Foothill's Cubberley plans could net city $35 million | January 23, 2008 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - January 23, 2008

Foothill's Cubberley plans could net city $35 million

Community-college district considers purchase or long-term lease of city-owned eight acres

by Arden Pennell

New details have emerged about a possible Foothill-De Anza Community College District plan to rebuild part of Cubberley Community Center.

If the City of Palo Alto were to sell its eight-acre portion of Cubberley to the district, the deal could net $35 million, according to a City Council Finance Committee report. A lease could bring in $1.8 million per year.

The district's Board of Trustees was scheduled to hear a report from its property negotiators on Tuesday, after the Weekly's deadline. The Palo Alto City Council also planned to hear details at a public study session Tuesday night.

Early plans show a 99,500-sqaure-foot educational center — nearly double the approximately 55,000 square feet of space the district currently rents from the city as its Middlefield Campus.

Preliminary sketches depict a two-story building radiating in three wings out from a circular central atrium. The facility would house classrooms and joint-use public facilities including a dance studio, art programming space, child development center and community meeting space, City Manager Frank Benest said.

The site-plan layouts are preliminary and subject to change, he said.

All buildings on the eight acres would be torn down, but the tennis courts and fields would remain, he said.

"Our goals are to maintain community-center functions and playing fields and replace some of these dilapidated facilities," he said.

The city hasn't decided whether to sell or rent, he said. A long-term lease could last up to 25 years, he added.

Foothill district spokesperson Becky Bartindale said the district is in preliminary talks with the city and not in negotiations.

"We're committed to providing better facilities for students who want to go to Foothill in that area," Bartindale said.

Cubberley is one option, since the community college already offers classes there.

"The district would like it to be at Cubberley, but we'll look at anything" that provides the needed space, she added.

The district is currently on a year-to-year lease, she said. About 4,000 students take classes at the Middlefield Campus a quarter.

The project is designed to accommodate a 2 percent enrollment growth over 10 years, said Andy Dunn, vice chancellor of business for the college district.

The consideration of Cubberley has been in the works for nearly a year, according to Bartindale. The district's Board of Trustees approved an agreement with tBP/Architecture on March 5, 2007, to begin an assessment process at the Middlefield campus.

On Nov. 5, 2007, the board approved an agreement with tBP to do a feasibility study of the Cubberley site and to evaluate any alternative sites, as needed. tBP was asked to prepare site plans and options for building locations, parking, car and pedestrian access, and conceptual floor plans for a maximum two-story building at Cubberley, she said. The firm was also asked to evaluate any alternative sites identified by the district, including evaluating infrastructure and buildings to prepare for possible property acquisition.

Cubberley was constructed in 1955 as a high school but became a community center when the school was shut down in 1979 due to declining enrollment.

The city has owned the Cubberley land since a 2002 swap with the Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD), in which the district acquired the Terman Middle School site in exchange.

The parcel is adjacent to the Charleston Shopping Center at the northern end of Cubberley.

The city leases the other 27.45 acres from PAUSD for about $4 million a year, Benest said.

Benest initially told the Weekly the potential price hadn't been discussed, but he later confirmed the $35 million estimate that appeared in a report prepared by him and other city officials.

The construction alone would cost the college district $30 to 40 million, funded by the $490.8 million district bond Measure C passed in June 2006, Benest said.

Because bond funds are involved, the Foothill-De Anza district would either have to own the land or have a long-term lease, Bartindale said.

Current tenants of the city-owned parcel would not be displaced but rather housed in the Middlefield Campus buildings when the college vacates them after construction, Benest said.

But where tenants would go during construction of the center, before Foothill vacates its campus, is yet to be discussed, he said.

The city would have to shoulder some of the costs of building more parking lots and moving tenants from one part of Cubberley to another, but those costs haven't been calculated yet, Benest said.

If the council approves the plan, the city will hold public meetings to gather community input, Benest said. The project would take at least two and a half years to complete, including up to nine months for environmental review, he said.

Staff Writer Arden Pennell can be e-mailed at


Posted by Palo Alto Families First, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 16, 2008 at 7:32 am

City Dwellers -- do you have kids that play sports in winter? Basketball, volleyball, indoor soccer, box lacrosse?
If so you know that gym space is almost non-existent in Palo Alto. We drive to other cities to use their Community Centers. These other cities prioritize their own users first, before any other group. Their own users still pay, and pay market rates, but they have first priority over these extremely scarce resources.

We can and should do the same with Foothill College. Right now Palo Alto kids have to be driven to Menlo Park, Redwood city, Redwood Shores, all to practice their gym sports. And do you know who Foothill College has in the Cubberley Gym at prime time? the Industrial Volleyball League -- adults from all over the San Francisco bay area -- paying rock bottom lease rates to Foothill college to play there instead of our own kids. Foothill offers classes in our gyms that don't even need a gym, and yet our own kids drive all over the peninsula to rent private, for profit gym space.

Foothill also claims they don't have enough gym space at their own facility -- but right now their gyms are rented 5 days a week to a private, for-profit sports club!!

Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Redwood City, all have Community Centers with gyms reserved for city resident groups FIRST. The city groups can and WILL pay their share, so money is not the real issue here. It's good stewardship of City/taxpayer owned facilities

Please let's be smart about this. A City should not be in the Real Estate business, owning property and then leasing it for other's use. Keep this property and prioritize the acceptance of applications for rental in favor of city groups, instead of letting Foothill College decide what classes will be offered and to whom.

Posted by Lois, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 16, 2008 at 8:03 am

Palo Alto Families First, the proposal to build an extension of Foothill College at Cubberley will not touch the gymnasiums. The Foothill extension will be build on the 8 acres closest to the Charleston Shopping Center which are presently old, decaying classrooms.

Foothill does not own or rent gym facilties at Cubberley. One gym is rented by the Jewish Community Center; the other two are part of the long term lease between the School District and the City of Palo Alto.

Whether you like it or not Palo Alto owns real estate which they must manage prudently. Right now we need both library facilities and a Public Safety Building.

Posted by Bill, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 16, 2008 at 8:21 am

Go to City Hall and find out what the lease agreement is between the City and PAUSD. It may permit any organization or private citizen to rent gym space at "rock bottom rates".

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 16, 2008 at 10:30 am

My son has a basketball tournament next weekend and he has no practices this week for that tournament.

He can't practice basketball in a library or a police building.

Posted by Lois, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 16, 2008 at 11:08 am

The good news is that the Jewish Community Center will be moving out of Cubberley when their new facilities are built at Charleston and San Antonio. This will definitely free up more gym space at Cubberley.

The City will allow the Campus for Jewish Life to build higher than 50 feet. In return, as part of the mitigation agreements the TKCJL has made with the City; the city may use their new recreational facilities when they are not using them.

So, in a year or twos time more gym space will be opening up at both Cubberley and the Campus for Jewish Life. Meanwhile, good luck to your son, I hope he wins.

Posted by Bill, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 16, 2008 at 6:56 pm

Good grief, parent. Why not practice on outside courts? There are plenty in the area. And a few games of basketball are well below the importance of getting either a Public Safety Building or Library which benefit all the citizens.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 16, 2008 at 7:25 pm


Not my decision. It is up to the coaches or the league.

However, we have in the past had practices at Jordan school in the dark with car headlights.

The middle school teams do practice outside, as long as it isn't raining, but if it rains, practice is cancelled. In winter, coaches in the non-school leagues generally speaking work which means that practices have to be after it gets dark. That just about cancels outside practices during the week.

Posted by Winslow Arbenaugh, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 16, 2008 at 11:42 pm

We need that Foothill facility. Just imagine the resonances between that facility and PAUSD, for extended educational programs. This is the future!! Right now, Palo Alto is in danger of losing the Foothill deal if we don't do this right.

Posted by JW, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 17, 2008 at 6:49 am

There is a group of parents pushing to have Cubberley returned to the School District so they can open it again as a middle or high school. If Cubberley were taken back by the PAUSD they would probably sell the entire site to developers, as they threatened to do before the city saved it.

The School District has already said they will not reopen it again. No one will want to transfer their children out of Paly or Gunn to attend Cubberley. Forcing them to do so will cause huge community unrest.

The buildings are decaying rapidly. They were built in the 1950s and do not comply with current earthquake standards, so they could never be used again as a school - they must eventually be torn down.

To have Foothill come in and offer to invest $30 - $40 Million building classrooms and extending a viable Community College program to Palo Alto will be a huge asset. The School District has already said they welcome them, and hope to work with Foothill on joint programs.

And, having a newly built facility at Cubberley will prevent any possibility of developers building housing units on the site.

Posted by parent, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 17, 2008 at 10:24 am

details on increased traffic? - specifics on parking? Just about doubling the square footage of building space according to the article update.

Posted by Midtown Guy, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 17, 2008 at 4:49 pm

We'll need the Cubberley site very soon for the third high school that
we need even now. Gunn and Paly are overcrowded. Don't sell another school site and regret it.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 17, 2008 at 6:33 pm

Even if Cubberly is not reopened as a high school, it could be used as a magnet school, a combined elementary middle school, a home for all our choice programs, and so on and so forth. Don't limit it to a high school. PAUSD is growing and will need all its properties and sites. Don't let it fall out of our hands.

Posted by Lois, a resident of Midtown
on Feb 17, 2008 at 9:12 pm

Before the City and Foothill make any decision on building on the 8 acres of Cubberley that belong to the City, a full appraisal of the site will be made.

It is State law that the School District be offered an opportunity to buy the land first. So, it will be up to the School District if they want the City's 8 acres of Cubberley.

Posted by Palo Alto Families First, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 28, 2008 at 10:12 pm

Correction of mis-statement by Lois, the Foothill college HAS in fact leased the Gym A and Pavilion Gym (as well as other Cubberley space) on a long term lease with the City of Palo Alto.

I have this in writing. Palo Alto groups can only rent Gym A or the Pavilion Gym on dates and times when Foothill College has decided NOT to rent them. Sadly, they in turn can and do sub lease the space, and hold classes for any/all residents from bay are communities, while Palo Alto residents have no community center gym whatsoever. Mountain View, Redwood city, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara ALL have community gymnasiums for their community first. We are the only city on the Peninsula of any size with no priority access to a gymnasium for city dwellers.

Posted by Lois, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 1, 2008 at 8:13 am

Palo Alto Families First: There is no mis-statement, we are writing about two different locations. I was writing about the 8 acres closest to the Charleston Shopping Center which are owned by the City of Palo Alto, they are classrooms only. I wasn't writing about the gym facilities - that is a whole other issue.

The remaining 27 acres of Cubberley including the gymnasiums are leased by the City from the School District.

In other words parts of Cubberley are owned by the City and parts are leased including the gyms.

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