Thirty people have written a open letter to the Los Altos City Council suggesting putting a school on the Hillview-Civic Center site to ease the Los Altos School Districts “facilities/land shortage problem.” The Town Crier has promoted their school city facilities sharing suggestion by publishing their letter it its Other Voices section. FYI, a school operated on Hillview Community Center land till 1975 when the District closed and sold the school.
The 30 letter writers point to Paris, TN as a good example of school city facilities sharing. They seem to be hoping that the Paris, TN experience might be a directly applicable legal and architectural model for Los Altos. Paris is 90 miles from a major city, has a population of 10,000, its major employer is Campbell soup, and it has lots of undeveloped land. The semi-rural lay of the land looks like Los Altos in 1960, with land still being farmed. The school which is co-located with community center facilities is a 4-5 grade configuration. There are 3 schools in the city-district. 1-3, 4&5, 6- 8. They seem to use school buses. They have no policy of neighborhood schools apparently.
Let’s look at maps and street view provided by our local benefactor Google.
Paris School/Center is 18 acres, Our Civic Center is 18 acres
Would this Paris,TN site layout fit on our 18 acre Los Altos Civic Center site? Let’s not worry about relocating the Los Altos History Museum and Smith House or Neutra House…
Wow, the wholeParis, TN site – 600-seat auditorium, 25 foot indoor pool, fitness and weightrooms, indoor walking track suspended in a gym, two meeting rooms, and twenty-four 3-5 grade classrooms – is a whopping 18 acres, as large as the whole Los Altos Civic Center site – that’s our town hall, our police, our youth center, our library, our little theatre, our community center, our soccer field, and our baseball field. The Paris, TN example of school city facilities sharing looks way too land intensive as an example for our Los Altos situation.
Paris, TN apparently has its town hall, police, library, sports fields, senior center…SOMEWHERE ELSE. And please note the the 24 classrooms are dedicated to the school, are not “meeting rooms,” and are not shared with the community during the school year. There is a locking system to protect kids in classrooms from unauthorized adults in the shared areas.
Trim the Paris site to just buildings – 6.5 acres
What if we cut out the fat of all that vacant grass and remove the two parking lots? Ah, now we are down to 6.5 acres of the Paris site.
Fit 6.5 Paris TN acres on 3.5 acre Hillview Center & Lot ?
Put Paris TN 6.5 acres on Hillview, Parking & Soccer 6.1 acres.
If we get rid of the soccer field then the Paris, TN building layout will probably fit. Furthermore, the Paris layout could be placed in the north area of the Los Altos Civic Center’s 18 acres of possibilities. However, that is an exercise Lalahpolitico will not undertake.
Lalahpolitico is not going to take the 30 letter writers literally. Their Paris, TN is an “example,” but not a good fit architectural example of school city facilities sharing. At the Los Altos Civic Center site, it is going to be difficult to add a school, even a small school, to the long list of uses there without going to two stories. Now there is nothing illegal or intrinsically wrong with two or even multi-story buildings on the Civic Center. Just don’t “promise” a one-story, when to build a one-story school would probably have to take away the rights of existing users of the current Civic Center — the soccer field users, library users seeking parking, etc.
If the 30 letter writers are “wishing and hoping” that a school on our Los Altos Civic Center would accommodate the Bullis Charter School, that seems dicey. The Paris, TN example school is just 24 classrooms. I believe BCS is around 35 now. The letter writers are putting forward an example of a small school, when BCS is already a medium-sized school expecting to become a large school.
Lalahpolitico has looked at other examples of school city facilities sharing in the Berkeley study that the 30 letter writers cite and has located a better and bigger example in San Diego. But that’s a story for another day.
Let’s reflect innovative spirit in community spaces. Other Voices. Los Altos Town Crier. April 9. This is the letter from the 30 voices.
A study of a multitude of joint-use spaces and projects throughout California conducted by the Center for Cities and Schools at UC Berkeley: citiesandschools.berkeley.edu/reports/Partnerships_JU_Aug2010.pdf. This is the report cited in the letter. The sharing pattern pattern is that the school district owns land and asks a city to pay for building a “shared” facility on school district land. The facilities are almost always a sport field, pools, gyms, auditoriums and/or a performing arts center. The City of Los Altos built a gym on Blach and an identical one on Egan about 10+ years ago.
Some Paris, TN Enrollment Numbers. Less than 1500 students k-8.
Paris Special School District official website ( Not part of Henry County District )