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Palo Alto mulls Cubberley sale again

Original post made on Jun 21, 2011

As Foothill College scours for places to expand its campus, Palo Alto officials hope the college will continue to keep Cubberley Community Center in mind. The City Council will consider its response to Foothill later this month.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, June 20, 2011, 9:21 PM

Comments (29)

Posted by Sell-It
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 21, 2011 at 6:44 am

Palo Alto can not afford to fund the wish-list of every special interest group that comes down the pike. At $5M an acre (and who knows how many millions for the buildings on the site), it's fair to say that this property is worth from $50M to $100M in the right hands. Moreover, it currently is not generating any property tax, since the land is City-owned. For every $100M in assessed value, $1+M is generated in property tax. Currently, because of directions from the City Council, the rental/lease fees negotiated with tenets are below market rate, so the Utility rate payers (and possibly the tax payers) are subsidizing the tenets--many of whom are not Palo Alto residents.

Over ten years ago, the City come up with an estimate of about $40M to refurbish this facility. No doubt that number is close to double today.

Palo Alto can not afford to own, maintain, and operate this facility at a loss, for mostly non-resident use. Yet, that is exactly what it has been doing since it gained access to the property back in 1988.

While the bulk of the property still belongs to the PAUSD, and could conceivably be re-tasked as a high school at some point, the City has no obligation to lose money on its operations in order to facilitate some future/unknown school district action.

It would be very interesting to see what kind of commercial use for which this property might prove suitable. Palo Alto's obsession with non-profits and "education" is proving very costly, as time passes.

Getting out of its position on this site would be a good idea, if Keene and Company have the skills to negotiate a reasonable price.

Posted by ArtsLover
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 21, 2011 at 10:04 am

Palo Alto is just the kind of prosperous and forward-thinking community that can afford to host these artists and philanthropists, who enrich not only our community but neighboring cities as well. I hope the City decides not to oust the tenants from Cubberley and continues to invest in the arts and community service.

Posted by Cubberley Tenant
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 21, 2011 at 11:26 am

The 8 acres in question houses all the arts groups and numerous other organizations that provide valuable services to the community. It is a fact that the arts add value to a community. Students are comprised of community members and folks from neighboring communities. A majority of whom are consumers in the immediate area (Piazza's) before and after classes, workshops and performances. Not all space is subsidized - although the space that is subsidized is a major factor in assuring that the arts can continue to be taught, displayed and shared. Selling because of financial reasons is not a good enough reason. We should really look at the impact to the community at large and what a loss this would be to the overall diversity and richness of our city.

Posted by Sell-It
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 21, 2011 at 11:32 am

> A majority of whom are consumers in the immediate area (Piazza's)
> before and after classes

Oh my, that's a huge reason for not looking at the financial implications of selling this property.

> Not all space is subsidized

Care to identify those spaces not being charged below market rates?

> We should really look at the impact to the community at large

Well .. let's start by telling us how many clients you, as a tenet, service? And then we'll consider the population as a whole (about 64,000 people).

So .. how many people do you have as clients/customers?

Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 21, 2011 at 12:05 pm

One of the other tenants in the Foothill Campus is the REACH program which serves the DISABLED community from all around the SFBA.

Is the City of Palo Alto going to kick out a working disabled REACH program?

I think the City of Palo Alto and the PAUSD will be showing it's true colors if that is allowed to happen. The Foothill Main Campus is unsuitable for housing the REACH program for obvious reasons ( Cardiac Hill, anyone? ). It's tough enough when you are almost run down by bicyclists at Cubberly, as well as the problems getting VTA transportation on time to this site.

Why add another burden to the problems of these TAXPAYING CITIZENS who use REACH on a 2Xweek basis?

OTOH, if the Foothill people purchase the chunk of land, we wouldn't just be stuck in some of the classrooms every " class " day...

The disabled need sunlight and open spaces too..

Posted by Concerned Resident
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 21, 2011 at 12:16 pm

I've mentioned this on other posts, but to remind people here...

Has City Council noticed the increase of PAUSD students? Do they not realize we are almost certainly going to need a site in a few years for another high school? We can't sell Cubberley, or at least not all of it--we need a third high school, and Cubberley is the best option.

Posted by JT
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 21, 2011 at 12:22 pm

I don't understand why the city is so anxious to sell. Seems like we should hold on to this asset in case the school district needs it again.

The Daily Post noted in this morning's edition that the city council had had closed-door meetings with Foothills over this. Why are these meetings closed? Is that legal?

City Council should ask the public, in an open hearing, what they want done with this property -- not discuss it behind closed doors!

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 21, 2011 at 12:53 pm

PAUSD owns the majority of space at Cubberley and for some reason (it might be nice to find out how and why) the City owns a small part.
PAUSD is panicking about the growth at the elementary level in our schools and in less than 10 years these students will be in high school. There is no way Gunn and Paly can take over 2400 students (the present updates are only allowing for 2400 students) and we are going to need Cubberley in some shape or form for middle and high school use.

Bottom line, is that no decision should be made on selling any of Cubberley to anyone as PAUSD is going to need it.

Palo Alto is continuing to build more homes which lead to more students. Every single school property is going to be needed to house our own K - 12 students. The City has to realise this when thinking about Cubberley, even if they are not allowed to think about it when they are approving more housing.

Posted by South PA Neighbor
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 21, 2011 at 2:28 pm

I agree 100 percent with "sell it". This is a very rundown, deteriorated and shabby bunch of buildings, loaded with asbestos, lead paint and other hazardous materials It does not comply with modern earthquake standards for schools and can never be used again for that purpose.

Meanwhile, Foothill is planning to build classrooms and lecture halls, just what the School District wants. Maybe in the future, if the School District makes an appropriate offer Foothill might be willing to sell.

I have very little sympathy for the non-profits who have been milking the City with their cheap rents for the past 27 years. They have known for a long time that Cubberley's future was anything but certain. It's time for you all to move on and find alternative accommodations to rent.

Meanwhile, the City's lease with the School District for the remaining 26 acres is up in January 2014. By then the new Mitchell Park library and Community Center will be open. It will be uneconomical for the City to continue to shell out $6. Million a year for the Cubberley lease.

I'm looking forward to Foothill's plans for the City owned 8 acres of Cubberley being implemented. They will be of great benefit to all the students of the mid-Peninsula.

Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 21, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Answering a query above (correct me if I'm wrong): PAUSD shut down Terman around 1980 and sold it to the City, which I believe has ROFR (right of first refusal) on our schools. City leased it to JCC. Oops, 20 years later too many students again, so PAUSD wanted it back and gave Palo Alto the 8-acre chunk of Cubberley in exchange for P.A. not renewing the JCC lease and letting PAUSD have Terman again. Amid much consternation.

Posted by Concerned
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 21, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Really hope the city doesn't do this and thanks to Sid for not wanting to bring this back up. As so many have observed, this community center does many good things, and if PAUSD does keep growing we'll really need the space for a third high school. PLEASE don't do anything short-sited right now!

Posted by South PA Neighbor
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 21, 2011 at 3:43 pm

Musical: The City purchased the whole of Terman (buildings and playing fields) from the School District over a period of 29 years, and paid the School District off completely. They did the School District a huge favor.

Then the School District wanted Terman back so it was agreed that the City would get 8 acres of Cubberley in exchange for the Terman buildings. The playing fields at Terman still belong to the City. Again, the City did the School District another huge favor.

Now the City has an opportunity to sell or lease long term it's 8 acres at Cubberley, and get their money out. The City is facing a difficult financial future, due to the cost of Union pensions.

Foothill College will be an excellent fit if and when the School District wants to rebuild their 26 acres of Cubberley as a middle or high school.

Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 21, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Thank you for the clarification. The site could become one big grade 9-14 campus. Two-story buildings all around. Is PAUSD paying to use "our" Terman playing fields, or just squatting?

PAUSD website states: "Palo Alto Unified School District and the City of Palo Alto are separate entities." Don't we sink or swim together? I mean doing the District a "huge favor" just increases our property values, doesn't it? Or are we just increasing District administrators' salaries? As a resident and tax-payer (and alum) I feel somewhat possessive of both entities, while Foothill/De Anza answers to a less local audience.

Back to the problem at hand, ABAG dictates we get 45% growth in households by 2035. I guess that means four-story schools. Better think carefully about the land we have.

Posted by Selling to Foothill is a BAD idea
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 21, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Dear Sell It,

Are you under the wrong impression that Foothil is building their classroms and lecture halls for PAUSD use? Wrong. They are building it for use by junior college students from all over the county. This will be a satellite campus--nothing more. Foothill is a fine institution and offers a lot to our county. However, Cubberley is the WRONG site for this use.

Here's what we will lose:
preschool and day care spaces for more than 350 children (Remember we already just lost hundreds of spaces with the closure of Peninsula Day Care)
6 (or 8--not sure) tennis courts
dance, music, and athletic programs that serve hundreds of youth and adults
art studio space
flexible community space for meetings and other uses
flexibility for PAUSD to accomodate inevitable enrollment growth

This is a monumentally BAD idea. While I appreciate that Foothill could be an asset to Palo Alto, it is FAR more important to preserve this space for its present use and future use by PAUSD. It is the ONLY potential secondary schoool site that we have left for growth. Anyone who has looked at enrollment numbers lately will tell you that it is highly probable that we will NEED it..soon. Foothill can find another location. Sunnyvale wants them. Our public schools HAVE to be in Palo Alto and this is the last site for secondary school growth.

Foothill has stated that they will need 700-1,200 parking spaces. With students in and out all day (and night), that will generate hundreds of new car trips at intersections that already are heavily congested. The site can't support the volume of traffic that intensified Foothill use plus other uses on the PAUSD side of the site will generate. This could force PAUSD to build on the playing fields in the future. (another commodity in short supply). Honestly, I wish the PAUSD and the City would get together and find a mutually beneficial solution. Stop acting like they operate separate fiefdoms. They both represent the same community. They are botyh falling down on forthright communications and leadership on this project.

PAUSD staff, quantify the 2012-2020 enrollment projections as best you can and translate that to classroom capacity needs. It would help if the public understood the problem better. BE a good partner and provide the information necessary to make well-informed decisions TOGETHER.

Posted by Bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 21, 2011 at 5:30 pm

Facts. The City owns 8 acres of the Cubberley site; the PAUSD owns the other 26 acres leased to the City at $6M/year. This lease expires in January of 2014. The present buildings on the 8 acres will require $40M to $50M to rebuild them to the required seismic codes and remove hazardous materials.

If another school is needed, the PAUSD could build on its 26 acres - 32 if the 6 acres of the PAUSD Greendell property is added. This is more than enough to build a substantial new school.

Conclusions: The city is losing a great deal of money to subsidize an unknown number of customers of the present small in size non-resident and resident tenants. The City is in difficult financial straits and can't afford to reduce police and fire personnel to support this property.

Posted by Don't Sell to Foothill
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 21, 2011 at 6:55 pm


The intensification of use here is too much for the site. The parking is inadequate. Neaby intersections can't handle it.

A lot of the 26-acres are heavily used PLAYING FIELDS which we badly need. We should not build on them. Subtract that.

Where will the city provide the Foothill's stated need for 700-1,200 surface parking spaces? (I have never known a developer to overstate parking requirements. You can be sure this is a conservative estimate.)Perhaps you'd like to offer off-site parking with bus transport from your neighborhood?

Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 21, 2011 at 11:15 pm

Sanity check. 700 surface parking spaces take, coincidently, 8 acres! There you go. Drive-in Community College.

I've scaled from the 231 slots in the 2.7 acre lot between Cubberley and Greendell. The 3.2 acres of asphalt at the Charleston Shopping Center hold 265 parking spaces, including those behind the store for employees. Extrapolating our unassailable obesity trend, I wouldn't count on packing vehicles much closer than current usage.

(My counts from Google Maps aerial photos. Your mileage may vary.)

Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 22, 2011 at 6:07 am

Parking would probably be solved as it has at De Anza College...multiple-story parking garages with PV arrays on the top level.

Posted by Don't Sell to Foothill
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2011 at 10:50 am

Parking garages cost money and Foothill doesn't have enough for that. That is why they specified surface parking paces.

Posted by KEEP Cubberley for the residents
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 22, 2011 at 11:09 am

I believe it is places like Cubberley that keep Palo Alto property values so high (up 20% since this same time last year while the rest of the country is sinking). Our budgetary problems are most likely temporary with this new high tech boom beginning. Why not look far into the future and save this property for the multitude of needs this divers community will have in the future--and it will help to keep our community diverse. I think Foothill is a great gift to this area (more Palo Alto Seniors attend this school each year than any other) but that doesn't mean that this is the right place for a satellite campus.

Keep Cubberley an exciting multi-use facility. And in response to those objecting to the below market rents-- for the condition of the buildings there, the rent is right on target. If the buildings have to be rebuilt in 10 years, then the City should discuss rents.

Posted by Don't Sell to Foothill
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2011 at 11:31 am

So much for walkable, bikeable neighborhoods. Since my teenagers were small children, we have walked and biked four or five times a week to Cubberley for infant-preschool child care (working parents NEED this--We are a special interest group?), piano lessons, dance lessons. Affordable spaces for these programs will be GONE.

If this were Lucie Stern, they wouldn't be considering it. They have NO CLUE what they are doing to this part of town--adding tons of housing, dumping traffic on us, and reducing services.

To Crescent Park Dad. Your multi-story parking facility solution (even if it were financially feasible) won't solve the problem of auto congestion.

Once again, our south Palo Alto tax dollars are diverted north. Thanks, City Council.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 22, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Please don't confuse my comment as one that would support the sale to Foothill-De Anza. I'm just pointing out what would probably happen if the JC district does purchase the property...which, I would imagine, create even greater concern over traffic and density.

I'm sure Foothill would start with a surface lot - then, after the sale, would propose a garage well after the property has been converted to a JC campus.

If I lived in that area of town, I would be very wary of this situation.

And an open comment/question to those who want Cubberly to stay focused on non-profits and other programs:

What are you going to do when PAUSD elects to re-open the high school? You have to know that it's going to happen...and you shouldn't expect the city or PAUSD to supplement your rent for wherever you move to.

Time to put together your contingency plans - it is only a matter of 2-3 years.

Posted by Don't Sell
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2011 at 5:07 pm

Crescent Park Dad,

We are one big happy community. WE all need Cubberley. It is OUR city's largest community center. It provides tennis courts, dance studies, child care, playing fields for all of us. When your middle and high schools overflow, you'll be grateful that Cubberley is there to pick up the growing student population so that existing sites aren't overrdeveloped and over run by traffic. (Oh wait...That's already happening.)

Read the district enrollment projections. Our misery is YOUR misery. Our quality of life connects to yours around this center. Show up Monday and speak your mind. Or not...and then live with diminished quality of life. You decide.

Posted by scared
a resident of Southgate
on Jun 22, 2011 at 8:28 pm

Cre park dad,do not be scared,make up your mind,stand up for yourself.

Posted by Old Palo Alto
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 22, 2011 at 11:01 pm

Instead of selling fee simple, why not sell a ground lease. Stanford is brilliant in doing this. Give the lessee 25-50 years to develop and use the property, then either re lease or take it back at the end.

Posted by Sally
a resident of Ventura
on Jun 23, 2011 at 12:02 am

To "Old Palo Alto": Why would it benefit the residents of Palo Alto to sell a ground lease for Cubberley. City would get rental income but lose the ability to use the facilities and land for the lifetime of our children. Don't sell our assets or lease them for our children's lifetimes to balance this year's budget deficit.

Keep Cuberley open and available for use by the residents. Once it's gone, there's no getting it back.

Posted by goneforever
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 23, 2011 at 12:20 am

If it is meant to be gone forever,then let it be.

Posted by Sell-It
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 23, 2011 at 9:42 am

> Are you under the wrong impression that Foothil is building their
> classroms and lecture halls for PAUSD use? Wrong

Can not imagine how anyone could read this in original posting. Nothing like this was said, or implied. (No doubt this poster is another product of the PAUSD "reading for comprehension" program?)

> What we'll lose--

> 6 (or 8--not sure) tennis courts

Who cares. There is more than enough space at Mitchell Park to add 6-8 additional courts. These courts could also be moved on the PAUSD side of the property line.

> dance, music, and athletic programs that serve hundreds
> of youth and adults

Really? And how many of these "hundreds" are actual Palo Alto residents, and how many are non-residents?

> art studio space

Again, space leased to many non-residents at a great loss to the taxpayers. The residents of Palo Alto derive nothing of value from giving away this community space.

> flexible community space for meetings and other uses

Might be interesting to see how many community groups actually use this space. Remember too, that the Measure-N "community center" will offer a large number of rooms, just a block away. In addition, there is the JCC (whose supporters claimed that the JCC was a "community center"), and all of the space in the PAUSD school sites, which comes to dozens and dozens of rooms, paid for by the public, that sit idle most of the time.

> flexibility for PAUSD to accomodate inevitable enrollment growth

The PAUSD has the "right of eminent domain". Not clear how a land seizure by the PAUSD would play out against the Community College District. Moreover, there is more than enough room on the two existing high school campuses to handle any likely increase in enrollment.

Getting out of the Cubberley site would be a very good idea, if the City can negotiate a good price, and doesn't use the money to pay higher salaries.

Posted by Haideh Tabrizi
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 23, 2011 at 10:31 am

Good Neighbor Montessori has been serving Palo Alto's young children since 1986. GNM has been at the Cubberley Community Center since 1992.
For the past 25 years, we have searched very hard to find an appropriate and safe location for our school to buy. It seems that most neighborhoods are not friendly to having children next door, or the use permit is extremely difficult or impossible to obtain through the City. Or the Commercial locations are just not appropriate for young children, even though the use permit is obtainable.

I understand that The C.C.C. is getting old and needs a face lift, and I also understand that the City does not have the funds to repair. However how about to ask the buyer to provide a space for us to operate, since the use permit is allowed at this location. This is a great location for our young parents who are looking for a safe environment for their loved ones.

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