Study session examines MV-LASD partnership as school-site search continues

Representatives from the Los Altos School District and the Mountain View City Council last week participated in a study session that explored using a zoning strategy to facilitate acquiring land in the San Antonio shopping center area for a 10th school site.

A transfer of development rights (TDR) is used to exchange the right to develop one parcel of land to another. Uses of TDRs include preserving farmland and historical neighborhoods.

The district seeks to acquire land in the San Antonio neighborhood and transfer the rights to develop it to other parts of Mountain View, therefore lowering the cost to build a school in the already expensive San Antonio area.

The city of Mountain View in 2014 adopted the San Antonio Precise Plan, which included a letter supporting construction of a school in the underserved area. A TDR was specifically cited as a resource that could assist in the process.

The council followed up with a July 2015 vote to support the Los Altos School District by earmarking funds for parks and open space in the area. In addition to lacking a neighborhood school, the San Antonio area has some of the lowest acreage of green space in the city.

More than 1,200 of the Los Altos School District’s approximately 4,500 students reside in Mountain View. However, families in the San Antonio area are not served by a neighborhood school. Those who reside in The Crossings neighborhood are assigned to Covington, 3 miles away, and must cross El Camino Real on their way to school, exacerbating traffic in the already congested El Camino corridor.

Council concerns

While councilmembers ultimately gave the district the green light to continue the TDR process, they expressed some concerns at the Oct. 3 study session. Foremost was the possibility that a potential San Antonio site would be used to host Bullis Charter School, negating many of the benefits of a neighborhood school and increasing auto traffic in the area.

District Trustee Bryan Johnson was unable to confirm or deny that the 10th site would be used to host the charter school. With Bullis Charter School and the district in the fourth year of their five-year facilities agreement and with no specific site in mind, there are too many unknowns to make a decision, he said.

After the meeting, Los Altos School District Superintendent Jeff Baier told the Town Crier that the district is currently looking at three to four sites between 6 and 10 acres in size.

Councilman Chris Clark was loath to transfer rights after taking part in the arduous zoning process. He allowed the process to move forward, but not without reservations.

“I think it’s in our interest and the neighborhood’s interest to be a neighborhood school,” he said, echoing the concerns of fellow councilmembers Pat Showalter, Lisa Matichak and Margaret Abe-Koga.

Another concern was that development rights could be transferred to the North Bayshore area, already plagued by gridlock due to the office footprint of Google Inc. and other companies.

Ultimately, the council was willing to make some trade-offs to bring a school to the area. Councilman Lenny Siegel underlined the need to expedite the process.

“This is our last, best chance to bring a school to the San Antonio area,” he said.

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