News

City, school district at odds on pace of redeveloping Cubberley

School board trustee asks: Should we be neighbors rather than partners on this project?

Cubberley Community Center, at 4000 Middlefield Road in Palo Alto, is co-owned by the Palo Alto Unified School District and the city of Palo Alto. File photo/Veronica Weber.

Tension over mismatched timelines for redeveloping Cubberley Community Center surfaced in a meeting on Wednesday morning of Palo Alto's school district and city leaders, with little agreement on how to move forward together on a project that has been in the works for more than a decade.

The City Council decided last week to start an environmental study of building up to 112 apartments at Cubberley, which is jointly owned by the district (27 acres) and city (8 acres). While the analysis would include the possibility of building on the district-owned parcels of the Middlefield Road site, the district has not taken any position on housing at Cubberley and has no intention of doing so any time soon, board members and school district administrators have repeatedly said.

At Wednesday's City-School Liaison Committee meeting, board Vice President Todd Collins said it was "surreal" to see the council take this action, pre-empting the district's ability to explore different housing options on its own land.

Yet the district is still unprepared to say how much housing it might need at Cubberley and wants to "do our homework before we start jumping to conclusions," President Jennifer DiBrienza said Wednesday.

With the board's last meeting before the summer break next Tuesday, Collins and DiBrienza said it's unlikely they'll start that process now. Nor will they be prepared to take any action at a joint study session of the council and school board set for this fall, they said.

Superintendent Don Austin expressed frustration at the "accelerated" pace of the project and said he "wouldn't even know where to start" on shaping a potential agenda item on housing for the board to consider.

Council members appeared frustrated by the significant difference between the two bodies' timelines and the board's reluctance to take formal action on housing at Cubberley.

"This is the time for the school district to say whether this (housing) is interesting to them," said City Councilwoman Alison Cormack.

She said she feels an urgency to make progress on the plans for Cubberley given the declining state of the facility and because of the desires of people who make use of it. The city and district renewed their lease agreement at Cubberley five years ago with the stipulation that they would jointly develop a master plan by the expiration of the agreement in December 2019, which is now fast approaching.

Collins floated an alternative that he suggested could yield more progress and satisfaction for both sides: Instead of approaching Cubberley as collaborative co-owners "bound at the hip," they do so as neighbors moving on parallel but separate tracks.

"Like any neighbors, we have an interest in what the other does because we want to be good neighbors ... but ultimately neighbors need to work on their own timeframe and go in their own direction," Collins said. "I look at the path we're headed on and I'm not sure where it ends."

He asked that they consider his proposal at their joint study session, which has yet to be scheduled.

Both DiBrienza and Cormack briefly pushed back against his idea. The other council member on the committee, Lydia Kou, did not comment on Collins' suggestion.

"My personal opinion is it would be a shame if we end up being neighbors instead of partners," Cormack said.

Related content:

Hear Weekly journalists discuss this issue on an episode of "Behind the Headlines," now available on our YouTube channel and podcast page.

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Comments

16 people like this
Posted by Samuel L
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 12, 2019 at 1:02 pm

Samuel L is a registered user.

Wait! Do you mean to tell is that PAUSD wasn't head over heels at the city council coming up with their own plans to put housing on PAUSD owned land? Shocking.

Someone should tell Mr Dharap. He seemed to think everything was going smoothly.


12 people like this
Posted by Partnering means listening
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 12, 2019 at 3:25 pm

Partnering means listening is a registered user.

I agree with Councilwoman Cormack that this site should be developed as partners rather than as neighbors. So she should know that means the city may need to adjust its timeline and its demand for housing. Why would the school district want to use this property for housing? Dense, affordable housing can be built in many places across the city, many of which are better suited. Significant new school capacity (education, administration, recreation) can be built in one place, namely this one. Any pressing teacher housing needs are much better addressed with stipends than with teacher-only on-campus housing.


6 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Jun 13, 2019 at 1:31 am

The city needs to get moving fast on this issue. Drop the housing proposal and get cracking on the facilities to serve the groups currently being served at Cubberley.
The facility is a dump and the longer the city waits the more it will cost to redevelop. Concordia developed a great plan, and the local pols, whether it be Filseth, Kou or Cormack. Housing should not be the issue to hold it up. The city has critical, immediate needs while school enrollment is dropping. The big issue is building facilities like gyms and auditoriums that could be jointly used on school district. This is where Filseth, Kou and Cormack should be devoting their time and energy. We should see the proposal for a bond issue to pay for this thing as soon as possible. There is so much demand for this facility, I can't imagine the bond issue not passing easily unless Filseth, Kou, and Cormack create animosity with the school board.


17 people like this
Posted by We don't need housing
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 13, 2019 at 11:41 am

This is public land for everyone. It is not to be given away to house a few dozen people while taking it away for thousands. How short sited can these elected representatives be. Can't they plan and think about anything outside of a couple of years window. They seem determined to cram more and more people in here and are constantly degrading our quality of life and then to round it out are going to give away public land that we could all use in the future.

The electorate needs to stop electing growthers with no brain!


13 people like this
Posted by Wishful thinking
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 13, 2019 at 3:08 pm

No housing! Teachers are not low income - and if development continues, school buildings are needed, not housing for those who aren't low income. This is a resource for all!

It doesn't seem like Pausd is having any great retention problems either; only one full time bio/chem teacher position listed. All else are special education (hard to recruit for any district) subs and summer school and pool and attendants and coaching stipend positions. Web Link So teacher retention does not seem to be any reason to propose teacher housing. Sorry.


11 people like this
Posted by Cover-up Culture
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 13, 2019 at 3:17 pm

Teachers make more/day than the average tech worker in the Bay area, and w tenure, and better benefits. And yes, that includes Facebook and Google employees. So aside from the teacher's unions complete control of the captive school board, why would teacher housing be proposed?

Given very few real job openings, Pausd doesn't seem to have problems retaining and filling positions. As it shouldn't, since Pausd has the highest pay in the state of CA.


3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 13, 2019 at 3:33 pm

"Pausd has the highest pay in the state of CA."

Wrong. PAUSD doesn't even have the highest pay in the mid-Peninsula. MVLA high school district pays at least 5-10% higher.

And besides, since Palo Alto has one of the highest housing prices / costs of living in California, it seems appropriate they have to pay more than most.


8 people like this
Posted by Cover-up Culture
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 13, 2019 at 4:49 pm

@Resident MVLA is a high school only district. HS teachers are more qualified and sought after, and thus a HS only district would sport better overall pay.

You're comparing apples to oranges and so sorry, but you're wrong.

Glad you admit that PAUSD pays more than elsewhere. It is true.

It's not a given that teachers need/would expect to live in the same community where they work. Few employees in the work world live in the exact same city where they work. Must all employers make sure their employees live in the same city in which their employees are employed? I don't think so.

Teachers can live where they choose, and can afford, just like everyone else.


1 person likes this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 13, 2019 at 7:18 pm

@Cover-up. Since there are many, many high school only and K-8 only districts, limiting the comparison to only unified districts is irrelevant - it's like saying I am the highest-paid person who lives in an odd-numbered house. Who cares?

PAUSD is one of many high-paying districts in this high-cost area - they are neither the highest, nor the lowest. Please don't spread inaccurate information.


11 people like this
Posted by Cover-up Culture
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 13, 2019 at 8:04 pm

@Resident - Actually I'm spreading accurate information and I think people do care about the facts, especially given the PAUSD teacher's union is lobbying for public properties to be set aside or built for teacher-specific use, precluding residents' use of the land and buildings.

The facts are that on a unified school to unified school basis, PAUSD teachers are paid the highest in the state (before their most recent raise). They also have (job security) tenure after two years, and health care and benefits unmatched in the private sector. Further, on a per day basis, the average PAUSD teacher makes more than the average tech worker in the bay area, yes including facebook and google.

More knowledge can lead to a more educated decision.


9 people like this
Posted by Tenure
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 13, 2019 at 8:15 pm

Getting granted tenure after two years is way to early. Takes away the initiative to perform well. One has to “hope” the teacher will grow, perform well. Totally unlike the private sector.
I disagree with subsidizing housing for teachers. How does the bureaucracy decide the parameters for those to receive this benefit and on what terms? It’s not logical. Meanwhile, I understand housing in this entire region is over-priced. There’ll be a crash and re-set sometime - buy in then like the rest of us (with exception of overseas high-end cash buyers....)
Cubberley is a gem that needs to be considered and re-developed carefully. I can’t quite see how housing works IF one cares about logic, fairness to long-suffering taxpayers, and avoiding creating more complicated new bureaucracy that needs to somehow be administered going forward.


9 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 13, 2019 at 10:16 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

PACC is pushing an agenda which the majority of residents do not agree with. It is clear to PAUSD that any land that is hijacked by PACC will never be able to be reconstituted for an additional high school in the future. The majority of residents do not want the public land reallocated for use by a limited number of people. That is contrary to what a community center / high school is all about. The scheme for housing is so wrong and possibly illegal. Any insinuation that the residents are in favor is erroneous. Other school systems are not putting teacher housing directly on the school property - they are putting a buffer space between the school and housing so that teaches can have a private life. There are apartments and homes on the San Antonio road - residential section.


11 people like this
Posted by Jim H
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 13, 2019 at 10:45 pm

Jim H is a registered user.

PAUSD is in the business of educating the students. If someone can show data that proves that a lack of teacher housing is affecting that goal, then we should look at a way to improve that. However, I do not believe anyone has shown a correlation.
The teachers have a very powerful union that speaks for them. How about putting some of those union dues towards a housing fund or getting the union lobbyists out to Sacramento to push their agenda.

Teachers are well paid. I would guess that many of the teachers in PAUSD do not work in the summer. I doubt there are many people who can take off 2 months of the year and are still able to afford living around here.


14 people like this
Posted by Forget Housing Just Renovate
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 13, 2019 at 11:18 pm

Forget Housing Just Renovate is a registered user.

@ Cormack: "This is the time for the school district to say whether this (housing) is interesting to them," said City Councilwoman Alison Cormack.

This is the time for the Palo Alto school district, PAUSD, to inform City Councilman Alison Cormack that she doesn't run the show or own the timeline. Just because Cormack is driving this agenda (housing at Cubberly), doesn't mean all involved parties need to stand up and salute. There are many constituencies involved. Cormack might have successfully used strong arm tactics in previous positions to drive her agendas, but she'll need to learn how City Council works. City Council members cannot ramrod their agendas. Palo Alto citizens have made it clear to all City Council Members and PAUSD: housing on San Antonio is fine but we do NOT want housing on the Cubberly site. Don't let Cormack singlehandedly tank all the years of Cubberly renovation planning, consultant work, and community input that produced fabulous results. Forget this last minute housing addition at Cubberly, just renovate.


10 people like this
Posted by Listen to Residents
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 14, 2019 at 7:28 am

On the day of the city council meeting, paonline posted an article that included school board member/s clearly stating that they were not ready to deal with the Cubberly housing issues until Fall at the earliest. Todd Collins stated he wasn't certain he was in favor of any housing on school property. The article made it clear that the council was getting way ahead of itself and was referred to by several residents in their comments to council members at the meeting - to the effect, "Why are you taking this up now, when the District says it is not ready to do so. You should continue this item to a later time when your partner is prepared to discuss it".

It all fell on deaf ears but for Tanaka and Kou. But one council member stood out with an exhibit of hubris that was stunning in its magnitude -Allison Cormack. I have never seen a performance to equal it. No amount of rationality would have deterred her self-importance or her intent to push her program through. And in the end she got pretty much what she demanded from a council that seems too often to leave common sense in the back room.

And now they bemoan the lack of a "partner". Well, that's on them.



14 people like this
Posted by Council Doesn’t Listen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 14, 2019 at 7:37 am

On the day of the city council meeting, paonline posted an article that included school board member/s clearly stating that they were not ready to deal with the Cubberly housing issues until Fall at the earliest. Todd Collins stated he wasn't certain he was in favor of any housing on school property. The article made it clear that the council was getting way ahead of itself and was referred to by several residents in their comments to council members at the meeting - to the effect, "Why are you taking this up now, when the District says it is not ready to do so. You should continue this item to a later time when your partner is prepared to discuss it".

It all fell on deaf ears but for Tanaka and Kou. But one council member stood out with an exhibit of hubris that was stunning in its magnitude -Allison Cormack. I have never seen a performance to equal it. No amount of rationality would have deterred her self-importance or her intent to push her program through. And in the end she got pretty much what she demanded from a council that seems too often to leave common sense in the back room.

And now council bemoans the lack of a "partner". Well, that's on them.


2 people like this
Posted by Dishonest
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 14, 2019 at 4:51 pm

If the teachers want housing, their own pension funds can finance it as an investment opportunity. Currently calstrs requires Pausd contribute > 20% for the teachers' pensions.

Public lands are for all.


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