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Cubberley still an option for Foothill expansion

Original post made on Jun 28, 2011

Faced with conflicting arguments and clashing priorities, Palo Alto officials defied dozens of citizens Monday night and decided to keep Cubberley Community Center in the running as a possible site for an expanded Foothill College.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, June 28, 2011, 12:31 AM

Comments (28)

Posted by Losing status
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 28, 2011 at 12:54 am

Sad to see Palo Alto going downhill; it's really not much of a relevant place, not anymore. The schools are still great, but they're not the greatest; culture is so-so; and there's really not much going on in the tech sector here, except for the occasional high profile company (like Facebook) that decides to settle here, for a while. I see this place turning into a kind of retirement community in 20 years or so; the pizzazz just ain't here anymore - it's moved on.

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 28, 2011 at 7:54 am

I wish the school district and city council would stop behaving like a couple of siblings. It is time they realised that it is only bookkeeping that keeps them as separate entities. They should be working together hand in glove on this issue.

The City Council and PAUSD both work for us, the Palo Alto residents, they live in the same city and have kids in the same schools. If any of the individuals can't see the school enrollment from added housing, they are blind.

Posted by Jean Wilcox
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 28, 2011 at 8:00 am

Ironically, the City had very few option here. Cubberley is a sadly deteriorated facility which contains asbestos, lead paint and other hazardous materials, plus it does not comply with modern earthquake standards especially for schools. It would cost many millions of dollars to bring up code. It will be cheaper to tear it down and start again.

Many have argued that the PAUSD may need the land in the future. The remaining 27 acres is larger than Paly and when you combine it with the Greendell site the School District still has 33 acres, two acres less than the entire 35 acres Cubberley site.

The proposed new Foothill Educational Center proposed for the site will be a huge asset to south Palo Alto and provide us with another excellent opportunity for all it's residents to expand our college opportunities within the City's limits.

Meanwhile, south Palo Alto moves on. By 2012 a beautiful new library and community center will be opened just two block away at Mitchell Park. I have to believe the opening of this beautiful new facility played a part in Council's thinking. It is not like Cubberley is going away without a brand new community center replacement.

I realize many tenants, who have provided the City with some excellent community services, will have to relocate. There is nothing in life more certain than change and I hope many of them can be relocated nearby.

I have mixed feelings about this decision but life moves on and I hope South Palo Alto will welcome a new and revitalized Foothill Educational Center along with out brand new library and community center in Mitchell Park.

Posted by Sell-It
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 28, 2011 at 8:22 am

> Cobb said selling the land would "greatly compromise city services .."

As a former mayor, this comment by Mike Cobb shows little understanding of the finances of the City, or the fact that Cubberley Center is more likely a cost center, rather than a profit center, for the City's General Fund. But more to the point, in 1988, the City convinced the voters to pass a Utility User's Tax, to pay for the lease on the Cubberley Center. In the beginning, the revenues for this tax generated about $.5M more than the cost of the lease, which was around $4.0M/year. Over time, the lease fee has grown to about $6.5M/year (cost-of-living factors), and the Utility Tax revenues have grown to about $11.5M. The City Council has always directed that the space in the Center be rented a sub-market rates, meaning that it was never able to generate as much money as it could have. The money generated by the Center has not been targeted for Center maintenance, or refurbishment. Nonetheless, the City has done some maintenance on the Center--but anyone who visits it sees it is in dire need of refurbishment.

Cobb either knows these facts, or he is incredibly clueless. Moreover, if the City were to sell the property, then the Utility User's Tax would not cease to exist, as it was passed "in perpetuity". With the Cubberley lease no longer coming out of the UUT proceeds, the City would actually have $6.5M more to spend on increasing the salaries/benefits of its employees. (Cobb seems also clueless about the $550M [or more] in infrastructure backlog, which has grown over the years as he, Wheller, and others, have favored "services" over responsible, mature, management of the City's infrastructure, and assets.

Missing from this discussion on the Part of the Council, is what to do with the funds that a sale might generate. Will this money go into the General Fund, and disappear in salaries (like the PAUSD did with the funds it received for the school properties it sold in the 1980s), or will it create Reserve Funds for needed infrastructure projects and deposit this money safely away for future infrastructure projects?

Posted by George Browning
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 28, 2011 at 9:24 am

Members of the council said that any discussions with Foothill would have to have the PAUSD as a participant. Not only does the PAUSD have the right of first refusal if the Center is to change hands, but the two have a common interest in maximizing the educational opportunities for all students.

A resident mentioned that dance and art groups, etc. who use the site total about 350. This is about the same number of users of the nearby Palo Alto Day Care Center which has closed its doors. Could the City and the PAUSD work out a deal to buy that property and use it to relocate those who may lose their quarters in the Center?

Sending a Letter of Interest to Foothill does not commit the City in any way. But it does keep the door open to rebuilding the present decaying, unsafe infrastructure for the benefit of all. Certainly the City does not have the funds to repair let alone replace the buildings.

Posted by eric
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 28, 2011 at 9:30 am

Selling assets to address short term budget issues INSTEAD of making hard long term decisions is just dumb.

Posted by Sarah
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 28, 2011 at 9:35 am

I was there last night. I personally think the city council made up their mind to sell before having the meeting despite the majority of the opponents spoke up. It's a waste of time for this meeting. They can have another close meeting instead.

Council men and women: stop pretending you want to listen from public. Open your mind to listen.

Palo Alto Staff: Change your attitude, you are so ignorant. Work more and talk less. Thank you.

Posted by Furious
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 28, 2011 at 9:58 am

How can the Council be so tone-deaf to what residents want? The nonprofits in Cubberly will NOT find another home in the new Mitchell Park community center. And making another high school is going to be difficult enough without losing a huge chunk of the land. The city is acting like its residents who have school children are irrelevant. If you're a kinder or first grade parent, and enrollment keeps growing at the current rate, the high school population is going to be FAR larger than can be accommodated at Paly and Gunn by the time your kids hit that age. WHY would we jeopardize two of the finest high schools in the state (and the country!) for short-term revenue gain? It's insane and SO short-sighted.

I am disgusted and furious that the City Council is behaving so arrogantly. Larry Klein's tone-deaf comment perfectly encapsulates how little the Council cares about the opinion of its residents. Shame on those who voted yes!

Posted by Shame on you
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 28, 2011 at 10:33 am

It was my first time attending the city meeting. I wanted to support my girl's dance school in cubberley. I'm very disappointed in our city work. In the past, when people told me how inefficient and wasteful is the public sector. I didn't believe it until last night. Before discussing the cubberley issue, they discussed a topic in green waste. For a $10k over surplus, they spent so much time on it. And a lot of ideas are nonsense. The city workers are so arrogant. They refused to take extra steps. Of course, the cubberley decision is a disaster. Shame on council people who didn't listen to public. Shame on public workers, you don't deserve the jobs.

Posted by Neighbor
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 28, 2011 at 10:39 am

The number of people who use the cultural and childcare facilities don't number in the hundreds, they number in the thousands.

There is no other place in town that has similar room and is bikable/ walkable.

The childcare is vital city services; the cultural offerings speak to this city as a place that nurtures more than book learning.

What is city council thinking?

Posted by Frank
a resident of Ventura
on Jun 28, 2011 at 11:24 am

Some random thoughts:

Just because a city council meeting is packed with folks who are all on one side of an issue does not mean that's what's best for the city - or even that's what most residents would want. Council members must be able to vote as they see fit.

Thousands of people may use Cubberley now but thousands would use it if it were to become a new Foothill campus. Both of these groups are local residents with valid interests - there are even some who are in both groups.

There might not be room at New Mitchel Park Center (probably won't be) for all of the current residents displaced should the City sell. But there are other locations available. I think it's the cheap rent that the current residents would miss most.

If the PAUSD needs this space for a new High School the current residents of Cubberley will have to relocate anyway.

If you go to Cubberley, Gunn, Pally, Foothill, Lucy Stern, Ventura community center - during the weekday or weekend they are all busy; full of people. I wouldn't say we had too many resources dedicated to public use.

Posted by A resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 28, 2011 at 11:28 am

Why is it that only 40 people reportedly came to this meeting, and yet, comments on this blog refer to "what residents want"? How many people live in Palo Alto? How many people were at that meeting?

Seems to me as if most Palo Alto residents are either in agreement with this council decision, or they just don't care what happens, as they're older, and they do not have children that would be affected by either a public school or a college. 40 people are upset by council's 6-3 decision enough to speak up? Not many.

I agree with "Sell-it" that of utmost importance is what council plans to do with the money. Employee retirement plans?

Posted by The Future Lies Ahead
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 28, 2011 at 11:29 am

Instead of pitting the competing interests against each other, let's find a way to create a new Cubberly center that can accommodate Palo Alto schools, cultural and non-profit spaces, and child care, as well as a Foothill campus.

With all the brainpower in Palo Alto, we should be able to make this happen.

Posted by Marc Marasco
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 28, 2011 at 11:47 am

Hi everyone, as a concerned Greenmeadows citizen and proud new father, I attended this meeting from 6-12:30 last night.

I was disappointed in the outcome. It seemed like the city council members made up their mind long before long before this open public meeting took place.

The majority of the public's outcry was focused on 3 issues:

(1) The various non-profits, dance studios, and daycares have been a benefit to the community for decades servicing thousands of residents. Many would not survive the hardship of relocation.

(2) The Palo Alto schools are becoming overcrowded and we will need the entire Cubberly campus in the future for a middle school or high school. In the past, Palo Alto sold off closed schools and we are now worse off because of this. Roughly 40% of the city income comes from property taxes and permits. People move to palo alto for the excellent k-12 public education, not for the proximity to community colleges. It makes bad business sense to limit our future options by breaking up this campus and selling part of it (the truth is that if you take the fields and parking lots into account, foothill wants to buy approximately half the building space).

(3) Considering phases 1 and 2 of the Foothill plan, the project is too large for the space. Parking and traffic congestion on middlefield, hamilton, and san antonio is already overloaded. the required parking spaces will have a spillover effect into the community. The neighboring greenmeadows community which is already a historic society of with a one story overlay will be negatively impacted by the change.

Proponents of the letter of intent were in the minority. However they argued that:

(a) Foothill is an important part of the community and residents would benefit greatly from its services.

(b) Cubberly is not currently making money and is in need of repair ($15m over 10 years).

To me, the entire debate should be centered around point (2). Palo Alto has already sold off the majority of its public real estate and young families are moving into the city at a growing rate. Our public servants (both from the city and the school district) should work together to ensure that we make the right long term decision. Selling off pieces of this property for short term gain is incredibly short sighted and I will be very disappointed in our city governance if this goes through.

Posted by Who wants to sell
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 28, 2011 at 12:01 pm

Talking about the council as though it was a monolithic body is wrong. The vote was 6-3 with Klein leading the way to sell the property, and Espinosa, Sharff, Yeh, Price and Shepherd following his lead. The city manager seemed intent on selling too.
But not everyone wants to sell:
"After a lengthy debate stretching well past midnight, the council voted 6-3, with councilmembers Greg Schmid, Karen Holman and Pat Burt dissenting,"

Posted by Marc Marasco
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Jun 28, 2011 at 1:31 pm

Agreed. Schmid and Holman seemed against selling. Burt thought it wasn't feasible for Foothill.

Posted by the_punnisher
a resident of Mountain View
on Jun 28, 2011 at 2:21 pm

I'll speak for the people without a voice, the people Palo Alto would rather IGNORE and SWEEP UNDER THE RUG...

That is, of course, the handicapped and disabled part of the SFBA community and the REACH program that is in the Cubberly Campus of Foothill College.

I'm one of the lucky " graduates " of the REACH program; I can still talk and use a computer. Many are not as fortunate as I and cannot speak for themselves...

The disabled population is not going to get smaller, especially as Palo Alto homeowners age. That means that MORE facilities will be needed by the REACH program, not just the small wing at Cubberly.

The REACH program can rebuild lives and keep people out of costly ( for the patient and community ) assisted living, or even the warehouse communities ( yes you have them, I've been there ) for the elderly in YOUR community...

Selling the campus to Foothill College is a win-win scenario for PA. It will get the needed improvements to update the buildings, and support USEFUL public education needs.

( for the dance crowd that " I will only be a minute " is parking in the HANDICAPPED SPOTS..set up your training and room use with Foothill College, or get together and BUY that vacated daycare space...YES, there is a handicapped PERMIT setup by Foothill College due to the abuse of handicapped spaces...)

Or would the PA residents rather not see or hear the scooters, wheelchairs and canes of the disabled? That may be in YOUR future and PA had better be prepared for it....

Posted by svatoid
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 28, 2011 at 2:29 pm

'Parking and traffic congestion on middlefield, hamilton, and san antonio is already overloaded. the required parking spaces will have a spillover effect into the community. The neighboring greenmeadows community which is already a historic society of with a one story overlay will be negatively impacted by the change."

You see, anytime anyone proposes a change to the status quo, we hear the usual claims--too much traffic, not enough parking and a negative impact on some place.

Posted by Who wants to sell
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 28, 2011 at 2:47 pm

And immediate scorn from people who want more and more and bigger and bigger.
The reason you hear the usual claims of too much traffic and not enough parking is because they are TRUE. Just because you don't care doesn't make the claims untrue.

Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 28, 2011 at 3:38 pm

Cubberley is run down, definitely needs a teardown, but is in a great location. It's time to re-tool the place. I think Foothill would do an outstanding job remaking the place and they are motivated to take action, which is worth something in this challenging city (think Alma Plaza and Edgewood Plaza eyesores), and IF city council is in agreement, perhaps that means change could occur more quickly than usual?!
About PAUSD and the potential need for a 3rd HS, I have tended to feel Cubberley could be the place for this (logical, right?)but the Board of Education will be off this summer and moves at a snail's pace in terms of discussions and decisions, so unless you want to continue the decline (and asebestos etc.) for some indefinite period at the current Cubberley center, perhaps it's best to move on and let Foothill get going on a new facility that indeed WILL serve many community needs. Sorry for being practical.

Posted by Where's the plan?
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 28, 2011 at 3:58 pm

I am so disappointed that our city and PAUSD staff have had TWO years to think about this, and the staff report indicated NO significant thinking about the feasibility of the project, no long-term strategy for community service or school district growth. Not even new information that was requested TWO years ago--they STILL cannot answer simple questions about traffic and parking management.

They have been discussing this behind closed doors ad nauseum and then they bring it to the public with decisons already made by a majority of Council. They wonder why people are frustrated?

The school district is no better. Where is the plan for long-term enrollment growth? Work TOGETHER. We cannot afford the luxury of finger-pointing between the city and school district.

Posted by jb
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 29, 2011 at 9:58 am

I am late to the conversation and what I say may not mean much, but here goes.

Palo Alto Unified Schools are in the grip of declining income. Not as bad as a lot of the state, but declining. While we do have some bond money for current projects, there is probably not the money to commit to renovating Cubberley.

50 or 60 years ago, before a lot of today's parents were even born Palo Alto had a Schools Superintendent who thought that elementary schools worked best when they were small—no more than 250 children per schools. He also thought that all children should be able to walk to school and walk home for lunch every day. (That's why we have no cafeterias or lunch rooms in today's schools.) The district was in a huge period of building from the '50's to provide these schools. The district was in a huge growth period and we had lots of schools. Boomer families. Tiny houses and many more children than we have now in town. They shared bedrooms.

The hippie period arrived and the influence of Paul Erlich's Population Explosion in the late '60s and '70s. People didn't marry as young or have as many children. The influx of large companies stablized, and the population of children in Palo Alto fell.

The school district began to feel overextended and decided to sell schools. If you live in a large newish house in close proximity to Seale Park, Ramos Park or Hoover Park, you may be living on what used to be a school property. Many thought the sales were too many too fast. Others thought the proceeds should have been put into a trust fund, not used for regular expenses. A few people worried that birth rates would rise and the economy would change. But school district history played iteself out otherwise.

Now we are desperately seeking school space. But space is in short supply and we have no schools property trust fund from which to draw funds. Plus, the City of Palo Alto is running out of space and money. The pressure is on. But we shouldn't be making those mistakes again. Selling Cubberley is one of those mistakes. Quality schools are in short supply and families will do what they can to get into good schools.

For many families I have known, the family strategy has been to buy into Palo Alto whatever it takes and save whatever they can for college. Then when children start going to college, pay the first child from savings and loans. Then finance the repayments of loans and the final child's education from the proceeds of the sale of the Palo Alto house.

People move to Palo Alto for schools, not jobs, and our school growth will wobble upward as long as we maintain good schools.

Posted by high school parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 29, 2011 at 10:19 am

We should look at the declining funding and low availability of classes at our CSU and UC's when we discuss whether Foothill campus in Palo Alto is a large part of the community. It could be a very large part in the future. Orientation programs at our public four-year institutions are announcing that to graduate in four years students should seriously taking any impacted at a Community College or online.

Posted by jb
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 29, 2011 at 12:03 pm

For people who don't have children Foothill seems like a good deal for the community. We get money and they stay here with programs adults can use.

In the '70s, however, Palo Alto closed 12 !!, yes 12 schools, and we are now feeling that loss.

There were years when Palo Alto only needed 1 or 2 middle schools.

Jordan Middle school was closed for a while and kept as a community center. My daughter entered the first graduating class when it reopened.

Terman was closed at the same time for much longer and likewise used as a community center housing the Jewish Community Center for years.

Cubberley was a high school through the '70s ALONG WITH Gunn and Palo Alto High Schools.

We are now thinking about using Garland and Greendell schools because we still have access to them. Gunn and Paly are stuffed to the gills.

I don't think Palo Alto can consider permanently relinquishing any more school space. As long as we want good community schools, people will want to join our community.

People who only want status housing without the added perk of great schools, those people buy in Atherton and Los Altos Hills.

Posted by Is Palo Alto for Sale?
a resident of Professorville
on Jun 29, 2011 at 12:17 pm

During the Council meeting, Larry Klein stated "The community can not be a land bank at it's cost."

What is a land bank? A land bank happens when the government acquires, manages, and repurposes vacant and foreclosed buildings.

The NY Federal Reserve has a great article about land banking.
Web Link

Why does Klein see City ownership of Cubberley Community Center as a land bank? Does he really think it is a vacant building that has gone through foreclosure? Does he not know that it is fully occupied and functions as a Community Center? Does he not understand that it is a success story as a public-private partnership where numerous entities provide the community with daycare, education, arts, dance, gathering spaces, playing fields, tennis courts, etc?

Why does Klein place no value on the benefits that Palo Alto derives from the community services at Cubberley Community Center?

Is Lucie Stern Community Center a land bank? Is City Hall a land bank? Are the libraries land banks? They all require significant capital investment over the long term and they all have deferred maintenance expenses. If someone were to offer to buy Lucie Stern, City Hall or a library, would Larry Klein want to sell them? Would City Council want to sell them?

Is Palo Alto for sale?

Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 29, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Money is, of course, the ugly word when it comes to this situation.

1. PAUSD is not in the real estate business, but in the education business. Income from the city from the lease should not be squandered away. If this money is not put into a trust fund for purpose of possible upgrades to the facility then it should be doing that now together with developers and homeowners school impact fees.

2. It is not fair on businesses when they are competing against those that have reduced rents at Cubberley. It is time to start increasing the rents to at least realistic levels for places that are charging for their services. Many of the services at Cubberley are competing against businesses which have to pay market rates, whether they are childcare, arts or sporting classes.

Rents and Lease incomes must be used as the primary fund for future upgrade and maintenance of Cubberley. It is wrong to expect Palo Alto residents to pay yet again for squandering of Palo Alto assets. Palo Alto residents are not happy about being the fund for all city projects, particularly when we have to shop outside our city for regular household needs and give our sales tax dollars to better the facilities in our neighboring cities rather than our own.

Posted by Jean Wilcox
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 29, 2011 at 2:40 pm

Now that the School Board has stated that they don't want the City's 8 acres at Cubberley sold to Foothill College - what's next?

Does the School District have the money to re-purchase those 8 acres from the City? Probably not.

Then what. Way back when the School District was negotiating with the City for return of the Terman site (which belonged to the City), the City asked for 8 acres of playing fields at Cubberley. The School District said "no" they wanted to keep the playing fields, the City settled for the present 8 acres with old buildings on it.

This was a mistake on the part of the then School Board. Playing fields cannot be sold off by the City or anyone else as they are dedicated open space.

Over time the City has demonstrated that they are excellent stewards of playing fields. For example they still own and look after the playing fields at Terman.

If the City's 8 acres are not sold to Foothill; hopefully the City and School Board will get together and renegotiate the 8 acres so the City can swap the their 8 acres for 8 acres of playing fields, which they wanted originally anyway.

At the same time the terms of the lease agreement for the remaining 27 acres which expires at the end of December, 2013 needs to be renegotiated. This acreage needs to be returned to the School District so the City is off the hook for the $4.M they pay each year for Cubberley's 27 acres.

When the lease agreement expires it is unlikely that the City will have the money for the Cubberley lease anyway. If the School District wants to keep Cubberley they should be prepared to look after it, and decide long term what they want to do with the site.

Posted by Losing Status
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 29, 2011 at 7:02 pm

Guess what? If PAUSD is on the ball, there will be need to expand to new spaces. Build UP on current school site. Also, it's clear that high school programs are going to get shorter. Already, 8 states have programs permitting qualifying juniors to start college at a community college. What PERFECT fit the Foothill College use would be as trends like this develop. What about online education. Already, companies like are educating or supplementing the educations of thousands of kids, and doing it as well as or better than physical schools, or in cooperation with physical schools.

I wrote earlier about the lack of social innovation in Palo Alto. This city has become very staid. Would some of the Foothill lessees like space? How about freeing up dormant space in the *current schools*. Just walk on campus at any PAUSD school after 5PM, or during the summer. What do you see? Mostly unused space.

A former PAUSD Superintendent (who will go unnamed) buried a consultant's report (the Consultant cost $30K) showing that (among other things) PAUSD would profit from the deployment of a development officer to help leverage unused space for revenue. That Superintendent told me it would have been "outside his comfort zone" to engage that idea.

Refusing to jump on the opportunity to formally integrate operations even closer with PAUSD is like looking a gift horse in the mouth and saying "no thanks". Again, do all those who are talking about the future need for PAUSD space even beginning to think about building UP, or how *current* innovative developments in other states will SOON begin to impact our local educational scene?

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