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Despite delays, LASD moves forward with acquisition process for 10th site

Despite its best efforts, the Los Altos School District was unable to announce a specific location for a 10th campus at its Nov. 13 board meeting as previously anticipated.

With negotiations with buyers of transfer of development rights (TDRs) ongoing, the district extended its timeline while maintaining course.

The trouble with TDRs

The district is considering constructing a 10th campus in Mountain View to accommodate projected enrollment growth. The key to making a Mountain View site affordable is the use of TDRs, which exchange the right to develop one plot of land to another. Because school buildings would not require as much developable space as denser uses like office space, a TDR would enable the district to sell the extra space it purchases and use the funds to reduce the cost of acquiring land.

While Assistant Superintendent Randy Kenyon’s presentation to the district’s board of trustees Oct. 23 anticipated that district staff would be able to share a specific location for its proposed 10th campus by the Nov. 13 meeting, the timeline was extended to Dec. 11.

Why the delay?

“We’re in discussion with a number of different developers on the potential transfer of development rights,” Kenyon said. “It’s taking a little longer than we thought at the last meeting. We actually have a few more developers we’re talking to. … Bringing them along at the eleventh hour adds to the time involved to get all the details ironed out.”

Doing the math

While the TDR process continues to move forward, district officials did what math teachers demand of their students: do the math and show their work.

Kenyon presented the costs for two hypothetical 8-acre schools (one K-5 and the other K-8) at three different price points: $10 million, $12.5 million and $15 million per acre.

He compared the costs to two other scenarios: (1) reconfiguring Covington School so that it would house a district K-5 school and Bullis Charter School, and (2) Bullis Charter School continuing to share space on the Blach Intermediate and Egan Junior High campuses.

If district officials could acquire land at the $10 million price point, sell the associated TDRs for $74 million as anticipated and combine that with $32 million in park funds from the city of Mountain View, they would actually net $17 million. The surplus would be applied to reducing the cost of facilities construction, which is estimated at $46.4 million for a K-5 school and $70.2 million for a K-8 school.

All together, a new K-5 school would cost $29.4 million and a K-8 school would run $53 million.

The district worked with Gelfand Partners Architects to develop the estimates.

That’s the rosiest picture. On the most expensive end of the scale, buying land at $15 million per acre would boost the cost of a K-5 school to $69.4 million and a K-8 school to $93.2 million. Meanwhile, the cost of rearranging the Covington footprint was an estimated $77.7 million, and sticking to the current configuration and improving the existing campuses totaled $78.6 million.

However, the costs are still only estimates.

“These are examples,” Kenyon emphasized. “They’re not necessarily real yet.”

Moving forward with Mountain View

The district is still making progress despite the delays. In a Nov. 14 press release, district Superintendent Jeff Baier thanked the city of Mountain View for its continued partnership.

“This agreement sets off a complex process to secure a 10th site, which we are committed to working through to achieve the best outcome for LASD students and our community,” Baier said.

In addition to unveiling site options at the Dec. 11 meeting, the board plans to reconvene its 10th Site Committee to solicit recommendations. After the anticipated plan receives board approval, the district will send it to the Mountain View City Council for approval in January.

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