Schools

Los Altos School District Board – Ridicules Eminent Domain Letter Request

LASD Board President Mark Goines on left, Doug Smith on right
Written by lalahpolitico

LASD Board President Mark Goines on left, Doug Smith on right

At the June 18 Los Altos School District Board meeting, Board President Mark Goines accused the Los Altos City Council of being “odd, unfriendly, uncooperative, derelict in duty.” The language seems to veer into the unprofessional. City of Los Altos Mayor Val Carpenter was in the audience – as she has been for at least 4 meetings in her quest for a letter rejecting eminent domain.  She had the very hard job of listening to this truculent political theatre while maintaining a professional demeanor.

This is a 4 minute continuous extract from the June 18 LASD Board Meeting. In it President Mark Goines can be heard ridiculing the City’s Request for a letter saying LASD will not pursue eminent domain on any public property [ Hillview Community Center in particular]. He accuses the council of being “odd, unfriendly, uncooperative, derelict in duty.” The language seems to veer into the unprofessional. This reporter has not heard the Council ever talk this way about the LASD board [yet.] The Council doesn’t want to spend money on urgently need repairs on city owned property like Hillview ….if it going to be seized by LASD and perhaps torn down…..for a 10th school, for the common program or the BCS charter program. LALAHPOLITICO: Council doesn’t seem derelict to us. Hyper-prudent maybe.

Here are audio files of the full Board Meeting. The City Council Joint Meeting Review – Letter on Eminent domain occurs item runs from about 47: 50 to 65:01.

Apple type  file download

MP3 File download

FULL TRANSCRIPT of …

ITEM : Follow up to Joint School-City Meeting of June 29.

Webcasting Paid for by the City

JEFF BAIER: I want to chime in with something that has happened since then. The city did approve the funding for the webcasting pilot, so we have that in motion.

Jeff: I want to recognize that Mayor Carpenter is here with us in the audience.

Turn that back to you Mark, to discuss City and District properties.

CITY-LASD Cooperation on Egan Traffic Issues

MARK GOINES: Yes so there were several other items. I just want to update
One is the Berkeley study update. I think we agreed to that. We are waiting for the City to tell us the cost and timetable. We had collected some additional data on travel patterns through surveys that were done on the various attendance records and so we know now that approximately half of the families that are traveling to the Egan site will be positively impacted by the projects we discussed – opening the back gate, widening the sidewalk, putting the stop signs and crossing guards in next to than San Antonio – Portola corner. Ways to assess whether we can get the rear gate widened, which is one of our projects. We have to assess what the costs would be to widening the sidewalks there, and what those cost would be, so those projects were examining the cost of. So those are projects, let me characterize it as, in development. We’ll get an update on those at our next meeting. However that’s only half of our students.

when we have them [ITS consultants ] go throught that analysis we can see whether it makes sense to pursue additional projects including possibly opening the gate to Thames

The other half who commute to the facilities there come from the vector that is on the Los Altos Ave. side of Portola. There are really no projects listed as “committed” to help those students beyond that what has already been done. Actually the Berkely study need to focus one, as we study that data, the prioritization of the implementation of a all those project we just went over, were all recommendation which were highly prioritized in the Berkeley Study. I thought it was odd that that it only address the San Antonio Portola corner.The study should consider, people who approach the campus when you do all of those things. So I think that when we have them [ITS] go throught that analysis we can see whether it makes sense to pursue additional projects including possibly opening the gate to Thames, possible widening of the side walk on the other side of Portola, or other potential safer entrances for the students who travel in from the other direction. So the [ travel data] data was illuminating when I got it, I think the folks in the Berkely study will find it useful in understanding the true traffic patterns and community activity that occurs. I don’t see us taking any action on it before next year. But we will still have concerns there. We need to think of other solutions that are high impact and low cost. Perhaps more crossing guards.

CITY REQUEST FOR LETTER Rejecting Eminent Domain

MARK GOINES:

There has been an email to Jeff [ Baier, Superintentdent] requesting our view from our board on whether we should be writing a city about eminent domain.

Do we want to write that letter or just continue collaborating with the city on a 10th site.

STEVE TAGLIO: I understand how they feel. We could write them a letter with a time limit.

DOUG SMITH : We can’t legally do that. We cannot encumber a future board. I don’t think a letter is necessary .We have been a long standing good partners with the city, we [inaudible] through the park situation, we have always worked well with them, it’s a bit odd for me to have any government say to another government entity or a private citizen, hey you’ve got to waive this legal right before I’m will to talk to you. It’s a little troubling from a constitutional, philosophical standpoint. It just doesn’t sit well with me. I think we have worked well with the city I think we will continue to do that. It’s plain and simple. We all serve a group of constituents here. There is a lot of overlap. And we should continue [inaudible] with the city and see how we can collectively serve those constituents in a collaborative manner.

Doug: It’s a little troubling from a constitutional, philosophical standpoint. It just doesn’t sit well with me

BILL COOPER: Am I allowed to ask now?

MARK GOINES: This is America [laughter]

BILL COOPER: Val, would you give your personal opinion on how big a stumbling block, this letter or inidication in whatever form, that we would not pursue eminent domain, how big an issue is that? Is that going to preclude us from having productive discussion about Hillview and other possible Los Altos locations?

VAL CARPENTER: I can speak only for myself and my assessment of my colleagues. Having the letter will change the tone of conversations we will have. That was said at the joint meeting. It is really a question of us working collaboratively together as opposed to adversarially. It may be just a symbolic gesture, but it is an important one to my colleagues on the council. It would just make everybody feel better about being asked .

Val: It [the letter] is really a question of us working collaboratively together as opposed to adversarially. It may be just a symbolic gesture…

BILL COOPER: One other question. Let’s suppose there was letter. What would it say. Are there any specifics that you feel you and council would need to see in that letter. Would it simply say that it is not the intent of Los Altos School district to pursue eminent domain in relation to the city of Los Altos.

VAL CARPENTER: Yes, certainly that would be one. I’m at a disadvantage here. I’m not an attorney. Last time you said you were going to speak to your attorney before you were going to have this conversation. But uh, I think a letter that says you will not, shall not, pursue eminent domain on City property, with some time limits, as suggested by Steve Taglio , would be fine. I think that was suggested at our joint meeting. I think we will have more productive conversations going forward if that letter exists than if it doesn’t.

Val: Last time you said you were going to speak to your attorney before you were going to have this conversation. [Note the broken “promise to check with a lawyer.”]

BILL COOPER: Thanks for that feedback. This obviously is a stumbling block. You look at it. We’ve had the public meeting. You’ve had meetings. I’ve seen your videos. I know all about you guys. Emotional conversations where you feel real strongly that this letter should be issued and that is going to help the city council have a more positive disposition towards discussion options for locations of a school site within Los Altos. What I still hear as a board member, as a representative of the school district and vice versa, I see it on both sides, we are both pushing each other simultaneously, and its becoming sort of a public pissing match. And neither side really wants to give. As Steve started out, I do see both sides. Um, of the equation. As you know I supported Mark at the public meeting; he put on the table that at this point it was not the intent to issue a letter. What I would be willing to put on the table, this whole letter concept is foreign, since I’ve been on the board we’ve never been told that we have to have a letter just to us, the City of Los Altos. Mountain View isn’t asking for such a letter, Los Altos Hills isn’t, Palo Alto which contributes a handful of students to our district isn’t. What I would be comfortable doing conceptually is to come up with a new board policy that indicates it is not the intent of the Los Altos School District to pursue eminent domain against any other public entities. And I’m not a lawyer either. In other words, of specifically going after any other public lands, meaning that’s different from privately held lands. That’s an approach that I would be willing to compromise on. And frankly the upside too is we’re not sending out letters left and right to every other city that might say, we don’t like your attitude or you looked at us funny, we don’t trust you.

 

Bill: …we are both pushing each other simultaneously, and its becoming sort of a public pissing match…this whole letter concept is foreign…what’s comfortable is to come up with a new board policy

MARK GOINES: Thank you for that. Other comment.?

DOUG SMITH: I’m curious, Bill [Cooper]. To me the compromise is that you don’t do anything. Right? You know, exercising eminent domain is the thing they are concerned about, ok? So by not doing anything, we simply accomplish that. We’re not going to exercise domain, and we’re done. We move on to the next thing. It seems silly. It seems like it’s been structured to score political points. And I just don’t like it.

Doug: It [ City request for a letter] seems silly. It seems like it’s been structured to score political points. And I just don’t like it.

MARK GOINES: So let’s have a conversation about this. So we will draft a policy. And we can talk about it at our next board meeting. Ms. Logan will be here. This is a big issue. This is I think a significant ask by the City. It’s s sign of lack of cooperation that I don’t like. I find it, eh, unfriendly. I find it weird. It’s like we have a 1000 more students now than we had 10 years ago. That means we have at least 2000 more parent voters than we did 10 years ago. They came to the council and said sit down and talk about it. And we have this precondition. [ MARK changes to a falsetto whiny voice ] We don’t want to talk about it because we’re afraid you have some power that we don’t like. [end falsetto voice.] It’s a  form of, nuhno, it’s an odd behavior that I don’t think you’re elected to pursue, you are elected to find solutions. So what the City Council has said to us is that we don’t want to find the solution unless you meet our precondition. We don’t want to talk about finding a solution, unless you meet our precondition. I see emails from other council members with a whole bunch of other preconditions about what we want to and may not want to do. To talk to the school district about the children that need space in their community for their education. It goes below, I think, the level of discourse that we should be having. The level of discourse we should be having is collaboration, and cooperation and problem solving and taking our 100 plus acres and whatever facilities and space might be available in the city. And finding ways to use them together to solve what is becoming a very serious community problem. And so I am befuddled by what I think is a manufactured fear, and it doesn’t make sense to me.

 Mark: it’s an odd behavior that I don’t think you’re elected to pursue..It goes below, I think, the level of discourse that we should be having…I am befuddled by what I think is a manufactured fear

Now we will bring a policy back to this board and have a conversation with the full board here. Because I think we should make a decision about how we want to pursue it. But within that policy I’m also going to recommend that we are very clear about we’re going to pursue accommodating the growth of students within the communities we live in with facilities appropriately. And that means that if we need to share, we will share. If we need to hand over some of our property in order to get property that is appropriate for our students we should put that in our policy. Because I think we are very flexible. What is frustrating is that we haven’t had the opportunity to even have the conversation about the flexibility that we might have because we’re being given this precondition that says we don’t even want to talk to you unless you lay down your authority at our doorstep. And it’s very frustrating to be in a city where the schools are so valuable to have a Council that doesn’t want to recognize that. And so I think we need to have this dialog openly. And I’m happy to do it. We should consider a policy that is broadly encompassing. Of how we are going to expand our use of acquisition of facilities as appropriate as the community grows and involves all the communities around us. And I want the City to sit down and talk to us about it. That is all we are asking for is a conversation. That is all we’re asking for. And to delay that conversation over manufactured issues is, I think, a dereliction of the Council’s duties. It is very upsetting. We have 1000 more children. They need space. We need to collaborate and find it. So let’s have a policy that reflects that and the other board members. Thank you Val very much for your help tonight. I appreciate it. And I look forward to having lunch. I know I owe you some email with a few dates. A lunch in Los Altos, which I look forward to.

Mark: to delay that conversation [about providing a 10th site somehow]  over manufactured issues is, I think, a dereliction of the Council’s duties. It is very upsetting. We have 1000 more children. They need space. [Lalahpolitico: the board expects neighboring cities to bail them out of  bad bets on litigation and facilities planning procrastination]

Allright. Anything else on that item?

 

LALAHPOLITICO:  The City of Los Altos is not obligated to bail out another jurisdiction They have been forthright and professional.  LASD has mad a sequence of expensive missteps in its stance toward the Charter.  And sable-rattling at the City is another one.

About the author

lalahpolitico

Norma Schroder is an economics & market researcher by trade and ardent independent journalist, photographer and videographer by avocation. Enthralled by the growth of the tech industry over the decades, she only became fascinated with business of local politics only in the past couple of years.

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