As Cubberley plan crumbles, city ponders land swap | February 18, 2022 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - February 18, 2022

As Cubberley plan crumbles, city ponders land swap

City Council abandons joint redevelopment with school district

by Gennady Sheyner

After watching its plan to rebuild Cubberley Community Center in a partnership with the school district go off the rails, the Palo Alto City Council on Monday agreed to pursue a new strategy for the dilapidated campus: going it alone.

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Email Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner at [email protected]


Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 15, 2022 at 7:24 am

Bystander is a registered user.

Why is it that Palo Alto is unable to get anything done efficiently. I can't remember when a thing was done in a timely manner - apart from sticking road furniture and painting green paint on our streets.

Why can we get things done for the bike brigade, but nobody else?

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 15, 2022 at 9:48 am

Online Name is a registered user.

Ms Cormack, how hard can it really be to get to Cubberly when one simply enters at the traffic light on Middlefield??

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 15, 2022 at 9:57 am

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Take a trip to the city of Campbell - visit their Community Center. It is a high school site that was closed then reimagined. The Heritage Theatre has great shows. The classroom section - similar to CHS is a Charter School. The outside grid with basketball, football, soccer fields is there for use by the community. It has great maintenance and displays good management of city assets. Did not see any housing there. Check it out for ideas of how to re-imagine CHS as a value center.

This should be a value center for the city. A police substation, a set of city meeting rooms, and of course the great playing fields used for AYSO soccer and other Palo Alto team sports. And as a school if the need should arise.

Posted by William Hitchens
a resident of Mountain View
on Feb 15, 2022 at 10:44 am

William Hitchens is a registered user.

It'd be very helpful to see just what land Palo Alto now wants to acquire and develop at the Cubberley site. Then we all could assess what impact it would have upon the School District's property, buildings, and playing fields --- as well as its impact upon the surrounding neighborhood.

a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 15, 2022 at 11:14 am

KEN HOROWITZ is a registered user.

Finally the City Council made a pro-active statement by pausing the Cubberley Concept Plan developed in 2019 because PAUSD backed out of a joint agreement to develop a master plan because they wanted to reserve twenty acres for a future school. Kudos to Council members Cormack and Burt for leading the efforts for the City to go it alone. There is a great need for a first class community center in South Palo Alto. The current conditions of the facilities of the the eight acres owned by the City which it rents to tenants are dangerous. The Council’s unanimous decision means there is a renewed hope that the City is on the right track to develop Cubberley. There is a lot the City can do with eight acres and it is my hope that the pursuit of acquiring an additional seven acres from PAUSD will not delay the timeframe of new community center at Cubberley

Posted by Bil
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 15, 2022 at 12:08 pm

Bil is a registered user.

"dirty, dilapidated, decayed and degraded." seems to be the bywords used to try and convince people to tear down and rebuild. That my be an option, however I have visited the campus several times and as a 35 year public educator, have worked in schools in worse shape than Cubberley is now. Sure, a nice, new, sparkling edifice would be nice, but a little TLC and modernization could accomplish similar things. The opinion of some being "cheaper to tear down and rebuild" may gain some traction, but there are examples of schools which have been upgraded for millions less than building anew. But what the heck it's only public monies we're talking about, and we have really deep pockets....

Posted by tmp
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 15, 2022 at 3:46 pm

tmp is a registered user.

Totally agree with Bil. The basic layout of classrooms and the open feel with the courtyards is very pleasant. What people like Cormack and her ilk want is to to develop the heck out of the site. High rises everywhere, little open space except playing fields and a give away of land to developers to build massive housing developments so that what was once public space is now private space and a loss to the community.

Fix up what is there and don't over develop. It is always worse for the environment to tear down and build new despite what the developers will tell you. Don't go overboard and over develop. Just fix it up and make it a pleasant lower-cost option of community uses.

Posted by Bystander
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 15, 2022 at 4:13 pm

Bystander is a registered user.

Mitchell Park Library was charming but in need of some work. We now have an ugly building that looks as if it was built with ticky tacky, yellow and blue Ikea looking material, weeds growing up the walls, seeing the back of the building from the street, no symmetry in the design and very noisy when children are running around the ramp style floors. If I remember, it was completely overbudget and took twice as long as it should.

If this is the best that can be done (with Cormack very involved) I dread to think of what any new Cubberley will look like.

Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 15, 2022 at 4:26 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Seconding Bystander's comments about Mitchell Park. Who in his/her/their right minds puts a child's playroom right at the bottom of the stairs so the noise from their playing echoes throughout the entire building and disturbs everyonbe?? And who approves such a plan??

Speaking of Mitchell Park Library, why is it the ONLY of our libraries to manage to escape any closures and cutbacks in hours??

I get very nervous whenever I hear the same voices talk about how shamefully run-down something is and how they need millions and millions of dollars to start all over instead of just fixing what's wrong and/or spiffing it up!

Posted by Green Gables
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 15, 2022 at 5:04 pm

Green Gables is a registered user.

Government is inefficient and ineffective; Palo Alto is no different. In fact, every resident has a different idea. How can anything get done?

Posted by muttiallen
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 15, 2022 at 5:27 pm

muttiallen is a registered user.

My husband was on a 'what to do with Cubberly' committee about 10 years ago. They came up with a plan. Since abandoned..... The cycle repeats.

Posted by JR
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 15, 2022 at 6:34 pm

JR is a registered user.

Cubberley is a perfectly good community center that is used everyday by hundreds and sometimes thousands of Palo Alto residents. The only thing "wrong" with Cubberley is that billionaire developers can't make millions of dollars with a useless re-development that has no value (or even negative value) for Palo Alto residents.

Tell the city council - HANDS OFF CUBBERLEY.

Posted by S. Underwood
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 15, 2022 at 8:24 pm

S. Underwood is a registered user.

Whether you think this is good or bad, our dear City Manager Ed Shikada is proving himself a truly incompetent manager. We spent something like $1.1 million on a "revisioning" project, first ~$800k and then another $~300k if my memory is roughly right. For nothing. Nothing nothing nothing. Ed has gotta go, and our department leaders aren't a stitch better... the sooner the better.

Posted by Local
a resident of Stanford
on Feb 15, 2022 at 9:34 pm

Local is a registered user.

I fear this will be used as a ruse to build "affordable housing" - aka housing that is sold by developers for fat profits. I really worry that given that site is worth probably $1bn to $2bn it will be impossible to keep developers money out of this - either directly, or funding lobbyists, politicians, planners etc to convert some of the space to housing/offices/retail.

Love to redevelop Cubberley if it stays 100% for the community property, but not if it's used to build more housing/offices/retail.

Posted by Citizen
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 16, 2022 at 9:33 am

Citizen is a registered user.

I appreciate people’s frustration but knowing the two entities, I don’t blame the City. The school district simply does not do win-wins. They just don’t. It’s part of the culture.

Even if it means they violate their duties under the law and leave children with lasting harms in life. At individual school sites, especially in early grades, they might. But not as children get into middle school and certainly not when it comes to the community or facilities.

I was seriously thinking about this very problem this week.Why PAUSD has that de facto perpetual revulsion in their culture to making the best of things and do win-wins. In fact, if they think a win-win might move forward without their taking at least a pound or ten of flesh, they’ll sooner shoot you and themselves in the foot, metaphorically speaking. After they gaslight you. This has been so for decades.

Council member:“ I think we all wished it would be a fruitful partnership…It seemed like it began that way, but it has fallen apart and we have very different views."

Wow, sums up my own experience with the district as a parent. (Minus the City having to deal with being gaslit and their child & family having to deal with serious consequences from the retaliation then being systematically ignored, and educational disabilities that go unaddressed into adulthood.)

Cubberly is dilapidated and was constructed in a way that makes it near impossible to remodel with reasonably healthy air quality, noise control, energy efficiency, low upkeep costs, etc. The tiles prob have asbestos in them which is only fine if nothing disturbs, like renovation.

People have good reason to fear things going wrong in a redo process but that means pay more attention, it doesn’t mean don’t fix it.

My advice to the City is figure out how you can move forward with a win-win while letting PAUSD think they are choosing the most painful least sensical option - seriously. Not sure how you do that with a public process.

Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 16, 2022 at 3:02 pm

Palo Alto Resident is a registered user.

I think it is great that the City wants to move ahead, and helpful that PAUSD seems willing to give them additional space if they need it. But I'm missing something - what else did the city want the school district to do? They don't need any new schools (enrollment has been shrinking), and they are not supposed to use their funding to build or run community centers. 5-10 years ago when this process started, everyone thought a new school would be needed; now it's obvious than it isn't. What did the city want PAUSD to do - what was the "win-win"?

Posted by MyFeelz
a resident of another community
on Feb 16, 2022 at 5:33 pm

MyFeelz is a registered user.

It seems off the charts irresponsible to spend all the money they have wasted, studying this issue., to reach this impasse.

Posted by Resident11
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 16, 2022 at 7:27 pm

Resident11 is a registered user.

To Palo Alto Resident - The City was hoping that the School District would work with them to design the whole site - reserving space for some sort of school and designing spaces that could be used by both a school and a community center (athletic facilities, multi-use rooms, dining facilities, etc). The school district didn't want to commit to any of this, even though the city was offering some open-ended planning. I think the school district has a full plate and other things to do with its money right now. The city also wants to build significant amounts of housing on the site, which may have complicated the issue. (IMO people should be aware that this effort isn't about upgrading a community center. This is about building higher-density housing on this property. The community center upgrade is the carrot. They won't do one without the other IMO.)

Posted by Palo Alto Resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 16, 2022 at 8:12 pm

Palo Alto Resident is a registered user.

@Resident11 - thank you. I'm not sure why the district (or the city) would want to "share" a gym, etc. Why wouldn't each build their own gym, etc.? I believe all the school gyms are incredibly busy, during the week days of course, and then with school sports and rentals. The site is very big - why not a gym for each?

It seems like part of the idea (maybe a big part) was that the City wanted the school district to pay for things that they might use in the future (if they ever build a school), but the city wanted now. I don't see how the district could do that - they can't spend their money on community centers. I'm not sure anyone thought this one through.

Posted by JR
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 17, 2022 at 6:58 am

JR is a registered user.

Be very cautious about anyone using words like "dilapidated" to describe the current state of Cubberley. Funny how thousands of residents use Cubberley every week for various classes, sports, exercise, etc. Someone might want to let them know they they are using a "dilapidated" facility, because they don't know or don't care?

Posted by Chris
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Feb 17, 2022 at 12:27 pm

Chris is a registered user.

Listening to Cormack talk about Cubberley makes you understand how elitists can waste millions of dollars on unnecessary "improvements"

Cubberley is tremendously functional for our community. JR is right, "The only thing "wrong" with Cubberley is that billionaire developers can't make millions of dollars with a useless re-development that has no value (or even negative value) for Palo Alto residents."

Cormack ran with significant backing from the growth machine.

Posted by Carl Jones
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 17, 2022 at 2:31 pm

Carl Jones is a registered user.

Do not - repeat DO NOT - build housing on (or sell to developers to build housing on) *any* of our publicly owned land - City or School District. Such land can essentially NEVER be reclaimed for other purposes in the future (forget imminent domain). Whereas public buildings can be re-purposed or rebuilt in the future as needs require.
Remember years ago when the school district sold 11 elementary school sites? Enrollment was diminishing so they were not needed? Then enrollment came back and portables had to be installed? Land (especially in Palo Alto) is too valuable a public resource for it to be lost to public ownership.

Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 17, 2022 at 8:15 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

WE have already torn down school sites and replaced them with two story homes. Check that box. Been there and done that. CHS is filled with older people, younger people, sports people, dancing people. It is a great community resource. No place for housing. Out a coat of paint on the buildings and make repairs where obvious.

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