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Work set to begin on Cubberley master plan

City and school board hire a contractor to lead long-awaited planning effort

Once a high school, Cubberley Community Center is a sprawling but dilapidating site on 4000 Middlefield Road that the city and school district are planning to redevelop. Photo by Veronica Weber.

A lagging effort by the city of Palo Alto and the Palo Alto Unified School District to reimagine the jointly owned Cubberley Community Center received a jolt this week when the City Council and the school board each voted to approve a contract with a consulting firm that will help create a master plan for the sprawling complex at 4000 Middlefield Road.

The council voted 7-0 on Monday night, with Greg Tanaka and Tom DuBois absent, to approve a $565,972 contract with the New Orleans-based firm Concordia, which will assist the city and the school board in creating the Cubberley Community Center Master Plan. The district's Board of Education followed suit on Tuesday night with its own 5-0 vote in support of the Concordia contract.

The hiring of Concordia should jump-start a planning effort that has been largely on hold for the past three years, much to the frustration of council members and other stakeholders. The district owns 27 acres in the 35-acre campus and leases them to the city, which owns the other 8 acres. In March 2016, City Manager James Keene and former district Superintendent Max McGee signed a new lease that calls for the completion of a master plan for Cubberley by Dec. 31, 2019.

Under the agreement between the city and the school board, the cost of the contract – as well as the associated environmental analysis -- will be split equally among the two parties. Currently, the estimated cost of the planning exercise stands at $665,972, with each side expected to contribute $332,986.

While the two sides are splitting the costs, the city will take the lead in working with the consultant on the planning process, according to the "Mutual Cooperation and Cost Share Agreement" between the two parties. Though the agreement gives the city the authority to work with Concordia, it prohibits the city from providing direction to Concordia that varies from its approved contract without express consent from the school district.

The council approved the contract with Concordia on its "consent calendar" with no discussion. On the school board, however, one member voiced concern about the city having perhaps too much of a say on a project that holds great implications for the school district. Board member Melissa Baten Caswell said it concerns her that the city is the lead part on this, given that the district owns 27 acres in Cubberley.

"The majority of this asset is ours and I feel we need to make sure we're not just following city direction on it," Baten Caswell said.

She also suggested that the city already has a strong idea of what it wants at Cubberley and argued that it's important to make sure the district looks out for its interests.

"I've been in a lot of meetings with city folk that make me feel like they think they're driving this," Baten Caswell said.

Bob Golton, the district's bond manager, assured Baten Caswell that district staff will remain engaged.

"Individuals who have witnessed me at meetings with city folk have found otherwise," Golton said in response to her concern.

Golton noted that even though the city is the party to the contract, any "material direction" the process takes will be subject to the school district's approval.

Board President Ken Dauber and member Todd Collins agreed that board and district staff need to be deeply engaged in the process for it to achieve a successful outcome. Dauber said the board "will not like and accept and act on the outcome if we don't shape it in a way that works for the district."

"Whatever comes out of the plan will require an enormous contribution of resources and energy," Dauber said. "And if we're not bought into it, it won't be useful."

Collins said he is "very excited" about the project and also stressed the need for the district to be deeply involved in the process.

"We need to reach out and engage and really put some effort into it," Collins said. "Because we will get out of it what we put into it."

The contract calls on Concordia to develop a detailed work plan with city and district staff; review the 2013 report from the Cubberley Community Advisory Committee, a stakeholder group that recommended a "joint vision" for Cubberley; and develop a community engagement plan. The plan calls for recruiting and training "community fellows" who will assist with outreach and meeting facilitation.

Concordia will also be charged with evaluating the community's needs and identify opportunities at Cubberley for meeting these needs. It will work with the community to develop the vision, goals and opportunities for Cubberley and hold workshops to solicit ideas.

After that, Concordia will help the city and the school district develop between three and six conceptual designs for a future Cubberley facility and draft the Cubberley Master Plan Report that will include phasing scenarios and cost estimates for each phase of the preferred conceptual designs. The plan would then be subject to a public hearing and reviews by the council and the school board before it's finalized and adopted.


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30 people like this
Posted by Ken Horowitz
a resident of University South
on Jun 23, 2018 at 10:55 am

Hiring a consultant for $665,000 is the classic example of insanity. At a time of financial issues with both the City Council and Board of Education, why continue to spend money when this issue has been around for almost 10 years once Foothill College decided not to renew its lease at Cubberley. The Communty Advisory Commitee was unsuccessful in its efforts to reach a solution.The City Council does need a permanent home for its community tenants and the Board of Education has a vision for future high school there. The City’s eight acre could be allocated for teachers’ housing. I favor that the City sell the eight acres to the Board since the Board has ultimate approval for any decision. Then the Council can be free to move on from a worn down Cubberley. The Council and Board just need to sit down and work it out
without consultants.

27 people like this
Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 23, 2018 at 11:26 am

Online Name is a registered user.

They couldn't find a local firm with some knowledge of our community?

15 people like this
Posted by Bureaucracy
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 23, 2018 at 3:04 pm

Bureaucracy is the word.
This was a wonderful, centrallly and ideally located high school. It should be a public school again. I am leery of joint “visions” (ooh, cool term!)
Stick to the fundamentals. Otherwise, outlier elements will unnecesarily gain an upper hand in this gem. Money will be wasted, for years, on things like endless argumemts with the building contractor and the planting wall in the front of Mitchell Park Library - a scrawny, oddball distraction and expense.
Stick to the principal needs now and in the future: a top facility for Palo Alto public education. Don’t even dream of leasing this location out in a sweetheart deal to commercial outfits like Challenger!
PAUSD betterblook out for our interests!

10 people like this
Posted by YSK
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 24, 2018 at 7:16 pm

More gentrification BS. People rent out spaces and gyms and the fields at Cubberley, it's vital as a community center. Stop screwing up Palo Alto!

9 people like this
Posted by Juan
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 24, 2018 at 7:53 pm

The athletic fields are a great asset to the community, there are hundreds of kids playing soccer, softball and baseball on any given Saturday morning. The art / dance / music classes are nice also. Cubberley is perfectly fine as-is, maybe some buildings need to be improved seismically, otherwise what really needs to change? I saw a report that the high school may need to be reopened in the next 10-20 years, if that's the case then it's a big mistake to change anything about Cubberley.

8 people like this
Posted by Cubberley Fan
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 24, 2018 at 9:22 pm

Cubberley really is a "hidden gem." Most people have no idea what kind of wonderful things are going on there. Activities and classes of all sorts, several day-care facilities and private schools that are arguably superior to PA public schools.

Concordia has much experience coordinating redesigns of properties similar to this. They were selected through an RFP process. They intend to have several meetings open to EVERYONE to discuss desires for updated facilities. My only fear is that with extensive new construction, rental/lease rates will rise considerably and many of the existing tenants and renters would no longer be able to afford to hold their activities in the updated facilities...

For reference:
Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Barbara
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 25, 2018 at 1:30 pm

Hopefully, attention will be paid to the WALLS in the building. Fitness classes have been drowned out by the noise of the adjoining athletic (basketball) classes. Why can't something be done about the paper thin walls? This facility can be updated if the "powers that be" will take the time to include an upgrade.

1 person likes this
Posted by SupportTheTeachers
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Jun 25, 2018 at 2:44 pm

Adding teacher housing is such a great idea ! We are loosing good talent due to the atrocious housing prices, which one cannot quite afford on a teacher's salary ( specially if the salary is the single income )

4 people like this
Posted by DoNotSell
a resident of Palo Verde School
on Jun 28, 2018 at 11:42 am

Once gone, especially for housing, you CANNOT EVER GET IT BACK AGAIN.
The open space and the potential use for school/community building needs far outweigh any monetary gain and losing the land forever.
By the way, we the people own that land. I don't care what portion is "the City's" and what portion is "the School Board's". Ultimately the public owns all the land.

2 people like this
Posted by Attila
a resident of Egan Middle School (Los Altos)
on Jul 1, 2018 at 8:04 pm

Dont sell the space. It can never be got back. The theater has been a wonderful thing over the years. Increase use of theater space for performances etc. It is not that run down. The 600k consultant fee could fix it up. I have seen all sorts of famous people at cubberly over the last 30 yrs. not one complained about space or facility.

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