Los Altos School District purchases 10th school site

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Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Kohl’s and T-Mobile are two of the businesses currently operating on the Mountain View land the Los Altos School District has purchased for a 10th school site.

Capping off a years-long process, the Los Altos School District has bought nearly a dozen acres of land in Mountain View for a 10th school site.

The district finalized the purchase of 11.65 acres at the corner of California Street and Showers Drive Dec. 11. Federal Realty sold the district the land for $155 million. Much of that cost is being offset with funding from the city of Mountain View and the sale of unused development rights. The district expects the final net purchase price to be under $30 million.

“I’m delighted. It’s been a lot of work, it’s been a tremendous effort on a lot of fronts,” said Randy Kenyon, the district’s business director. “Our community has said we need another school site and we’re seeing that consummated. It’s exhilarating to finally come to the end.”

Determining site’s use

Although the district now officially owns the land, a number of decisions remain, including how to use the site. The district has not yet chosen what will be built on the parcel.

This spring, the district and Bullis Charter School announced a proposed 10-year agreement that called for moving Egan Junior High School to the 10th site and giving the charter school the bulk of Egan’s campus.

After outcry from district parents at the prospect of moving Egan, the district tabled the proposal and embarked on a community engagement process to gather feedback on long-term facilities for the charter school. Some of the proposals community members discussed involve placing either Bullis Charter or a district school on the 10th site. The district’s board of trustees is expected to receive a final report on the community engagement process in January.

“Our board has to eventually decide how we want to use the property,” Kenyon said. “That, I think, is obviously somewhat dependent on what the outcome of the long-term location for BCS turns out to be.”

An agreement between the district and the city of Mountain View also places restrictions on the type of school that 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.

Board president Jessica Speiser said deciding how to use the 10th site is one of the big decisions the trustees will make over the coming months.

“I would like to figure that out by the end of the school year, for sure,” Speiser said.

Also on the docket, district administrators will be working with the city of Mountain View to plan the layout of the site. The city is buying two acres from the district for $20 million to use as a park. According to Kenyon, the district and city already held one meeting in August and he expects a second will be held in January.

“District and city staff will meet and figure out how we are going to lay out things on the campus, particularly since there’s two acres that need to be set aside,” Kenyon said.

The city of Mountain View contributed an additional $23 million for use of the school’s recreation areas outside of school hours. The district has agreed to develop the spaces by Sept. 30, 2024, and allow the city to use them, even if the school itself isn’t constructed yet. The only exception is the gym, which will be constructed with the school.

Financing the deal

Support from the city of Mountain View was critical to making the land affordable for the district, Superintendent Jeff Baier said. He added that the deal is unique, and he thinks it will be a model for other California school districts and cities.

“It’s an incredible partnership with the city of Mountain View,” Baier said. “There’s no way we could have acquired a site without the assistance of the city of Mountain View.”

In addition to paying a combined $43 million for the two acres and joint use of the school’s recreation areas, the Mountain View City Council also approved a program that allows developers to purchase unused development rights from the district to use on other projects in the city. The school district plans to sell 610,000 square feet of unused development rights for $79.3 million.

“Even with (the $43 million), the price of land would have been far too steep for us to consider,” Baier said. “It’s really the (transfer of development rights) that unlocked this possibility.”

The district only receives the money from developers when the city signs off on the projects where the extra square feet are being used. The district will continue partnering with developers and the city to get projects through the process, Baier said, adding he is confident that the district will ultimately receive the $79.3 million.

“We are cautiously confident, cautiously optimistic,” Kenyon said. “We have heard nothing from any of the TDR buyers that they are interested in pulling out.”

The district also received a $4 million contribution from real estate developer Greystar to help fund the purchase. Greystar is creating a mixed-use development nearby at the corner of California Street and San Antonio Road. The school district had previously considered using eminent domain to take the land that Greystar is building on, dubbed the “Old Mill/Safeway” site.

The district expects to receive another $1 million, but Kenyon said the source of that money won’t be public until the agreement appears on a future board agenda.

The 10th site’s current tenants also will provide the district rental income for the next few years, which will further offset the price.

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