Palo Alto City Council member Nancy Shepherd Wednesday (Dec. 8) sharply questioned school district officials about their plans for the old Cubberley High School site, highlighting mounting pressure on a decades-old pact between the city and school district relating to the 35-acre property.
With tenants of the city-run Cubberley Community Center grumbling about maintenance and the major tenant -- Foothill College -- possibly planning to vacate, Shepherd said the city is "just trying to think creatively about how to keep the lights on."
Foothill's two recent bids to purchase and rebuild eight city-owned acres at Cubberley were rebuffed by city officials as they await guidance from the school district on its potential plans for the site.
Meanwhile, trustees of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District this week voted to hire a property consultant to help in the search for a permanent home for its satellite "Palo Alto Campus" based at Cubberley, which now serves nearly 3,000 students.
Shepherd said she would like greater clarity on school plans for the site so she can field questions from tenants and community members.
"Whatever information you guys want to reveal, it would be very helpful to me," she told school board members Camille Townsend and Dana Tom at a Wednesday-morning meeting of the City-School Liaison Committee.
Faced with steadily rising enrollment that shows no signs of slowing, school officials say they need to preserve their options on Cubberley. Recently, they also indicated an interest in acquiring the 3-acre Peninsula Day Care parcel at 525 San Antonio Ave., which abuts the rear property line of Greendell School adjacent to the Cubberley campus.
But they have been tight lipped about any specific plans.
In a June 16 meeting with the City Council and Foothill-De Anza trustees, school board members expressed deep-seated fears about selling any portion of the dilapidated property, which closed as a high school in 1979.
The Palo Alto district is keenly aware of the need for new classrooms to accommodate growth, but has no specific plan at this point, Tom said in response to Shepherd Wednesday.
"We haven't really explored a specific set of options for using that site, because there are a variety of ways we could use it," he said.
Basic maintenance on Cubberley will require at least $8 million between now and 2015, and the city has spent $6.7 million on Cubberley maintenance since 1996, City Manager Jim Keene said in the June meeting.
In a deal to preserve the site, the city pays the school district approximately $4 million a year to lease the campus and run it as a community center. The city took ownership of the 8-acre parcel within Cubberley in 2002 as a consequence of the school district's need to re-open Terman Middle School. The district reclaimed the site from its sale to the city and sublease to the Jewish Community Center, resulting in a sequence of events that culminated in the building of a new JCC complex along San Antonio Road.
The current city lease on Cubberley expires in 2014.