A letter Los Altos School District Superintendent Jeff Baier sent to Mountain View city staff Friday revealed that the district has changed course in its attempts to buy land for a 10th school site. Baier revealed plans to acquire Federal Realty’s land on the eastern side of San Antonio Shopping Center, where Kohl’s Department store sits, instead of continuing to pursue the so-called Old Mill site at California Avenue and San Antonio Road.
The owners of the Old Mill site had entered into an agreement with Greystar, an international development firm, several years ago and are partway through the planning process for a mixed-use project incompatible with a school site. The school district would have had to use eminent domain to seize the land, and had already received vigorous protest and promise of a lawsuit from both the landowners and Greystar.
Federal Realty, on the other hand, is more open to negotiating with the district, according to Baier and district Trustee Steve Taglio.
“We sent a communication to the city manager of Mountain View explaining we’ve made this change,” Baier said of eyeing the new site. “We think it’s a better situation for the school district, as it brings greater dollar certainty and greater time certainty, which are two important things. So, we can get this project moving.”
Baier noted that the Kohl’s property is larger than the Old Mill site – 9.65 acres versus 8.6 acres, allowing more space for a school and park.
Taglio said the district initially didn’t focus on the Kohl’s site because occupants have signed long-term leases.
“What we thought made the site unattainable was the leases,” he said. “We thought there were long-term leases in place we couldn’t afford to buy out. But after conversations with Federal Realty, it looks that it’s flexible – more flexible than we realized.”
District officials are now waiting for the Mountain View City Council to give the district's new decision a formal go-ahead.
In the meantime, Norm Matteoni, the attorney who represents the Old Mill site owners, said in an email that over the last four months they had worked with the district and the city of Mountain View to seek alternatives to the Old Mill site.
A longer version of this article with more updated information will appear in the print version of the Town Crier on June 20.
“Greystar is quite pleased to be able to continue its housing development in the San Antonio Specific Plan Area fulfilling the goal of that plan,” Matteoni said. “At the same time, this allows the district the ability to site a school in the area and the city to achieve increased park space.”
A longer version of this article with more updates will appear in the June 20 issue of the Town Crier.