Developer offers $13 million for school land | March 22, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - March 22, 2013

Developer offers $13 million for school land

With approval to build homes at 525 San Antonio, Summerhill offers premium over 2011 price

by Chris Kenrick

A housing developer has offered to pay $13 million to the Palo Alto school district for a 2.6-acre parcel at 525 San Antonio Ave. that it sold to the district in 2011 for $8.5 million.

Superintendent Kevin Skelly disclosed the March 13 offer at the Board of Education meeting Tuesday night.

Summerhill Homes — which in 2011 obtained City Council approval to build 10 homes on the site — has given the school district until March 27 to decide on its all-cash offer for the property, which is contiguous with district-owned land at Greendell School and Cubberley Community Center.

The property was home for nearly 40 years to the Peninsula Day Care Center, which closed its doors in June 2011 when the owner retired.

The school district bought the parcel in late 2011, disrupting a contract between Summerhill and owners of Peninsula Day Care.

But Summerhill proceeded to secure city approval for housing development in case the school-district purchase fell through.

The district has been leasing 525 San Antonio on a short-term basis to a private school for children with dyslexia.

The property, combined with the Greendell campus at 4120 Middlefield Road, is under consideration by a citizens committee currently evaluating possible locations for a 13th elementary school. That committee, whose report is expected this spring, has been told to weigh tradeoffs between opening a school at Greendell/San Antonio or at the former Garland Elementary School at 870 N. California Ave.

Skelly did not hint that the school district was engaged in any negotiations with Summerhill.

"I am pleased that the board had the foresight to make this purchase," he said. "While I deeply worry about what this price suggests about the future of our community to be economically diverse, I do feel that the increased value reflects well on the work of the schools in our community."

The San Antonio parcel was excluded from consideration by another citizens committee that spent the last nine months analyzing options for the 35-acre Cubberley Community Center. Twenty-seven of those acres are owned by the school district and eight are owned by the City of Palo Alto.

At the time the school district purchased 525 San Antonio, leaders were worried that enrollment was growing faster than expected.

They also were mindful of now-regretted school-district decisions 30 years ago to sell off sprawling elementary school campuses — closed because of declining enrollment — for housing developments.

At its peak in 1969, Palo Alto school enrollment stood at 15,000 before dropping to a low of about 7,500 in 1989. Since then it's been on an upward trajectory and currently stands at about 12,350.

In 1976, the school district sold Ortega Elementary School for $2.5 million and Ross Road Elementary School for $3.6 million. In 1979 it sold De Anza Elementary School for $2.7 million.

In 1981 it sold Crescent Park Elementary School for $4 million and Hoover Elementary School (then on Middlefield Road across from Midtown Safeway) for $2.8 million. Most were developed into housing.


Posted by Homer Jamison, a resident of Ventura
on Mar 21, 2013 at 11:16 pm

My sons are enrolled at PALY, and I truly appreciate the quality of education available in Palo Alto. On the other hand, it seems like overdevelopment without increasing traffic capacity in the corridor really compromises our quality of life. Just how many productive person hours are lost each week to the perpetual traffic jams around Oregon Avenue and 101? Do we want to spread this experience to the San Antonio Road interchange at the southern border of our city? I read that there is now some feeling that the choice to sell "surplus" school real estate years ago may have been shortsighted. Do we want to repeat the mistake again by selling off more contiguous PAUSD land? Wouldn't it be more visionary to keep the property, and integrate it into the long term real estate needs of the school district?

I know Athena Academy, who has a two year agreement for the site, and they're doing amazing things to educate children with dyslexia. Do you realize that as many as 20% of our youngsters are challenged by some degree of dyslexia, but there are only a few schools in the bay area that address the problems in a creative, state-of-the-art manner? Athena Academy has strong academic credentials, and though they are young, they are very promising. If given the opportunity, I would vote for PAUSD to keep the property at 525 San Antonio Road to maximize their choices for long term benefit to the district; meanwhile, they have a most worthy tenant in Athena Academy.

Posted by CrescentParkAnon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 22, 2013 at 12:11 am

> Do we want to repeat the mistake again by selling off more contiguous PAUSD land?

I hope not.

Posted by Marcellus, a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 22, 2013 at 2:49 pm

You know the Athena Academy will get kicked off that land, and their work will be disrupted. The developer will not pay its real market value. if they did, they would not be able to make enough profit. That location is not a good place for housing because of busy San Antonio, and any people who bought there would find those homes incredibly hard to sell in the future.

Let's hope Kevin Skelly actually has a brain in his Harvard educated head.

Posted by Paly Parent, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 28, 2013 at 10:03 pm

What happened to the original comments on this story?

Posted by WilliamR, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Mar 29, 2013 at 7:24 pm

@ Paly Parent--

There is another thread with the same title, about a dozen entries down, with 30-some comments, so that's probably what you're looking for.