LASD zeroes in on 10th site, but landowners raise objections

Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
The Los Altos School District’s 10th Site Committee recommended a site that includes the Old Mill Office Center, above, on San Antonio Circle, along with a strip mall and former Safeway on California Street as the ideal site to build a 10th campus.

The Los Altos School District’s 10th Site Committee identified a potential site for a 10th school campus – near the northeastern corner of California Street and San Antonio Road in Mountain View. But the attorney representing that property’s owners raised objections at the district’s board meeting Dec. 11.

Norman Matteoni, founder of Matteoni, O’Laughlin & Hechtman, told district trustees that the Old Mill/Safeway site belongs to two owners who are unwilling to sell the land.

“The owners of the site asked me to come here tonight to tell you that they are not willing sellers,” Matteoni said.

According to Matteoni, the owners have negotiated a long-term lease with a developer who has spent “substantial money” on a specific development plan for the site that will generate income for the two families for up to 95 years.

“They do not think the school district can afford the cost of what they can get for certain in the private sector,” he added.

Matteoni also warned that the owners of the site would rather undergo a lengthy litigation process than give in and sell the land to the district.

Matteoni later told the Town Crier that he would suggest the district pursue an alternative site.

Should the school district invoke eminent domain – the right of the government to take private property for public use – it would turn into a lawsuit, Matteoni said, and this type of lawsuit generally takes two years or longer from filing to trial.

Superior site

During the meeting, Assistant Superintendent Randy Kenyon highlighted the district’s top four potential sites: (1) the 8.6-acre Old Mill/Safeway site; (2) the 4.68-acre Kohl’s site on Showers Drive; (3) the 8-acre CVS site at El Camino Real and San Antonio Road; and (4) the 10.5-acre Target site on Showers Drive.

Kenyon said the Old Mill/Safeway site was the best of the four options for the following reasons.

• It’s at the center of the north of El Camino Real area, adjacent to The Crossings housing development, with two to three possible access points.

• One of its three parcels is vacant; the other two have short-term tenants.

• Greystar Real Estate Partners’ mixed-use housing project using the three parcels is still in the planning stages.

• Residents in the neighborhood petitioned both the Mountain View City Council and the district board of trustees requesting that the site be used for a school and park.

Several local residents spoke at last week’s district board meeting, all in favor of the district acquiring a 10th school site. But none of them expressed a strong opinion on which site the trustees should select.

Trustee Vladimir Ivanovic said the Old Mill/Safeway site would be the best choice, because the other three sites currently house retail stores, and removing them would affect the city of Mountain View’s tax revenue. Mountain View is willing to chip in to build a new campus using the city’s park-in-lieu funds.

After learning about the Old Mill/Safeway site owners’ objections, Ivanovic said he is still 95 percent in favor of the location, and 5 percent in favor of the Kohl’s site.

While the Kohl’s site is the smallest of the four options, it has adjacent parcels that could be added to it. However, the property’s owner, Federal Realty Investment Trust, has long-term leases with the retail tenants on the site.

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