Palo Alto school board to vote on new Cubberley lease

District would drop $1.86 million 'covenant not to develop' under an agreement the City Council approved Monday

A two-year tug-of-war between the Palo Alto school district and the city over the future of Cubberley Community Center will likely come to an end Tuesday night, with the school board set to vote on a new five-year lease for the sprawling Middlefield Road campus.

The school board's vote will come one night after the City Council enthusiastically approved the five-year lease at its Monday night meeting.

Board members and Superintendent Max McGee expressed their support for the updated lease terms when they were announced last week at a special meeting. The main change to the lease is the school district's concession on the "covenant not to develop," which obligated the city to pay the district about $1.86 million annually not to develop several school properties throughout the city. The city has long argued that the covenant, which was adopted in 1989, is no longer relevant to a district with rapidly rising enrollment and more comfortably full coffers.

Under the terms McGee outlined at the Nov. 12 meeting, the covenant will be dropped and the $1.86 million in city funds will instead be used to "repair, renovate and/or improve" the dilapidated center in south Palo Alto. The school district and the city will also move jointly to come up with a master plan for the entire Middlefield Road campus, in keeping with a recommendation from a community stakeholders group known as the Cubberley Advisory Committee. The master plan is to be completed within five years.

The lease also includes a provision that allows the two parties to reconfigure or relocate, by mutual consent, the 8-acre parcel of Cubberley currently used by Foothill College. It obligates the city to increase lease payments by 3 percent per year and specifies that the two sides will evenly split either the revenues or the losses stemming from Foothill's replacement by a new tenant.

"It is clear that when the PAUSD Board of Education and the City Council can resolve apparent differences through compromise and collaboration, the entire community benefits," McGee said in a joint city-school press release.

The City Council voted 8-0 on Monday night to approve the lease terms. City Manager James Keene called the lease amendment "a really, really positive step for both the school district and the city." Councilman Larry Klein praised Keene and McGee for their spirit of collaboration in reaching the deal and proclaimed it "a very good night for the community." Mayor Nancy Shepherd agreed and noted that Cubberley is badly rundown and needs the kind of attention that the school district and the city are gearing up to provide.

"I hope this gets launched quickly and we have a very good plan in five years," she said.

View the main terms of the lease and the amendment.

McGee also plans to announce Tuesday the people named to his Minority Achievement and Talent Development Advisory Committee, a group that will be charged with analyzing Palo Alto's achievement gap and issuing actionable recommendations to the superintendent (and from him to the board) on the issue.

In other business, the Strong Schools Bond Citizens' Oversight Committee will present an annual report on the $378 million measure that has and continues to fund numerous major construction projects throughout the district.

The board will also hear the first of two reports on high school academic achievement and will discuss the district's first interim financial report.

Tuesday's meeting is also the last for President Barb Mitchell and member Dana Tom, who have both served since 2005. Their seats will be filled by newly elected board members Ken Dauber and Terry Godfrey. There will be a short ceremony for Mitchell and Tom at 6 p.m.

View the Nov. 18 agenda here.

Gennady Sheyner contributed to this report.

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1 person likes this
Posted by Can't Wait!
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2014 at 11:13 am

Can't wait to have Terry and Ken on Board and see the whole Board move in a forward direction with our new Superintendent! Like a breath of fresh air to see the composition of the Board changed. It's long overdue!

Cubberly site will be a great resource when the improvements are made. Sure, it's a old school but it still has many years to give in service to so many.

1 person likes this
Posted by good money after...
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Nov 18, 2014 at 12:10 pm

Cubbrerly's a dump and an embarrassment. It looks like something out of those 1960 B movies. The only good thing about it are the fields, which are well-used.

Cubberly needs to be re-built from the ground up and the yearly ~$2M will just paper over the cracks. It needs a comprehensive plan and the students need a 3rd high school.

Like this comment
Posted by 5 years for just a plan?
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 18, 2014 at 2:38 pm

Did I read correctly that in five years time, there will be a plan? Does that mean the $1.86 million per year will now simply go toward planners and consultants? I'm not well versed in school development, but it seems like a pretty long time for planning.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2014 at 9:26 pm

As of now, with the Mitchell Park library now open, what difference will that make to Cubberley. Without the library and the teen center, there must be empty space at Cubberley. Is anything else leaving to move to the new community center?

I hate to say rent, but once again, PAUSD is in the business of educating children, not real estate rentals.

We need to get Cubberley back into use for our children's educations and we need to do that yesterday.

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

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