Three members of Palo Alto's Parks and Recreation Commission have come out against a new proposal to build housing at Cubberley Community Center, arguing that doing so would deprive future generations of a valuable recreation resource.
In their memo, which the full commission will consider on Tuesday night, Chair Don McDougall, Vice Chair Jeff Greenfield and Commissioner David Moss argue that placing housing on city property at Cubberley would deprive the community of valuable recreation space. The memo responds to new alternatives that were unveiled two weeks ago at the fourth and final community meeting on the Cubberley Community Center master plan – an effort that is being jointly undertaken by the city and the Palo Alto Unified School District.
At the May 9 meeting, city consultant Concordia unveiled four alternatives for including housing at Cubberley. The first, which was largely consistent with community feedback at prior meetings, included 32 units for school staff at 525 San Antonio Road, a site next to Cubberely that is owned by the school district and that is already zoned for housing.
The other three alternatives propose between 64 and 164 housing units and would require using land at the Cubberley campus. The two most ambitious options would include 112 and 164 units, respectively, and would include both apartments for school staff and for residents unaffiliated with the schools. The option with 164 units would add two stories to Cubberley itself, turning the proposed complex from two stories to four stories.
The new housing alternatives received some pushback at the meeting, with some residents calling them a last-minute "bait and switch" and others arguing that housing, while important, does not belong in a community center. Echoing the latter argument, the three parks commissioners call Cubberley the city's "largest hub for recreation programs and services" and note that, over the lifetime of the new center, meeting the community's increasing recreation needs will be challenging.
As such, they recommend that all building space at Cubberley be "designated as a public recreation resource to meet our evolving needs over the lifetime of the new Cubberley Community Center project."
"The direct consequence of including housing on City land at Cubberley will be to limit future recreation growth, as well as losing a community recreation resource for many generations, if not forever," the memo states. "As stewards of our recreation and open space resources, it is incumbent upon the PRC (Parks and Recreation Commission) to strongly advocate for maximum recreation facilities and programs at Cubberley and not including any housing on City property at Cubberley."
The three commissioners, who have all participated in the Cubberley community meetings, noted in the memo that they do not oppose the addition of housing on school district property at 525 San Antonio.
Concordia staff said at the May 9 meeting that the three additional housing alternatives were added at the behest of the city's Planning and Transportation Commission and the City Council. At a Feb. 11 council study session, several council members requested that Concordia explore some more ambitious development proposals, including ones with more housing.
Ultimately, it will be up to the Board of Education and the City Council to decide whether housing belongs at the 35-acre Cubberley campus. The school district owns 27 acres of the site, which it leases to the city, while the city owns the remaining 8. The two sides are scheduled to complete the master plan process by the end of the year when their lease agreement expires.
The proposed master plan calls for preserving existing uses at Cubberley, which include playing fields, tennis courts, classrooms, arts studios, a theater and nonprofit spaces, among other uses. It would also create space for a potential future school and for a new school district headquarters, while also creating a host of shared facilities, including gyms and performing art spaces.
More information about the Cubberley co-design process is available here.