After some uncertainty about the future of the Palo Alto school district's lease of Cubberley Community Center to the city, it appears that the two agencies are headed toward a five-year extension of the soon-to-expire agreement.
Superintendent Don Austin presented the proposed lease terms to the Board of Education on Tuesday night. He and his staff met with City Manager Ed Shikada and city staff to negotiate the lease last week. The terms of the lease are not final, but the school board expressed support for most of them. The City Council discussed the lease in closed session on Monday but did not make any public announcements.
The lease offer lays out a multiyear timeline for redeveloping Cubberley, the pace of which has frustrated the city as the district feels less urgency to rebuild its 27 acres at the Middlefield Road site. Under the offer, the board and city are to accept a master plan for Cubberley by next summer.
The proposed agreement runs from January 2020 through Dec. 21, 2024. If approved, the city would by December 2020 complete an infrastructure assessment of the aging community center and an "implementation plan for near-term and long-term development." By the following December, the city would finish a conceptual design for an initial phase of building improvements.
The city has requested that by December 2021, the district decide whether it wants to build housing at 525 San Antonio Road, which is adjacent to Cubberley but not technically included in the master plan for the site. If the district wants to build housing there, it must submit an application to the city by that time.
By the end of 2022, the two agencies would discuss sharing the cost of identified infrastructure improvements and agree on adjusting the dividing lines of their acreage if necessary to accommodate renovations.
Other terms of the lease include forming by January an ad hoc committee, made up of district and city representatives, to discuss shared use facilities, cost sharing for improvements, phasing for development of Cubberley and other issues. As proposed, the committee would consist of two board members, two City Council members, the superintendent or a designee and the city manager or designee.
The tentative agreement continues the city's current payment rate but removes a 3% cost-of-living escalator clause that accounted for about $150,000 per year. The city will also continue to receive $1.8 million annually to fund capital improvements at Cubberley. Austin said he will bring to the next board meeting a report on what these improvements have included.
By January, the district and city hope to negotiate a separate lease for child care sites at Cubberley.
The sole lease term board members objected to was a proposal from the city to hold a joint meeting of the City Council and school board by December. They repeated concerns that without a clear goal or outcome, it would be unproductive to bring together the two bodies in a public setting. Only board member Shounak Dharap said he would still like to have a joint meeting in the future.
Otherwise, board members were supportive of the proposed lease and lauded Austin for coming to a tentative agreement with city staff.
"The uncertainty was frankly the biggest concern I had," Vice President Todd Collins said. "This gives us a great deal of certainty so that's really good."
Austin said he planned to take the board's comments back to the city on Wednesday and would move forward with next steps to finalize the agreement.
In other business Tuesday, the board also discussed renewing its parcel tax, which expires in 2021. Voters last approved an extension of the parcel tax in 2015, with an increase of $120 per parcel. The district could put a measure on the ballot in either 2020 or 2021.