Foothill board chooses air force base

District moves to acquire property at Onizuka in Sunnyvale for new education center

The former Onizuka Air Force Station in Sunnyvale has been chosen as a new campus for Foothill College, Foothill-De Anza Community College District's Board of Trustees voted on Monday. The new site does not replace the school's main campus in Los Altos Hills.

Board members directed the district's administration to take the necessary steps leading to possible acquisition of the land as a public benefit, they said in a statement.

The board cited the opportunity to acquire the 9.6-acre property at no cost; its proximity to highways, public transportation and areas of population growth; and its visibility and location in a growing part of Sunnyvale.

"This is an exciting time," Board President Pearl Cheng said. "This direction comes after an exhaustive search and review of opportunities that would best meet the district's objectives in finding a permanent home for the education center."

The new education center will offer year-round programs and services, including partnerships with other colleges and universities, high schools, regional occupational programs, community-based organizations, local government, business and industry, district officials said.

Foothill has leased an 8-acre site at Cubberley Community Center in Palo Alto for many years and had hoped to purchase the property for the education center. But some residents were opposed, citing the need for future school district expansion as school-age population increases.

The Palo Alto City Council voted in July to draft a letter to the district expressing its interest in the campus, but decided against moving forward after the Palo Alto Unified School District voted against supporting a sale.

The Cubberley Community Center property is owned by the City of Palo Alto. It was traded to the city in exchange for eight acres at Terman that the school district then reopened for Terman Middle School.

Sunnyvale Mayor Melinda Hamilton and Vice Mayor Jim Griffith told the board they are enthusiastic about possibly having Foothill-De Anza open a center in their community. The City of Sunnyvale serves as the local redevelopment authority overseeing the disposal and reuse of the Air Force property.

"We are thrilled to hear you are interested in coming to Sunnyvale," Hamilton said.

Griffith described the education center as a good match for the base reuse, envisioning it as a place where students could intern at surrounding high-tech companies and area workers and displaced armed forces personnel could gain additional education.

The district must do an environmental impact report of the site before a final transaction could take place, board members said, and the Sunnyvale City Council, as local redevelopment authority, must amend the Onizuka redevelopment and reuse plan to specify that an educational use is preferred for the property.

Foothill-De Anza could then move forward with an application to the U.S. Department of Education for a public-benefit conveyance.

The only cost to the district in obtaining the 9.6 acres would be the expense of clearing and preparing the site for construction, estimated at approximately $5 million, according to a board statement. The education center would be funded through a bond measure approved by district voters in 2006.

The Onizuka property is located in the Moffett Business Park, a center for corporate headquarters and research and development. Park tenants include Juniper Networks, Yahoo and Network Appliance.

The entire Onizuka site is 23 acres, approximately 18.9 of which can be developed. The Air Force has accepted a request by the Veterans Administration to use 4.1 acres and three buildings for research activities.

Foothill-De Anza has been searching for several years for a permanent home for the education center.

In April, the district issued solicited proposals for properties of eight acres or more along the Highway 101 corridor within the district's boundaries. The district needs about 50,000 square feet of building space, with the opportunity for possible future expansion to 100,000 square feet.

This effort took place at the same time companies such as Facebook, Google, Apple and others were rapidly expanding and leasing large blocks of commercial and research and development properties in Silicon Valley.

The district received one offer: a joint venture from development firms Orchard Partners/Lane Partners for a "build to suit" education center on a 10-acre site at 895 Kifer Road, Sunnyvale.

The Onizuka site development would take several years. Even if the education center relocates from Palo Alto, Foothill College President Judy Miner said she hopes the college can retain leased space at Cubberley so Foothill can continue offering courses that are in greatest demand by residents of Palo Alto. Foothill's Middlefield Campus offers serves approximately 4,000 students.

We can't do it without you.
Support local journalism.


Like this comment
Posted by Steve C
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 10, 2011 at 10:23 am

Foothills is such a great Community College. The area is lucky to have them. Too bad people will have to drive further but this is a great use for a surplus military property. Palo Alto's loss though.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 10, 2011 at 10:40 am

I love Foothill, Congratulations Sunnyvale!! Foothill College Board you have chosen wisely. A recent article in the Financial Times of London said that Sunnyvale is the center of Silicon Valley, and you have duly rewarded them by proposing to build the Educational Center there!!

Like this comment
Posted by Frank
a resident of another community
on Aug 10, 2011 at 11:22 am

Great decision! Palo Alto's loss and Sunnyvale's gain. Additionally the campus will be located much closer to the high-tech centers of Sunnyvale, Mtn. View, Santa Clara, Milpitas and San Jose. Parking availability and access from major road arteries will be better too.

Like this comment
Posted by Mimi Wolf
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 10, 2011 at 11:25 am

Foothill has been a huge asset to Palo Alto; so sorry that a deal was not in the cards. Onizuka air force station is on the other side of 101 - not a convenient bike ride.

Like this comment
Posted by paul
a resident of another community
on Aug 10, 2011 at 11:31 am

you missed a great opportunity to liven up the story by describing what went on at Onizuka. Controlling spy satellites, #2 target on the Soviet nuke targeting list, etc And, of course, getting to use the phrase "windowless 4-story building.) ;)

Like this comment
Posted by bike route
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 10, 2011 at 11:46 am

Mimi - bicycle access to Onizuka isn't too bad. Take Middlefield Road down to Mountain View. Turn left on Ellis Street and go under Hwy 101 (limited freeway access, so it is pretty safe). Then turn right on Manila Dr to Onizuka. Hopefully they will put up better bike route signs and better street lighting when the campus opens.

There are bike lanes along Middlefield for most of this route from midtown Palo Alto to Ellis Street. For some unknown reason, there are no bike lanes on Middlefield for a few blocks on both sides of San Antonio Road. I have asked the city of Palo Alto to fix this, but gotten no response.

Like this comment
Posted by Bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 10, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Congratulations to Sunnyvale, but proximity to public transportation??

It's great that the property is available at no cost except that of cleaning up the site pollution - $5M or so. Saves some taxpayer bond money over the $8M or more for a Palo Alto location.

Located in the "heart of Silicon Valley" is not a benefit to students who mostly live well outside the various Company industrial areas.

But overall a win situation for the Foothill DeAnza School District.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 10, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Hopefully, this will mean that VTA will vamp up its public transport for the north of Santa Clara County. It is about time that Palo Alto had a bus route to Foothill College without needing to change at San Antonio (and pay double fares). A bus route to the new campus as well as the existing campus would make so much sense.

North S.C. County is not served well by VTA.

Like this comment
Posted by bike route
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 10, 2011 at 12:16 pm

The VTA light rail stops at Onizuka. For people who live in Mountain View, Sunnyvale, or Santa Clara, access should be pretty easy (much easier than the main Foothill campus). Palo Alto people can bike down to the Mountain View VTA station, though if you're biking that far, you may as well bike all the way to Onizuka.

Like this comment
Posted by Try this bike route to Foothill
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 10, 2011 at 1:36 pm

Bike access to this site from Palo Alto is excellent for some of the year. My husband bike commutes to nearby Moffett Park daily. In the summker he takes a route through the baylands that is breathtakingly beautiful. He comes home with stories every evening about the amazing wildlife he observes on his commute route.

From our south PA home, we can only do this through part of the year conveniently via the Lefkowitz Tunnel--and this summer the tunnel has been flooded a lot which has been terrificly inconvenient, requiring long detours. It would be great if the city moved quickly on the proposed year-round bike/ped crossing that will provide year-round access to the baylands. It would create a wonderful bike commute to points south from this end of town. Further, providing year-round access would be like adding a new park to that people could walk and bike conveniently to. It's a great idea and county funding is already earmarked for it. Let's move on it!

Like this comment
Posted by PolicySage
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 10, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Once again, the indecisiveness of PAUSD and City leadership has resulted in a tremendous loss to Palo Alto. Cubberly would have been the dream campus for Foothill, and would have brought a wonderful asset to Palo Altans as well as providing both public and private sector enterprises with tangible revenues.

Like this comment
Posted by Hulkamania
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 10, 2011 at 2:28 pm

Biking to Onizuka from Palo Alto is easy peazy. I bike by there every day on my way to and from work on East Java.

Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 10, 2011 at 5:24 pm

The city of Sunnyvale will continue to be a success with the addition of this Foothill campus. Palo Alto's loss - though they did not care - as indicated in previous articles.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 10, 2011 at 5:30 pm

The criticism against Palo Alto is not fair. Palo Alto would be a great place for a Foothill campus, but not Cubberley. If you don't have kids in schools here, you may not realise just how crowded our schools are. Cubberley is going to be needed for K - 12 in the not so distant future. Allowing Foothill to take over that campus would have been a detrimental move for our younger kids.

If a suitable site elsewhere in Palo Alto was being discussed, then Foothill would have been a great asset. But, Cubberley was just wrong.

Like this comment
Posted by huge loss
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 10, 2011 at 5:40 pm

Whatever the reason that Foothill is leaving Palo Alto, this is a huge loss to the community. The city really should have worked harder to find them a new location if Cubberley is not feasible. There are tons of empty buildings around town, including various office buildings that HP has abandoned and the buildings that Facebook will soon be abandoning.

The new campus location is obviously much less accessible from Palo Alto, thus decreasing educational opportunities for our residents (teenagers and adults). Sunnyvale may not be very many miles from Palo Alto, but traffic along 101 is atrocious, especially during the afternoons when students would be traveling to evening classes after their day jobs.

Like this comment
Posted by Donald
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 11, 2011 at 12:06 am

While it is too bad that Foothill College will be leaving Palo Alto, selling the Cubberley site would be an even bigger loss. PAUSD sold a lot of schools in the 90s and they now wish they hadn't. The properties now have houses on them and there is no way that PAUSD or the city can afford to buy them back. The short-term gain has long been overshadowed by the long-term loss as school enrollments have increased to the bursting point. PAUSD may need to take back all of Cubberley for school uses in the future, and I am glad they kept that option open.

Like this comment
Posted by Build-Up
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 11, 2011 at 8:13 am

> Cubberley is going to be needed for K - 12 in the not
> so distant future

Both Gunn and Palo Alto High Schools occupy no more than 35% of the sites where they are located. And neither are using multi-story buildings to any extent. Time to get real about the cost of schools, and education (in general), and to use the sites in a more cost effective way than has happened in the past.

Like this comment
Posted by big loss
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 11, 2011 at 8:35 am

Donald - Foothill College is not a housing developer. I have heard of no plans for Foothill to develop housing on the Cubberley site. Foothill will use the land for education, just like any potential high school would. This is a perfectly compatible use of the land. I could even see both sharing the same location if it is used efficiently (multiple stories, etc.). And many Foothill classes are in the evening so sharing facilities is even more economical.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 11, 2011 at 8:41 am


Your solution to making Gunn and Paly bigger is not what we want. We do not want mega high schools here. Many of us moved here before kindergarten because we liked smaller schools at all levels. We now have large schools. Squeezing more students into the existing campuses is going to make it harder to get on the football team, become class president or get a good part in the school play.

We need to be thinking of opening a third high school be it a magnet or some other specialized school. And we have no other way to expand our middle schools either so they may need some space at the Cubberley campus too.

Like this comment
Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 11, 2011 at 10:10 am

Congrats to Foothill DeAnza - for those of you who missed this detail, they will get the land at NO COST! Hard to turn that down! And PAUSD needs the Cubberly site, a smart choice for everyone.

Like this comment
Posted by We need a plan
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 11, 2011 at 12:47 pm

Gunn is maxed out. Arastradero cannot support any further increase of auto traffic to the site,and the city has no additional right-of-way to increase capacity of the road. This has nothing to do with the new striping plan. It was the situation BEFORE any change was made to the road. There is only one driveway with adequate capacity to manage the bell time surge in and out of the campus. Expanding Gunn beyond the current plan is, practically speaking, impossible.

The problem isn't just Gunn. Terman is maxed out. JLS is expanding and it already looks as though the expanded site will be maxed out soon. Jordan is expanding. I'm not sure what Jordan's current enrollment is, but I'm guessing they are pretty full, too. At what point is the district going to take a serious look at opening a new secondary site? The first need may be a middle school.

PAUSD needs to work with the city NOW to develop a mutually acceptable long-term strategy for Cubberley. The city has clearly signalled that the current arrangement is unsustainable from their perspective. It would be irresponsible of PAUSD to put off planning any further--letting this issue come to a crisis.

PAUSD made a long-term plan for Garland before they were certain about demand for the site. It would be a good thing if they extended the same consideration to the very important Cubberley site. And it would be the proper, considerate and disciplined way to deal with the city. The city/PAUSD relationship is too important to PAUSD for the district to let it fall apart due to neglect.

Like this comment
Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 11, 2011 at 5:50 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

I hope they retain the name.

Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of Los Altos
on Aug 11, 2011 at 7:51 pm

That's smart of Foothill College to go where they are wanted and avoid Palo Alto where the planning process takes decades.

Like this comment
Posted by Sheesh
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 11, 2011 at 11:00 pm

Build up,
If you are concerned about cost effective schools, building up is not the way to go. When the State of California investigated what unnecessarily increases the cost of school construction, multistory buildings was one of them.

You are thinking of residential and commercial construction, which is different than when you are putting up a school, especially on land you already own. The state found that multistory construction is so expensive in public school building, they recommended doing single story always except in very limited circumstances that don't apply in our case.

If building up is your thing no matter the cost, you should know as of now the plan is to use our bond money to build a bunch of multistory buildings on the Gunn and Paly campuses, for huge schools that aren't even really the most cost effective size in terms of administrative efficacy and academic outcomes. The planning people admitted those multistory buildings would cost extra per square foot -- they are not cheaper as is often the assumption. And they will be more expensive to operate.

PAUSD could have saved millions of dollars and gotten the same improvements if they'd simply demanded smarter single-story planning of the designers (who profit more from the more expensive multistory construction, so they aren't going to do it unless they are required). Those millions could have been used to improve Cubberly, Measure A was clearly written to allow it. The disturbing thing about this story is that PAUSD has no plans for Cubberly despite the compelling circumstances and even an approved bond that could be used for it. They seem to just want the city to sit on that property for them until the heavens open and the angels sing, who knows. And now we have lost the opportunity locally for an education center paid for by Foothill.

Posters above don't seem to realize that the land Foothill wanted to buy was just the 8 acres owned by the city of Palo Alto, not by PAUSD, which retains 25 acres and could still build a nice high school there at some indeterminate time in the future when the angels sing (or some other unimaginable alignment of the stars that is better than now when we have the need, the money, the opportunity). If Foothill bought the property, it would have helped our city's balance sheet a lot right now.

Sure, I agree, PAUSD should not be shortsighted; I personally prefer they buy back the land. But the city has already offered to sell PAUSD those 8 acres, and they were rebuffed. PAUSD doesn't want to buy the land back, but they don't want to let the city sell just those 8 acres to Foothill for the benefit of our community either. And, despite attendance projections and all the problems ultra large schools engender, plus the unnecessary costs of those multistory buildings that could otherwise be applied to Cubberly, the district really has no plans for that property.

As everyone above said, Palo Alto's loss, Sunnyvale's gain.

Like this comment
Posted by Sheesh
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 11, 2011 at 11:07 pm

We Need a Plan,
You think Arastradero is maxed out now, wait until there are another 500-700 students at Gunn, and remember there has been little account taken of extra traffic, the school planners figure all of those hundreds of extra kids will bike and walk. Or take the "back entrance" in residential Georgia, you know, where it's the neighborhood's problem.

That's what we're putting our money into: that IS the current PLAN.

Like this comment
Posted by It was a good call to keep Cubberley, Now plan for its future.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 12, 2011 at 1:25 pm

We need a plan for Cubberley. I fully understand the deal. I have read the city's lease agreement and fully reviewed all documentation related to the Foothill proposal.

It was a BAD idea for Palo Alto and PAUSD. Staff failed to present any concrete ideas on placement for existing programs at the site, including hundreds of child care spaces. We need that space for schools AND for services. We need the city and school district to start working on a plan BEFORE the current lease is up. That means they need to start planning now. It would be completely irresponsible to the community to do otherwise.

Like this comment
Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 12, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Sorry, we will have to disagree. If the priority is "placement of existing programs (and) child care" then I strongly disagree with you.
The priority is Palo Alto and PAUSD and community-wide Foothill sure as heck should come before a particular child care provider.
I feel strongly that non-discriminatory programs should be in place at the central Cubberley site.

Like this comment
Posted by Minor detail
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 14, 2011 at 4:49 pm

The posts that focus on the fact that Foothill would have only purchased 8 acres of Cubberley site gloss over one important detail. Foothill and the City both acknowledged that the 8 acres would not have been enough for both a school building and parking and that PAUSD would have needed to provide additional acreage to Foothill for parking. Maybe the district could have squeezed a high school onto the remaining 25 acres, but if you take that down to 22 acres it would start to get really tight. Not to mention that the district will probably need to fit both a middle and a high school onto the property.

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

Don't be the last to know

Get the latest headlines sent straight to your inbox every day.

Capelo's Barbecue opens to-go counter in Redwood City
By Elena Kadvany | 0 comments | 2,458 views

On Metaphor and Mortality
By Aldis Petriceks | 0 comments | 1,270 views

Premarital and Existing Couples: Marriage Rules: Yours, Mine, or Ours?
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,199 views

Big Island Food Party!
By Laura Stec | 17 comments | 1,180 views

Be careful what you call me.
By Diana Diamond | 3 comments | 212 views


Short story writers wanted!

The 33rd Annual Palo Alto Weekly Short Story Contest is now accepting entries for Adult, Young Adult (15-17) and Teen (12-14) categories. Send us your short story (2,500 words or less) and entry form by March 29. First, Second and Third Place prizes awarded in each category.

Contest Details