchildren would probably go/are going to Paly....

Has recently taken some flack for being a pseudo-philanthropist for another large project in Palo Alto so might want to keep his name out of the news...

hmmm... let me think....


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Posted by No Bid?
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 14, 2013 at 9:02 am

You're getting warmer! Gee I feel a little bleary today. I was pretty feary about my post being deleted. Then I realized that you were pretty neary to it. It's all very Queery, but decidedly not, at least as to marriage equality.


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Posted by No Bid?
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 14, 2013 at 9:06 am

Lease-Leaseback causes political corruption in Fresno too:

"Flavoring the debate about lease/leaseback -- particularly among Valley contractors -- is the fact that Spencer, a longtime contributor to political campaigns at the local, state and federal levels, gave $25,000 to the Measure Q campaign. Harris Construction pitched in $5,000 more. These contributions made Spencer and his company the biggest donor to a campaign that raised about $259,000.

Now, with the upcoming school board election seen by some people as a referendum on Hanson's performance, Spencer, his family members and employees of his companies contributed nearly $10,000 to the campaigns of three candidates supportive of the superintendent, according to elections records through Sept. 30."

Read more here: Web Link


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Posted by Middle ground
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 14, 2013 at 9:58 am

Is there any way that the board could adopt a policy for lease leaseback only where the project is funded entirely with private money so that would remove the incentive to political corruption? Of course this board is probably too dumb but is it legal to limit lease leaseback to philanthropic donations? Otherwise I agree with No Bid this is a terrible plan. Goodbye Palo Alto as we know it and hello Citizens United.


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Posted by No Bid?
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 14, 2013 at 10:02 am

Sure that could be legally done and it's a good idea. As you say, this board is not likely to come up with that idea and Bob Golton probably likes the idea of being able to hand-pick contractors (would certainly increase his number of invites to sit in the skyboxes at Giants and 49ers games) so I wouldn't look to him to propose it. Maybe the Weekly should write an editorial.


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Posted by In the know
a resident of Gunn High School
on Mar 14, 2013 at 10:15 am

Where to start? First, @Parent, by now you've been reminded that Vance Brown is the builder so you will realize that the gym will finish on time since the same team that did the Stanford Staduim will be doing the building at Paly. This is the biggest reason this project is being done as a lease-leaseback. The donor knows the project will be completed on time and will get the biggest bang for their bucks. If the district is smart they will continue to pursue this sort of construction in the future.

Next, the donor. Many of you are curius about the donor and think they know who it is. Despite popular opinion (all based on valid observations) the donor is not "he who must not be named". Moving on....

It is my understanding that there are "no strings attached" to this donation, therefore we don't need to be concerned about leveraging or politicking. it is truly just a generous gift.

I am a "Gunn" parent and would have loved to have seen this type of construction relationship happen for our gym. Our new gym will be great, and will serve the needs of our population well. Paly is extremely fortunate to be receiving such an amazing gift of money and with the conbination of that and the builder Paly will receive a top-notch facility that will also be a tremendous asset for their campus. The Paly community should be nothing but appreciative.


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Posted by Middle ground
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 14, 2013 at 10:16 am

It does seem like this is a dream come true for developers having lease leaseback in a rich district with almost infinite ability to vote itself higher taxes and lots of interest in having world class schools. I saw online that lease leaseback is supposed to be for new districts and whatnot who couldn't afford building to get off the ground. This will be rule by developers. Maybe getting lease leaseback into PAUSD is the real purpose of this "gift". Not to be cynical but this will be worth a lot to developers and contractors and bond underwriters down the road. 20 mil is small potatoes to get such a big change. That genie will never go back in that bottle.


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Posted by No Bid?
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 14, 2013 at 10:21 am

@"in the know":

You said: "Next, the donor. Many of you are curius about the donor and think they know who it is. Despite popular opinion (all based on valid observations) the donor is not "he who must not be named". Moving on...."

Yes move along. Please don't stop at the second word on the title of Mr. Arrillaga's letterhead. Oops my paper just got Smeery.

"It is my understanding that there are "no strings attached" to this donation, therefore we don't need to be concerned about leveraging or politicking. it is truly just a generous gift."

There's no transparency so there is no way to know if "in the know" is actually "in the know." But I think you don't understand what the "strings" are. The "strings" are the use of lease-leaseback and the donor's selection of the contractor. Vance Brown may be great but having contractors own the school district in the future will not be. This is Pandora's box. Read the report for yourself.





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Posted by Middle ground
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 14, 2013 at 10:36 am

[Post removed due to same poster using multiple names]


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Posted by No Bid?
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 14, 2013 at 10:45 am

It's not cynical and paranoid to look at what respected independent journalists are showing is the actual statewide experience with the lease-leaseback experience. That's called being a responsible citizen.

Read for yourself: Web Link


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Posted by No Bid?
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 14, 2013 at 10:46 am

Here's a summary:

The Question
We wanted to know whether major donors to school bond campaigns are likely to win contracts from school districts once the bond passes.
The Research

We looked at every school bond campaign in San Diego County since 2006, and focused on companies that donated more than $5,000 to campaigns. Then we approached each district to see whether the same companies won contracts from the district that were paid for with bond dollars.

The Results
We found a significant correlation between major donors and contracts in 13 of the 17 districts we studied. In some districts, that correlation was striking. In the business of bond underwriting in particular, almost every major donation was followed by the company winning a contract from a district.


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Posted by Sad
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 14, 2013 at 11:07 am

Who's "we"? In the interest of "transparency", perhaps you can reveal yourself.

And my point about the cynism wasn't about the article - but just the attitude in these comments.


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Posted by No Bid?
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Mar 14, 2013 at 11:48 am

No. I am a concerned citizen who does not want Citizens United to come to PAUSD. Like everyone else I would like the nice new gym but not at the price of opening the door to this kind of political corruption. I like the suggestion of "Middle Ground" that the board adopt a policy that allows for lease-leaseback ONLY in cases of philanthropic donations but not for any publicly-funded construction. this would allow us to have the gym without the risk.


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Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 14, 2013 at 3:09 pm

Why do I get the feeling that the donor will end up recuperating his gift and then some?


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Posted by But, but, but...
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2013 at 4:17 pm

Why is everyone so suspicious about a family with a lot of money that does the RIGHT thing with their money?


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Posted by And, and, and
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 14, 2013 at 4:46 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by And and and
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 14, 2013 at 4:55 pm

The law meaning the Public Records Act and the spirit of laws for public right of access.


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Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 14, 2013 at 5:40 pm

It seems like every single block in Palo Alto has at least one construction project going on The same goes for schools. It's not like there is an end in sight to the ceaseless wave of construction which would enable residents to enjoy relative peace and quite. They come in waves and never end and have seriously diminished the quality of life in this town . When is enough enough?

Paly is going through major construction right now, and when this new project commences, no Paly current student will actually remember a 4 year HS experience that didn't involve being surrounded by major construction. sites, yellow zones, hard hats, heavy equipment, noise, dust and debris T he same seems to apply to Jordan, where the current massive construction project seems to be endless and a destruption to both to both students and neighbors.
We need a 2 year moratorium on all construction so we residents can actually get reacquainted with a novel concept-some peace, quite and tranquility.


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