School deal with developer could transform East Palo Alto's freeway edge | May 3, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - May 3, 2013

School deal with developer could transform East Palo Alto's freeway edge

Ravenswood district headquarters would move across town to corner of Pulgas and Bay

by Chris Kenrick

East Palo Alto's Ravenswood City School District is in talks to sell or exchange acres of property — including its own headquarters — to an office developer.

The prospective deal with the Cupertino-based The Sobrato Organization could transform the freeway-facing edge of the city surrounding University Avenue into office buildings and send the school district to new headquarters across town, to Pulgas Avenue north of Bay Road.

The new district headquarters would be next door to a proposed new building for the Ravenswood Family Health Center, which is currently raising funds for the facility.

The school district met in closed session with Sobrato representatives Thursday, April 25, for a discussion described as negotiations about "price and terms of payment."

Neither Sobrato CEO John M. Sobrato nor Ravenswood Superintendent Maria De La Vega have responded to requests for comment. On Wednesday, a school district representative said the parties are "still in negotiations."

Three district-owned parcels on Euclid Avenue and three privately owned properties on the northwest corner of Pulgas Avenue and Bay Road are under discussion.

The district-owned land — stretching a quarter-mile down Euclid from the corner of East Bayshore — currently includes the school district's administrative headquarters, its transportation center and bus yard, a building that houses the federal low-income nutrition program known as WIC (Women, Infants and Children), a school warehouse and receiving building, the district's technology center and the nonprofit Foundation for a College Education.

The addresses are 2110, 2120 and 2160 Euclid, which extends to Bell Street Park, home of a community swimming pool and the Lewis and Joan Platt East Palo Alto Family YMCA.

The school district facilities are contiguous with a mostly vacant lot on East Bayshore, where Sobrato has posted a sign advertising "Phase II" of University Plaza, described as premier "Class A" office space.

Signage for Phase I of Sobrato's University Plaza is posted on a vacant lot a few blocks away on Donohoe Street opposite IKEA, describing a "Class A office campus" with 208,000 square feet and underground parking.

The Sobrato Organization manages about 7.5 million square feet of commercial office space, with tenants that include Apple, Yahoo and Netflix, as well as 30 apartment communities with 6,700 units, according to Forbes magazine.

Sobrato's philanthropic arm has contributed to numerous programs in East Palo Alto including the Ravenswood Education Foundation and the Boys & Girls Club of the Peninsula. The Sobrato family has signed the Buffett-Gates Giving Pledge, asking billionaires to promise to give away 100 percent of wealth during their lifetimes or leave it to a foundation.

The other three parcels listed for negotiation last Thursday are privately held lands across town. One of the parcels, 2519 Pulgas, is described in an Internet listing by real estate broker Greg DeLong of CBRE as 5 acres of vacant land with entitlements for 93,000 square feet of research and development space. The price is listed as $2.75 million.

The other two, 1885 and 1891 Bay Road, are described in a similar listing as 0.59 acres with 2,040 square feet of existing industrial space for a price of $750,000.

The district's new headquarters might be housed there, if the land swap goes through.

Last Thursday's closed-door meeting was authorized under a section of California law that permits a local agency to hold a closed session "prior to the purchase, sale, exchange or lease of real property by or for the local agency to grant authority to its negotiator regarding the price and terms of payment for the purchase, sale, exchange or lease."

Although state law authorizes the closed negotiations it requires publication of the identities of negotiators, the properties under negotiation and the persons with whom its negotiators may negotiate.

Listed as negotiators for the school district in Thursday's talks were Superintendent De La Vega, Ravenswood's Chief Business Official Megan Curtis and lawyer Marilyn Cleveland of the education law firm Dannis Woliver Kelley.

Individuals negotiating for the Sobrato Organization were not specified.

De La Vega is set to retire in June. Trustees of the K-8 Ravenswood district, which serves about 4,000 mostly low-income and English-learning students in East Palo Alto and eastern Menlo Park, are searching for a new superintendent.

Staff Writer Chris Kenrick can be emailed at


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