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New Cubberley lease dashes residents' hopes for improved community center

Original post made on Jun 16, 2020

Palo Alto's vision of a new and improved Cubberley Community Center filled with green spaces and new recreational amenities faded on Monday night, when the City Council agreed to reduce its presence in the popular complex.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, June 16, 2020, 2:17 AM

Comments (16)

Posted by Name hidden
a resident of Downtown North

on Jun 16, 2020 at 7:10 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


12 people like this
Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Jun 16, 2020 at 10:44 am

You have to wonder about the critical thinking capacities of the council. The staff negotiated a great deal for the city for 54 months at Cubberley, and they insisted on kicking a gift horse in the mouth by rejecting the 54 month term, insisting on 30 months. Now the deal has to go back to the school board. They should tell the council "no dice, we will stay on month to month" The proposed lease has a 120-day opt-out so the shorter lease term buys the city nothing and puts the tenants at risk again in 2 years. The council is not going to get a better deal then, but on the other hand, everything is not going to be hunky-dory in 2022.

The unspoken question is, Who was the great mastermind behind the last-minute switch to 30 months?

Please do some investigative reporting on this, Gennady.


6 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 16, 2020 at 10:48 am

>> "shared village"

Hopefully, this will the awful "shared village" concept. We will need that land for a third high school and for other educational and recreational (playing fields) uses. We also need additional space for non-profits. We don't need a "shared village". Bad idea.


14 people like this
Posted by Pat Burt
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 16, 2020 at 1:42 pm

The discussion last night clarified some things and muddied others.
First, upon repeated questioning, the city manager appeared to admit that he had not requested or been amenable to a sizable reduction in the lease amount the city would pay PAUSD in the near-term as an alternative to fundamentally changing the community center. The school leadership has indicated that they were prepared to reduce the city’s payment while retaining the rest of the lease terms.
The impetus for the changes to the 30-year long use of the Cubberley as a community center was almost entirely a budgetary decision made by the city manager without any policy guidance provided in public by the council.
Many of the tenants are in the process of relocating, although often at higher rents so why couldn’t the city have made up some of the desired savings from modest rent increases?
Other tenants will not be able to find new locations resulting in the community losing their services.
The council directed staff to try to renegotiate the new lease for just 30 months, but it’s unclear why the district would now agree to shorten the term since that would undermine their flexibility in signing tenants or in school uses for the space. Once the city gives up control of this space, it is unlikely they will ever be able to get it back.
The council has one last chance next week to correct this mess. They can restore funding to public safety and community services budgets by only modestly slowing down the record-setting capital (infrastructure) spending for next year. In doing so, they’ll also likely be able to accomplish even more of the infrastructure plan by re-bidding projects that are currently planned to proceed under highly inflated construction costs from the recent boom, and instead, they can take advantage of declining construction costs in the next 6-12 months.


6 people like this
Posted by The Truth
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 16, 2020 at 1:44 pm

This "about face" smells of lobbyist money..wonder who will show up in a new Tesla?


1 person likes this
Posted by Ken Horowitz
a resident of University South
on Jun 16, 2020 at 1:50 pm

I disagree with the article’s headline
“New Cubberley Lease Dashes
Residents Hopes....”
After waiting over 30 years for PAUSD to make a decision on what
should become of a dilapidated
Cubberley high school, the City played a different hand in dealing with continuous long term leases with PAUSD. Sometimes in negotiations, one has to take two steps backward to move three steps forward. The City’s actions to reduce the terms of the previous leases was the right call.
Hopefully, their actions last evening will finally lead to a long lasting agreement of what to do with Cubberley and satisfy the hopes of residents


12 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 16, 2020 at 4:15 pm

Posted by Pat Burt
a resident of Community Center

>> They can restore funding to public safety and community services budgets by only modestly slowing down the record-setting capital (infrastructure) spending for next year. In doing so, they’ll also likely be able to accomplish even more of the infrastructure plan by re-bidding projects that are currently planned to proceed under highly inflated construction costs from the recent boom

I find it incomprehensible that the city doesn't defer these new construction starts right now.


19 people like this
Posted by Jonah
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 16, 2020 at 5:41 pm

"By a 6-1 vote, with Councilman Greg Tanaka dissenting, the City Council approved a new lease with the Palo Alto Unified School District that effectively pulls the plug on more than seven years of community planning for the 35-acre south Palo Alto center' - -
Tanaka always dissents, is never coherent, and is never effective. Having said that, I am glad that awful project is gone and hope it does not come back. It was too ugly, too ambitious, and too expensive.


11 people like this
Posted by Harry Merkin
a resident of Ventura
on Jun 16, 2020 at 9:40 pm

'Councilwoman Alison Cormack, who enthusiastically participated in the planning exercise last year, said it's "incredibly disappointing to essentially be going backwards, which is what we're doing."
Mayor Adrian Fine shared her sentiment.'

And then both of them voted for their acknowledged rotten idea.


2 people like this
Posted by Joe in Green Acres
a resident of Green Acres
on Jun 17, 2020 at 11:32 am

What most disappointed me Monday night was Council's lack of discussion about the needs of long-term tenants like FOPAL and my group, the Cardiac Therapy Foundation (aka HeartFit for Life) - maybe even Avenidas. We need stability, which is best brought by a long-term lease, not short leases. 30 months is acceptable, but 54 months would have have been much, much better. And some council members talk of a 120-day termination clause was absolutely disconcerting to me as a rep of the Cardiac group. Small non-profits cannot last very long in the hyper-priced for-profit real estate market, and we were hardly mentioned in the Council discussion that took place.

The District has been very consistent with its approach to Cubberley for decades. They don't need it for a school, particularly with entering classes being smaller than graduating ones (per a Todd Collins Op-Ed last year in the Weekly as I recall), and thus aren't prepared to participate in any development of its 27 acres that might adversely impact build-out of the site for a school way off in the future. That was determined by the relatively inexpensive Citizens' Advisory Group some years ago (school not needed before 2029 at the earliest). In contrast, the Concordia consultants review, as at a cost of roughly $500,00, was an absolute waste of time and money. It led people to believe that something was possible, when , in fact, it was not (as I told the consultants at the very first out-reach meeting). Given the sale of three elem schools by the District in the early 80s, and the furor that that caused, the District will never (should never) sell its acreage, so development will presumably wait until the District needs it for a school. Frankly, no surprise.

If the City wants some community center development at Cubberley, it is free to do so at any time on the 8 acres it owns there.

The City got virtually all of what it needs at Cubberley, although some smaller tenants unfortunately got hit in the process, at roughly 1/2 the prior rental. That seemed like a good deal for the City, and is always a good deal for the District as there is a sizeable transfer of money from the City to the District. The City pays for the maintenance and utilities and the District does not have to be in the short-term rental business, which may be a new cost for them.

And, BTW, many people denigrate the Cubberley facilities. Yes, they are old and need constant repair, but they are "home" to many of us, and, at least for my group, it works quite well. The walls stay vertical, the gym flooring is nice, and the roofs keep out the occasional rain (sound familiar to where you live) . We're happy, but would have been happier with a 54-month lease. That type of certainty would have been very nice indeed.



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Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Jun 17, 2020 at 11:55 am

The CC is meeting at 5:30pm tonight to renegotiate the lease terms with PAUSD. The session itself is closed but there is a comment period prior to the closed session.

The 54-month lease proposal has been public for weeks and already approved by PAUSD. There was absolutely no PUBLIC discussion of a shorter lease term. The council should have made their intentions public in advance so that the rationalE of their positions could be debated. This lack of transparency is regrettable and will be remembered at election time this year and in two years when the CC will be back to this issue unnecessarily.


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Posted by Jeremy Erman
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 17, 2020 at 11:58 am

A special meeting has been called for today at 5:30pm for the City and PAUSD to negotiate the Cubberley lease in closed session. The City Council inadvertently triggered this by voting for a shorter lease than PAUSD did.

Web Link


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Posted by Jeremy Erman
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 17, 2020 at 12:02 pm

Chris, the City staff sent the lease to PAUSD before showing it to the Council. Monday was the first time they discussed the actual lease, and not just the proposal.


7 people like this
Posted by No overdevelopment
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 17, 2020 at 12:04 pm

The long term plan for Cubberley was an over-development nightmare and one good thing out of this Covid mess is that it got killed. Hopefully some of the other over-development nightmares that have been thought up for this area will also disappear.

In an age of disease (and pandemics are likely to become more common and wide spread as the earth is being slowly degraded) we need more open space, less bulk to buildings and fewer people. Leave the open aspects of Cubberley alone and let low cost community facilities fill the space.

That being said, the city does have a budget issue but I can't see that we will not need these spaces moving forward so why all of the fuss over a 2.5 year lease vs. a 5 year lease. Seems like the growth contingent on the council just wants to try again to overdevelop sooner rather than later (since they never learn).


6 people like this
Posted by Stop the Quibbling Bureaucrats...
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 17, 2020 at 1:18 pm

The school district has stated publicly, on the one hand, that they really didn't want this to happen, but on the other hand, they desperately need the space. Which way is it?

Why doesn't the school district simply continue to lease to these non-profits, as they do with other spaces they rent? [Oh, they also said they really don't want to be "landlords," desite the fact they already are and do!]

It's all our taxpayer money at the end of the day. Stop quibbling about who has to take a little budget hit (PAUSD or the City) due to the Covid thing, and do the right thing for the community and these non-profits.

Is that too much to ask? You are all paid enough to do the right thing here. It's not like any of you will ever give yourselves a pay cut.


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Posted by chris
a resident of University South
on Jun 17, 2020 at 9:03 pm

It seems like the CC got some sense knocked into their heads by PAUSD. That may be a first.

The question is who was promoting the short-term lease in opposition to common sense. Nobody came forward to support it. It seems like they have wasted a week on this issue.

Now can the CC stick to its latest position on Monday when they have to approve it in public?


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