Two boards to take up Cubberley issue today

Palo Alto steps back following school board's assertion of interest in full acreage

The future of Cubberley Community Center hangs in the balance as two public agencies prepare to take up the issue today (Monday, July 11).

Palo Alto City Manager James Keene has retreated from an earlier plan to present a draft "letter of interest" in possibly selling 8 city-owned acres of Cubberley to the Foothill-De Anza Community College District.

Keene said it would be premature to prepare such a letter in light of a June 28 declaration by the Palo Alto Board of Education that it will need all 35 acres of Cubberley -- including the city-owned piece -- for future school expansion.

Council members Monday are expected to discuss how they want to move forward.

Keene said that in his conversations with Foothll-De Anza Chancellor Linda Thor, it's clear that "while Foothill remains interested in Cubberley ... they also value the relationship they have" with the city, school district and community groups, who rent space at Cubberley and have vocally opposed any sale.

Meanwhile, the Foothill-De Anza board -- whose five members include former Palo Alto Mayor Betsy Bechtel and Palo Alto resident Bruce Swenson -- will ponder their options in their own meeting Monday night.

Foothill has bond funds it wants to use to purchase 8 to 12 acres in Palo Alto, Mountain View or Sunnyvale to build a new Education Center. Trustees say they want to create a "state-of-the-art educational facility serving Silicon Valley through programs and partnerships that seamlessly transition individuals from high school to community college to the university and the workplace, as well as offering a rich array of lifelong learning opportunities."

Besides Palo Alto, Foothill is in discussions with the city of Sunnyvale regarding a portion of the Onizuka Air Force Station site and has received a proposal from Lane Partners for another parcel in Sunnyvale.

Following the 1979 closure of Cubberley High School due to declining enrollment, community leaders at the time crafted a plan to preserve the Cubberley acreage while providing a revenue stream for schools.

The city pays the school district $4.48 million a year to lease Cubberley, which it in turn leases out as a community center. Foothill is the anchor tenant, renting space in five Cubberley buildings for its "Middlefield Campus."

Additionally, the city pays the schools $1.73 million a year under a "covenant" in which the district promises not to sell any district-owned land for housing development, as well as $600,000 for after-school day care sites on elementary school campuses.

The city collects about $2.5 million in rent from various Cubberley tenants. Second to Foothill's $933,000 annual payment is $81,000 a year from ACME education, an after-school and summer Chinese language program.

ACME is followed by $64,000 in annual rent paid by Good Neighbor Montessori School, followed by $62,000 from Dance Connection.

On a square-foot basis, the highest-paying tenant at Cubberley is the California Law Revision Commission, which leases only 800 square feet, followed by Foothill, which leases 39,672 square feet.

Foothill's lease at Cubberley, going back to 1989, expires in 2014.

The city took ownership of 8 acres at Cubberley in 2001 in exchange for the Terman Middle School campus. The city had acquired the surplussed campus in 1981, but the school district needed it back to re-open it a decade ago.

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Posted by LEt's get on this
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 8, 2011 at 4:27 pm

That's great...for the present. I love Foothill (voted for their bond measure) but Cubberley is the wrong site for them. Now PAUSD needs to get to the table with the city and make a plan for Cubberley.

In fact, it would be great to have a comprehensive, district-wide strategic plan for growth of schools which considers community center space and field space needs and possibilities for sharing facilities. The city is updating their Comp Plan now. This is the perfect time for that kind of discussion and changes to the way we do things.

We have 2 1/2 years until the lease expires. Don't make the same mistake twice. Get to the table NOW and USE this time to plan. PAUSD, that means you too.

Like this comment
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 8, 2011 at 7:25 pm

Foothill should be looking for land near a transit hub to reduce traffic and provide greater access to a larger pool of people. Rather than Cubberley, I would suggest somewhere near the California Ave station (remember where the new public safety building was to be located), or Mayfield Mall on the border of Palo Alto/Mt View, or where the Sunnyvale Town Center is.

Like this comment
Posted by Funny
a resident of another community
on Jul 9, 2011 at 6:05 am

I just opened PA Online and in my very sleepy haze saw "two cubs...." one college campus.

Like this comment
Posted by Close neighbor
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jul 9, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Cubberley is a deteriorated collection of old buildings. Since the lease for the remaining 27 acres between the City and the School District ends in December, 2013; it is time the School Districts reveals their future plans for the site.

City taxpayers should not be responsible for the site after the lease expaires. I hope the City return the 27 acres to the School District and have them take financial responsibility for it's future since they want to keep Cubberley.

Like this comment
Posted by George
a resident of Downtown North
on Jul 9, 2011 at 11:41 pm

This article fails to mention the $11 million dollars income that the Palo Alto recieves from the Utility User Tax. Palo Alto voters approved this in 1987 to offset the expense of the City lease of Cubberley from PAUSD. The income from the Utility User Tax now exceeds the lease expense. With the passage of twenty plus years, our City Staff and some Council Members "forget" why the Utility Users Tax was approved and want to spend these funds on their pet projects. They should invest some of the income into maintenace at Cubberley!

Like this comment
Posted by Save Cubberley!
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 10, 2011 at 4:33 pm

Sign an online petition to keep Cubberley in city hands:

Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Chris Gaither
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 11, 2011 at 5:37 pm

It's unfortunate that we will lose the Foothill Middlefield campus. I have taken many, many usefull classes both there, and on the main campus. The Middlefield campus is easier to access than the main campus in Los Altos Hills transportation wise, and the Middlefield campus caters primarily to night and Saturday students with evening/Saturday classes. Foothill serves this and other communities well with its Middlefield campus, and all the clases that it offers. This is a tough decision given the "potential" future need by the PAUSD. Of course, the PAUSD has been talking for years about their "potential" need for more classroom space given the "potential" increase in students. Perhaps the solution should be for Foothill to continue to use the land, build a state of the art campus for its evening students, and share the site with the PAUSD (when needed in the future) and other groups during the day. That's the win-win scenario for the entire community.

Like this comment
Posted by Bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 11, 2011 at 5:50 pm

No need to worry about losing the Cubberley site. The PAUSD board will never vote to give it up, and they have the right of first refusal if PA wants to sell or lease it.

There is no 8 acre site available in Palo Alto, unless you go into the foothills, for a Foothill campus. The site considered for the Public Safety Building is only about 2 acres.

I hope the City gets out of leasing the property and let the PAUSD cope with all the problems. With the $357M bond issue voters passed some years ago, they have the money since a large chunk is still available.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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