The Los Altos City Council has offered to discuss two potential options for a new school site with the Los Altos School District – neither of them Hillview Community Center.
The council last week unanimously approved a letter to the district signaling its willingness to work collaboratively on identifying a school site on city land. The letter specifically outlined two options councilmembers noted as open for further discussion: the 5-acre Rosita Park site and a combination of McKenzie Park and the city’s Maintenance Service Center that totals nearly 7 acres.
Noticeably absent from the list was Hillview, a popular site option favored by several Los Altos School District supporters. Mayor Megan Satterlee, however, said the options presented in the letter offer a way to balance “the needs of land for a school and the needs for the city to provide programs and services” as the city continues to develop an updated Civic Center Master Plan this year to replace the aging community-center facility.
“Reducing our already limited park and recreational facilities that serve all residents is not ideal,” stated the draft copy of the letter addressed to the district’s board of trustees. “However, if we are to pursue repurposing one location, the sites we have identified for discussion will afford us the best opportunity to meet the changing recreational needs and desires of all residents.”
Satterlee added that the letter offers to address the “primary problem” of ongoing discord between the district and Bullis Charter School over long-term school facilities. Although the letter does not include any preconditions, she said it’s her “firm” expectation that for the city to grant the use of public land for a school, a long-term facilities solution must be in place between the district and charter school as well.
“Land seems to be one of the barriers to a solution, and so we as a city are offering to partner on two potential options when LASD’s school board is ready to have that conversation with us,” Satterlee said.
Keeping options open
Still, a handful of residents urged the council to consider additional city land options – including Hillview – to help alleviate the district’s growing needs.
Los Altos resident Natalie Elefant suggested a shared-use agreement between the city and the district on a new multiuse facility to replace the current community center.
“I implore the council to consider a property that once was a school site – Hillview,” she said.
Huttlinger Alliance for Education President Elena Shea echoed many of Elefant’s sentiments and asked the council “to include more properties in the city of Los Altos to be considered” in future discussions with the district.
“I think it’s an opportunity to continue these conversations without limits to see what we can come up with,” Shea said.
Tammy Logan, president of the Los Altos School District board, wasn’t available for comment on the matter. However, Trustee Doug Smith told the Town Crier via email that the board is “serious about working with the city on a potential site, and hopes that all parties come to the table without any particular preconditions.”
Smith added that while it was premature to comment on the matter further because the board has not had the chance to discuss the letter as a group, any future remedies will require creative thinking.
“The easy answers have all been explored, so we’re going to have to think outside the box no matter what solution we eventually reach,” he said. “We look forward to fruitful discussions to develop a solution all parties can support.”