The Los Altos School District Board of Trustees gave district officials the green light to formally pursue land acquisition for a 10th school site.
At their Jan. 22 board meeting, trustees approved a letter of interest to engage with Miramar Capital, a prospective purchaser of the transfer of development rights (TDR) of the future school site, and authorized Superintendent Jeff Baier to execute a memorandum of understanding with the city of Mountain View regarding the TDR framework.
A TDR would enable the district to purchase land zoned for more development than it needs, then sell the excess zoning rights to a developer interested in expanding a project on a different site.
The district plans to transfer the development rights of 610,000 square feet of space from the future school site for $79.3 million, on top of which the city of Mountain View will contribute up to $23 million for general-use open space at the site. Those funds would more than match the $100 million the district itself can use toward the property purchase.
Trustees also authorized Baier to negotiate funding and joint-use agreements with the city of Mountain View and subsequently bring them to the board for approval.
Randy Kenyon, assistant superintendent for business services, said he will start the negotiation process to acquire the Old Mill/former Safeway site in Mountain View – near the northeastern corner of San Antonio Road and California Street – in February.
Site owners oppose sale
Attorney Norm Matteoni represented the Old Mill property owners at the school board meeting, raising objections to the potential purchase. Matteoni hand-delivered a letter to trustees listing 11 reasons why the district should give up on purchasing the site.
Some of Matteoni’s points:
• The proposal violates public bidding laws in that the development rights were not offered for sale to the general public and sold to the highest bidder, but for a set price.
• State law precludes the elimination of a housing opportunity site like the Old Mill property without requisite findings and identification of a suitable replacement.
• The proposal conflicts with the city of Mountain View’s Parks and Open Space Plan, which calls for acquiring a mini park to the east of the Old Mill property.
• The city of Mountain View failed to inform the public that the city council would vote and enter a memorandum of understanding with the Los Altos School District.
• The proposal conflicts with the California Environmental Quality Act in that the city of Mountain View has not conducted the necessary environmental review.
Where’s the plan?
At the Jan. 22 meeting, no one spoke against the land acquisition. However, one of the opponents, Mountain View resident Lea Hallert, said she didn’t attend the meeting because she didn’t know the trustees would vote on the issue that evening.
“Where on the agenda did they indicate they were voting on going forward or not?” she asked. “If the agenda would have been clear, I would have definitely rallied other voters who are against spending our limited tax dollars on an investment that it’s not clear our community supports.”
Hallert particularly expressed her objections to the possibility of moving Bullis Charter School to the future school site, saying that it would make traffic “unbearable.”
Los Altos resident Jill Jene said the trustees should have a clear master plan instead of rushing into buying new land.
“Measure N barely passed with enough votes. All voters were concerned that there was no concrete plan developed for how the money would be spent, but we support strong district schools,” Jene said. “Now over three years later, the district has yet to provide a plan. The school board needs to publicly present options for what a more efficient use of existing land might be.”
Jene was a member of the Facilities Master Planning Advisory Committee, appointed by trustees to develop a plan for how bond funds should be used. However, the board put a hold on the committee’s efforts before members completed their work, she said.
Jene suggested that the district come back to the entire community with a proposal to use existing land, so community members can compare any new land proposals and determine which option would be better.