School board wants to renew Cubberley lease

Members say they want to work with city on long-term vision, but note 'different timelines'

Palo Alto school board members Tuesday indicated they want to begin discussions with the City of Palo Alto on renewal of the city's lease of Cubberley Community Center, which expires in 2014.

The city must give notice by the end of this year whether it wants to renew the lease, for which it pays the school district $6.98 million a year. The city uses Cubberley to provide low-cost space to a wide range of nonprofit organizations.

But a community advisory committee in March, which included several former mayors and school board presidents, concluded the lease arrangement in its present form is no longer viable.

If and when it is renegotiated it must contain provisions for longer-term planning and capital investment in the aging and outdated former high-school campus, the Cubberley Community Advisory Committee said.

"We -- all citizens of Palo Alto -- are sitting on a wasting asset," City Council member Larry Klein said at the time. "Significant amounts of money" must be spent in the short term to make sure that Cubberley doesn't "fall apart," Klein said.

The citizens committee urged the city and school district to collaborate on a long-term vision for Cubberley that would accommodate both community needs and the school district's potential need to re-open a comprehensive high school on the site.

Three advisory committee members appeared before the school board Tuesday to stress the need for collaboration so that short-term investments can align with a longer-term vision.

Board members said they were willing, but noted that the district and city have "different timelines." While the need for investment in upgrades at Cubberley is urgent, the need for a new comprehensive high school is far less clear and probably would not happen until after 2020, at the earliest.

The city owns eight acres in the middle of the 35-acre Cubberley site and, theoretically, could redevelop that section on its own.

But advisory committee members pleaded for near-term collaboration on a joint, longer-term vision.

"There's a hurry to get moving," committee member and former school board president Diane Reklis told the board Tuesday. Reklis urged the board to hire planning consultants to help them think ahead.

Committee member Rachel Samoff, who directs the Children's Pre-School Center at Cubberley, said, "Keep an open mind about doing some very high-level planning together with the city."

A strong vision for shared use would maximize the efficiency of Cubberley's valuable acreage for the whole community, Samoff said.

A smart plan, she said, could yield "a full-service high school plus all the activities that are there now with no problem."

Board President Dana Tom said while he supports joint planning, the different time horizons present a challenge.

"If the city wants to develop their eight acres we need to coordinate with them so whatever development they decide to do would not preclude things we want in the long term," Tom said.

"But in order to achieve efficiencies of joint use, we have to have a coordinated plan. A lot of things point to doing that planning together and not waiting a terribly long time to do that."

Superintendent Kevin Skelly said he plans to meet Friday with City Manager Jim Keene and that he would return to the board, probably after the summer break, with a firmer plan for discussions with the city.

Chris Kenrick


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Posted by don
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 29, 2013 at 1:58 pm

One thing that could prevent joint use is the ability of the PAUSD to prevent citizens from coming on a school campus while the school is in session. This means prior to 8:00 am and until after 3:OO pm or later there could be no public/joint use of the facility.

Many of the small, private groups do use the facilities during this period. How will this be solved?

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Posted by terry
a resident of Barron Park
on May 29, 2013 at 10:14 pm

PAUSD and Money. Ahhhhhh. How about we hire district personnel to manage, let them work two years, pay them huge severance bonuses by letting them retire early at higher pay grades, then get soaked and lose all institutional memory, including hiring defunct construction companies...that might be worth 6.8 mil.....or settling a few more lawsuits that Skelly has brought upon the taxpayers of this community...pathetic decline in this district in recent years....the best of intentions with incompetence beyond easy description...

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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Midtown
on May 30, 2013 at 8:16 am

Why doesn't city try to multi-use Paly and Gunn to see if it would really work before implements in a third high school? Is there any example or stat to support this idea is viable at all?

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Posted by PA Neighbor
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on May 30, 2013 at 9:28 am

After Columbine and New Town schools were encouraged by the State to monitor every non-school personnel entering a school, that's why there are notices at Middle and High Schools requesting visitors to campus to register at the office. Freely walking around on school property while school is in session is discouraged.

Joint use is going to be a myth, but it is a way the School District can get the City to invest in School property then ban visitors. Look at Terman it now has an 8 foot chain link fence around it so you can't just walk onto campus.

I support the City developing their 8 acres as they want and the School District developing their 27 acres as they want. First, lets renew the lease 'till 2025.

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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 30, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Assuming the city keeps its 8 acres, then they can develop as they see fit. No way PAUSD let's non-school personnel or non-students on campus during school hours. BTW - this policy holds true at the K-5 sites as well.

What the city will lose out on are classrooms, gyms, pool, auditorium, track, fields, the majority of parking. Even after school is out for the day, the new HS will still use its facilities for extra-curriculars (e.g., athletics, clubs, music, drama, etc.). And the teachers are still going to use their classrooms and offices after school is out for planning, meetings, etc.

The bottom line is that once PAUSD finally gets to re-opening Cubberly, access will be cut-off except for the city owned portion (if the city decides to keep it). If I'm a non-profit using that site, I'd start looking for a new spot now and beat the eventual rush.

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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Midtown
on May 30, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Why not let current patrons keep cubberley? it's about time that Stanford should free up some land for a new high school, since there is a major plan to build high density housing on its land along El Camino.

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Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 30, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Because Stanford gave up land for Gunn. And because Mid-Town and South PA would like to have a HS on their side of town.

Why is it that Stanford is supposed to keep paying for Palo Alto's self-induced problems?

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Posted by neighbor
a resident of Midtown
on May 30, 2013 at 3:46 pm

I live in midtown and never think it's a good idea to build a third high school, just because it's on my side of town.

Not sure it's Palo Alto self-induced problem if Stanford proposed to build high density housing.

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

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