LASD unveils 10th school site deal

Photos Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
The Los Altos School District recently completed a deal to purchase a 10th school site at the corner of Showers Drive and California Street in Mountain View. The 11.65-acre parcel encompasses the land where, from left, Kohl’s, 24 Hour Fitness and Joann fabrics currently sit.

After years of negotiations, the Los Altos School District is set to buy a 10th school site at the corner of California Street and Showers Drive in Mountain View.

The district pubicly unveiled the deal last week. The total purchase price for the 11.65-acre parcel is $155 million, but the district will end up paying only $27.7 million. The city of Mountain View and local developers will foot the rest of the bill.

The land is currently occupied by a number of businesses, including Kohl’s, Joann fabrics and 24 Hour Fitness.

Although the deal is set, the district has yet to decide how to use the site. The proposed 10-year agreement between Bullis Charter School and the district would move Egan Junior High School to the site. However, district trustees tabled that proposal after public outcry.

The deal between the district and the city of Mountain View specifies that only certain types of schools can occupy the site. The school must be an elementary school open to neighborhood students, a junior high school open to neighborhood students or a choice or charter school with a preference for neighborhood students.

The school also must be “substantially similar in size/student enrollment” to the district’s other schools, according to terms of the plan.

Bullis Charter School currently does not offer enrollment priority to students in the area north of El Camino Real and is capped at 1,111 students next school year. Most of the district’s schools have between 400 and 600 students.

Although the district has seen its student population decline over the past several years, district board president Jessica Speiser said the district must prepare for the future.

Given the fast pace of housing development in Mountain View, Speiser said she expects to see more and more students coming from that area.

“We have to plan for the future, and we quite literally will never, ever get a deal like this ever again,” she said.

Terms of the deal

Although the site costs $155 million, the district will end up being on the hook for only $27.7 million, which will be paid for with Measure N bond funds.

The city of Mountain View and area developers will pay the remaining $127.3 million.

The city will chip in $20 million to purchase two acres for use as a city park and will contribute an additional $23 million to secure joint use of recreation areas at the school during nonschool hours.

“As our city grows, we have increased need for open space and fields and parks …, which are increasingly difficult to get,” Mountain View City Manager Dan Rich said. “A school site provides open space that we can share.”

The district also will receive $79.3 million from a transfer of development rights arrangement. The site’s zoning allows for far more square footage than is needed to build a school, so the city agreed to let the school district sell the right to develop those square feet elsewhere in Mountain View.

“This whole deal only works because of the transfer of development rights,” Rich said.

The district will sell 610,000 square feet of unused development rights at the site to developers for $79.3 million. Developers can use those rights to build other projects in Mountain View.

The district will receive an additional $5 million from the Mountain View San Antonio Project. Greystar, which is developing the Old Mill Safeway site across the street, is contributing $4 million of that. However, the district isn’t yet saying who is putting in the remaining $1 million.

Kenyon said that information would become public before the escrow period closes.

The 10th site’s current tenants can remain for the next three years, and Kenyon told district trustees last week that he expects the major renters to stay the entire period. The district anticipates receiving $7.5 million in net rental income if the tenants remain in place three years.

As a practical matter, Kenyon said it is unlikely a school would be ready to open before fall 2025. However, the recreation space being shared with the city needs to be ready a year earlier.

Ultimately, Kenyon told trustees he was happy to be able to purchase land at such a reduced rate in an area of the district that is expanding.

“It’s quite a boon for us to get a property that could be used, certainly now, but well in the future, (in) an area that has a growing population of families,” he said.

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