The Ravenswood City School District Board of Education voted to approve exclusive negotiating agreements with developers interested in long-term leases of two of its properties, staff said during a Thursday meeting. The leases could help to bring in millions of dollars to help cover a recent increase in teacher pay and fund initiatives like early learning programs.
The district is negotiating a 90-year lease with developer Alliant Strategic for a shuttered school to build a three- to four-story affordable rental housing development — with preference given to district teachers and staff — on the 2-acre site at Sheridan Drive in Menlo Park, which used to house James Flood Magnet School, according to a staff report. The housing would cost the developer around $50 to $60 million to build.
The district is also in talks with Madison Capital for a 99-year lease to build a seven- to eight-story life science lab and office space at the district office, which is on a 4.15-acre site at 2120 Euclid Ave. in East Palo Alto. Sometime this year, the district plans to move out of its office, which will be demolished, the district previously said.
"If developed, the frameworks for these agreements will bring in millions of dollars in annual revenue while also creating affordable housing and new commercial space," according to a district press release. The staff report does note that these revenues will not come in for three to six years. "This new revenue would bring Ravenswood in line with the rest of San Mateo County, up from being one of the lowest funded districts in the county when accounting for student need."
Board President Mele Latu was the one person to vote against the agreement for the district office land, noting during the meeting that the length of the lease terms, 90-plus years for each, is a "bit worrisome." She also had concerns about how East Palo Alto residents would react to a new seven- or eight-story building in their community.
Trustee Ana Maria Pulido agreed, but noted that the district does need ways to be able to stay solvent.
"I want to have safeguards in place so that we're not in a 70-year marriage that nobody can get out of," she said during the meeting.
Alliant Strategic is proposing paying the district an annual base rent of $525,000 for the first lease year, with increases in subsequent years. Alliant Strategic would like to pay the first 15 years in rent upfront, according to the district. The Flood site is not currently zoned for multifamily housing, although the city of Menlo Park has indicated support for housing there, according to the staff report.
Madison Capital is developing projects in San Francisco, including a project at 50 Post St. in the Financial District, according to its website, and is proposing to pre-pay the first three years of rent (before development) as deposit, but other terms of the deal are still being worked out.
Staff plans to present full contracts to the board in March for approval, according to the staff report. The contract would then go into effect in the late spring. The district anticipates construction would start at both sites in 2023 or 2024.
In October, the district began to solicit bids for the properties. The district worked with commercial real estate firm JLL to market the properties. Over a six-month period, JLL had conversations with over 40 developers for each site, the district said.
There were four offers for the district office site and six for the Flood site, district Chief Business Officer Will Eger said in an email. "This is a fairly robust level of interest for a project of this scope," he noted.
The district currently leases nearly half of all its overall space to local community groups, according to the staff report.
Find out more about the projects, and community meetings regarding the development at ravenswoodschools.org.
Watch a video of the board meeting: