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City Council to vote tonight on Cubberley lease which evicts tenants, separates Theatre from dressing rooms

Original post made by Jeremy Erman, Midtown, on Jun 15, 2020

The Palo Alto City Council is scheduled to vote tonight on a proposed lease for Cubberley Community Center which evicts long-standing tenants and returns classrooms, including the rehearsal and dressing rooms attached to the Theatre, to the Palo Alto Unified School District.

Lease and attachments: Web Link

The proposed lease calls for the City to retain the two Gyms, rooms G5 and G8, the Pavilion, the Theatre, the Auditorium (only until the new Junior Museum and Zoo opens), the S building, and all of the athletic fields and track, which includes the space where the Friends of the Palo Alto Library have their portable for selling children's books. PAUSD retains the A, B, I, and M wings, as well as most of the G rooms.

The City's intent seems to be to give classrooms back to PAUSD but keep high-renting event spaces for the City, like the Theatre and the Pavilion. However, there's a problem with this: under the lease, the City retains the Cubberley Theatre's lobby and auditorium, but gives its backstage dressing rooms to PAUSD. Unfortunately, groups commonly rent the Theatre in conjunction with one or more of the M rooms. Without access to these rooms and their amenities, most performing arts groups will effectively be unable to use the Cubberley Theatre.

City staff sent the lease to the School Board, and sent eviction notices to affected tenants, before sending the lease to the Council. They will discuss it tonight for the first time.

Unlike other cuts which are budgeted for one year and suggested for two, the proposed Cubberley lease would be in effect for four and half years, through December 31, 2024, likely long after the current crisis has passed.

Despite dire financial predictions, the City still plans to spend millions of dollars on building projects in FY 2021, including two bridges, a parking garage, a fire station, a police station, and a multimillion-dollar renovation of Rinconada Park. Compared to these projects, the annual $2.5 million in savings from reducing the Cubberley lease, even with administrative costs added in, is a drop in the bucket.

Tonight's City Council meeting starts with a closed session at 5 p.m tonight, June 15. Oral Communications are scheduled for 6 p.m., and Cubberley is scheduled to be discussed at 8:45 p.m. Once the meeting starts, times are likely to change. You can listen via radio, YouTube, Zoom or telephone, and comment via Zoom or telephone.

Agenda and Packet: Web Link

Web Link
Meeting ID:362027238
Phone: 1 (669) 900-6833

Jeremy Erman is a musician who has worked for the City of Palo Alto and the Palo Alto Unified School District. He has participated in events at Cubberley for decades.

Comments (10)

Posted by Jeremy Erman
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 15, 2020 at 2:20 pm

For those who want more background:

In October 2019, the Council directed City staff to form a new 5-year lease with PAUSD to continue leasing PAUSD's portion of Cubberley Community Center through 2024. This didn't happen, and the City went to a month-to-month lease on PAUSD's portion of Cubberley. In April 2020, citing the financial impact of the coronavirus crisis, City staff proposed pulling out of PAUSD's portion of Cubberley altogether. Then in May 2020, City staff suggested keeping some parts of Cubberley and not others.

On May 13, City staff sent Council a memo about Cubberley's tenants and finances. Unfortunately, this arrived without enough time for all councilmembers to read before they voted to end discussing Cubberley. Even worse, this memo had inaccuracies and incomplete information, such as wrongly listing the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra as a "short-term tenant," even though they have been at Cubberley for decades. Even stranger, their office, which is shaded yellow on the map to indicate a long-term tenant, is missing from the attached list of City properties, even though virtually all of the so-called "long-term tenants" of Cubberley are listed.

May 13 At-places memo: Web Link

City staff then sent a proposed lease to the PAUSD School Board. This lease reduces payments to PAUSD by about $2.5 million per year through 2024, starting next month. It also effectively kicks out arts and education groups at Cubberley that are used by PAUSD students and many others. Having been given no other options, the School Board voted to approve the lease, even though the City Council hadn't voted on it yet or discussed it

Posted by Jeremy Erman
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 15, 2020 at 2:25 pm

Another oddity:

The lease's Attachment D lists a "Q" building as going to PAUSD, but this seems to be a mistaken reference to the FOPAL portable near the track, which is marked on the map and listed in Attachment C as going to the City: "FOPAL (near track)."

The Cubberley Concept Plan from 2019 (p. 21) seems to refer to this portable as Q, and City staff seem to have mistaken it for an actual building.

Cubberley Concept Plan: Web Link

Posted by busadreamer
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Jun 15, 2020 at 5:00 pm

Thanks Jeremy for raising the profile of this issue and bringing in so much data. I hope citizens of Palo Alto are able to connect to this meeting and make their voices heard.

Posted by Jeremy Erman
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 15, 2020 at 5:59 pm

It's strange how much silence there's been on this issue. In some ways the Shelter-In-Place seems to have stifled communication, even though many people are online even more than they were before.

Posted by CT resident
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 15, 2020 at 6:03 pm

Thank you for alerting the community. It's disgraceful that the city council won't postpone building projects and instead choses to gut the community assets. Cubberley is used by multiple arts organizations and other groups that enhance our community. To separate the dressing rooms from the theatre building makes no sense. I have personally been part of nonprofit arts organizations that have rented the theatre, dressing rooms and classrooms all of which have benefited countless young people and city residents over the years.

Posted by Jeremy Erman
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 15, 2020 at 6:25 pm

There are groups that have regularly used the Cubberley Theatre for decades, like the Palo Alto Philharmonic, which aren't even on the City's list of "Organizations Who Frequently Rent Space on PAUSD-owned Portion of Cubberley."

Because if they don't meet the City's definition of "frequently" or have the right kind of "long-term lease", they're not counted as either a short-term or long-term tenant.

Posted by Sally
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 15, 2020 at 7:46 pm

The core problem is that Community Services was told to cut 40% of its budget.

This made no sense and makes no sense. Did the City Managers Office cut 40%? Did we discuss strategic use of our reserve?

This City Manager's Office and this council need to held accountable.

(The one exception for me is Greg Tanaka, who has really grown on me for caring about the details about spending money with purpose and accountability.)

Posted by Jeremy Erman
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 15, 2020 at 9:07 pm

Council is on 5-minute break and then they're going to discuss Cubberley.

Posted by Jeremy Erman
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 17, 2020 at 12:27 am

Council voted 6-1 in favor of the proposed Cubberley lease, with Tanaka against. The one change they made was to reduce the term of the lease from 54 months (4.5 years) to 30 months (2.5 years).

However, since this is a change from the lease the School District signed, the School District must now agree to the change.

This is presumably why a Special City Council meeting has been scheduled for today, June 17, at 5:30pm with a Closed Session for the City and School District to negotiate "Lease Price and Terms of Payment" for Cubberley.

Web Link

Members of the public have the right to address a closed session before it closes, separate from Oral Communications.

Zoom Meeting link: Web Link
Meeting ID:362 027 238

This is a separate meeting from the 4pm review of the Council Appointed Officers.

Posted by Jeremy Erman
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 17, 2020 at 5:27 pm

Almost time for Cubberley meeting. Previous meeting is still in session.

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