City Council Parks & Rec Schools

Los Altos city school facilities sharing redux

Pablo Luther, Doug Smith, Megan Satterlee, Jeannie Bruins discuss two City-owned Los Altos sites for school district use
Written by lalahpolitico
Pablo Luther, Doug Smith, Megan Satterlee, Jeannie Bruins discuss two City-owned Los Altos sites for school district use

Pablo Luther, Doug Smith of the School District, Megan Satterlee, Jeannie Bruins of the Los Altos City Council, discuss two City-owned Los Altos sites for school district use

The first city-school subcommittee meeting to discuss Los Altos City-owned parcels  — Rosita Park and McKensie Park & adjacent maintenance yard –that could be used as sites for new schools occurred on Monday, June 19. Mayor Megan Satterlee and Councilman Jeannie Bruins represented the City of Los Altos.  Trustees Doug Smith and Pablo Luther represented the Los Altos School District.

Los Altos Town Crier covered this meeting in its June 24 edition.

LASD Doug Smith Promises Bond Will Solve the “Problem” – charter facilities

The goal of the subcommittee to explore whether the City’s providing school sites is feasible and can “help heal the community” and “accommodate District enrollment growth.” Doug Smith attested, “No one on the school board is going to ask the community for a whole bunch of money [a $150M bond], and then not actually solve the problem [charter-district facilities struggle].

LASD Search for Other School Sites  – too steep or… a river runs through it…

Luther and Smith shared that the District really needs some city sites because other prospective sites had not panned out.  One site in LAH was too steep to build a field. Another site in LAH had a creek running through it and would require a bridge. Mountain View sites were very unlikely because of low council support.  The District wants to have a Los Altos city-school land agreement in place in time for the August 8 deadline for the official bond language statement.  The prospects for bond passage will be higher if the voters know some specifics.

City Expectation for an Agreement – Lease, 15 years

Satterlee explained the City’s terms for any “framework” of a city-school agreement for the two sites the city was offering – Rosita and/or McKensie —  would require: A. that the land agreement solve the District facilities problems and that annual Prop 39 Facilities process would end, B. Let the city maintain its net park acreage, C. be a lease of city land, maybe with some small land swaps for tennis courts. The city did not expect to sell any land. D. the lease term would probably be only 10 to 15 years [and not match the 30 year school bond term.]

LASD Wants Hillview on the Table – eminent domain is the rub

Satterlee and Bruins said they were empowered to discuss two city parcels – Rosita Park and McKensie Park.  All city-owned land had been considered but these were the largest with the lowest negative impact on provision of existing city-services. But Luther and Smith also wanted to discuss a third site – Hillview/Civic Center. They said that a creative shared use arrangement – such as in Paris TN or Emeryville, CA – was a possibility that should be discussed in public meetings.  Saterlee and Bruins said they had studied these and other city-school facilities sharing examples, but they did not apply and provided no solution.  Satterlee said discussion of Hillview was impossible because the District continues to refuse to take the threat of “eminent domain off the table by writing a letter” eschewing eminent domain.

Doug Smith predicted that the city’s future 2015-16 civic bond will fail. “Until Hillview is deemed not to be viable through intelligent dialog, I think people are going to stay on the sidelines with their support of the city’s community center bond…What if we address your legal concern with a one-year agreement, that says we won’t do anything for a year?”

Image – Covington with Rosita Park – 22 acres

The city is offering to lease Rosita Park - its portion of the old 22 acre Covington Junior High campus.

The city is offering to lease Rosita Park – its portion of the old 22 acre Covington Junior High campus. Hatched area is approximately the city-owned portion. The city has suggested that the District move its admin offices elsewhere. CORRECTION: Feb. 6, 2016 The City owned parcel is only the rectangle of the baseball field and parking lot. Tennis Courts are leased from LASD.

City “Disappointment” with the District Board

Megan Satterlee said,  “I’d like to express my disappointment. I think you are very well aware that Hillview is too small to serve the need, and is too constrained, and the impact to the city and the services we provide is too great .  I think you guys as a school board are intelligent enough to figure that out for yourselves and put to rest the idea that Hillview should be explored.  I think you guys could help us by doing that.  That fact that you don’t disappoints me.”

 Jeannie Bruins said, “Megan put her disappointment out there. So let me get mine in.  Your purpose for having such a discussion is it because you genuinely have not, through whatever homework, through whatever you discussions you are having with the public, you think this [Hillview] is truly a viable site?  Are you doing this for your purpose or you think the residents of the city of Los Altos need to hear it?

LASD is Auditory Learner – doesn’t like reading

Doug Smith said, “…Me personally, I think it is possible, if the two parties were interested in making it work, it is a possible option. I’ve said several times that I don’t have the same level of knowledge about [Hillview] that you guys do.  Frankly, there is no amount of reading I can do that is going to educate me as well as a dialog.  Here is an example. What are the programs? How often do these thing run during the day. …we can have a back and forth…these things, here, they sound like they could run in this kind of a room?  Yes? No? Oh, you need those facilities, now I understand.  So far what I’ve gotten is people have sent me a 12M file.  “Go read this 200 pages of documentation.”  This is what you guys do, you do it every day [read]. It is what you are experts in. I’m asking you to share some of that expertise with us…”

SUMMARY OF NEXT STEPS:  School architect to noodle; City Lawyer to be consulted

Luther and Smith said that both Rosita and McKensie looked like feasible sites for schools. They will start to discuss those sites with the full District board June 23. If the sites gain the interest of the full school board, the District’s architect will be asked to sketch some site plan possibilities for the two sites being offered by the City.

Mayor Megan Satterlee will ask the city attorney whether a District letter promising a one year moratorium to not exercise emiment domain, is adequate protection for the city, and would allow discussion of the Hillview site as requested by Luther and Smith.

The next city-school meeting will be Wednesday, July 2, 7:15 pm to 9: pm. Luther and Smith are willing to meet weekly to iron out a land lease agreement.  But Satterlee cautioned that the city has only one board meeting at which to discuss and conclude an arrangement.

Image McKensie Park with Maintenance Yard, 7 acres

McKensie Park and the maintenance yard are a stone's throw from Loyola school. There is a fire station on corner which probably cannot be moved.

McKensie Park and the maintenance yard are a stone’s throw from Loyola school (top of map). There is a fire station on corner of the site which probably cannot be moved. Dimension approximate.

LALAHPOLITICO:  LASD a day late and a dollar short…

Bruins and Satterlee from the City were well-prepared for the meeting with maps and facts. Luther and Smith from LASD had done little to no homework, seeming completely unfamiliar with the City’s civic center planning and the City recreation department.  They don’t like to read long documents,  unless it it charter litigation. How rude.

Why is everything the District does so last minute?  Only in mid-June do Smith and Luther start discussions with the city, expecting Bruins and Satterlee to be willing to meet weekly and rush, rush, rush with them towards the August 8 deadline for bond ballot language? And Smith and Luther were unaware the City Council goes into low gear during July, with a single meeting of July 22, while the District Board has imposed 4 extra meetings on itself.  Does the School District feel it has some kind of entitlement to massive amounts of city councilmen’s time and city staff time at the last minute this summer? And no one at the District can read 200 pages about the Civic Center planning, but they can read thousands of pages of charter litigation? Instead of doing a little self-study, Luther and Smith expect Bruins and Satterlee to spoon feed them information. Plus they say it is the City that needs to PROVE that Hillview CANNOT be used in a shared school-city configuration.

LALAHPOLITICO says it is the District that should hire its architect to PROVE that Hillview CAN be used in a shared school-city configuration.  The burden of proof is on the District [Maybe Huttlinger Alliance for Education can do this heaving lifting for LASD.] Go see if that Emeryville, CA example actually applies to Hillview/Civic Center. Be sure to include the school grades separation plan and the locking gates security plan. And the plan for extra storage to make vast quantities of flex space work.  And the extra maintenance workers to do the daily, weekly, seasonal set up and tear down. And what software to coordinate all the granular scheduling? If the charter is to be the school tenant, remember that the charter has a longer instructional day, so City recreation department programming will be more crimped. The district and HAE can suggest which city uses to “drop” from the Civic Center site to make way for the school footprint. Pool? Library? Theatre? Police? Give us something specific.

[hr] [hr]

This Transcription

As usual this is a conversational transcription, cleaned up for improved readability. The principal speakers were often talking at the same time. So lots of cross talk. More than usual oms and ahs and false starts. The environment was extra noisy with martial arts next door, gardeners outside and audience noise.  So there were more inaudible passages.  If any reader believes I misheard something important or omitted something important, please let me know.

Jeannie: Jeannie Bruins, Councilman

Pablo: Pablo Luther, Los Altos School District Trustee

Doug:  Doug Smith, Los Altos School District Trustee

Megan: Megan Satterlee, Mayor of Los Altos, Councilman


WHAT IS THE GOAL – No more annual Prop 39 process

JEANNIE:   As we are looking at how we can be part of your solution, the problem I am interested in solving is how to heal the community.  How do you see your priorities? If you could acquire two properties in the “magic  kingdom,” the area you serve?

PABLO:    For us one of our concerns is healing the community.  To rephrase the problem,  It is the kids, how to accommodate the growth.  Healing the community is one of the overarching criteria. We are running out of space for our kids.

DOUG:   We have a capacity issue.  Adding more capacity addresses the pain points.  From a political standpoint, how that gets positioned, how we go out and talk about that remains to be seen. We have a poll on messages. What will inspire people to vote yes on a bond.  We are messaging in a way to try to maximize the support we can get.

We need to build a school site.  We have a short time line to get the ballot message language in time. Rather we want to understand what the community will support.

MEGAN: Our meeting timing is a little unfortunate, as you don’t have the results of your poll till next Monday.

JEANNIE:   We would like to enable a solution. Yes fix the growth, but also get the school board out of this annual exercise… {laughter}. If we come to an agreement, we are not saying how the land be used, for BCS, a magnet school, for a Los Altos School District school.  But when we talk about healing, we have to get out of this annual exercise.  Still trying to understand your priorities.

DOUG:   Let me talk about that without putting every card out on the table.  If the district acquires one more site, a 10th.  Then we will need to rebalance the student population. I would not like to try to defend a legal case where we redrew boundaries and did not address a ten-year pain point [sic the charter school facilities]. It depends on what solutions are on the table.  We are talking to you guys [sic city of Los Altos, I heard some news about the San Antonio Precise plan (city of Mountain View], we are chasing down every avenue we can.  No one on the board is going to ask the community for a whole bunch of money, and they not actually solve the problem.

PABLO:   We do have  problem. We need to place BCS somewhere. If it’s a cohesive site, it’s that much better.  We also need a site for district future growth.  If don’t get both, we are noodling on how to get BCS more cohesive, and accommodate our growth, while looking for future sites.


WHY THE DISTRICT NEEDS CITY LAND – other options are a bust

MEGAN:  Back to the criteria. What are you looking for from the city?  You might not even need city land.

PABLO:   We’ve beaten that dead horse. That option… {audience: What dead horse?  Who are you people?  What properties are you talking about? ] We are not going to talk about properties.

DOUG:   I don’t think you guys are Santa Claus.  Let’s start with the list that was on the letter [sic from the City offering two sites and explaining why other sites are not being offered.]

PABLO:   We are looking at scenarios, grade reconfigurations, making our sites more productive, more cohesive, less cohesive, etc. You can help us identify parcels of land within the city limits that you control, that we can see if it fits school critera.

MEGAN: We have already identified two.

PABLO:  Are there others?


JEANNIE:    Just two parcels. This is what the meeting is about. These two. [lalahpolitico: Didn’t Doug and Pablo get the agenda????] How would these two stack up or not.

MEGAN: Part of the criteria is how does out land help solve the long-term problem.  The land needs to part of the solution. There need to a long-term agreement [sic on the facilities for the charter]. If that is not the case, we are not moving forward.

DOUG:   There are basic things we think about when looking at a parcel.

PABLO:   We have though about what’s good for the community, the schools, the kids.  We have culled criteria from group studies: Location – ingress and egress, neighborhood impacts. Size, acreage.  Current use of parcel.  How can we use it it collaboratively for current and future users.  Condition of the property – does it need improvements.  What it is going to cost us.

DOUG:   Size, traffic, access, cost, location, condition, feasibility, timing.  Feasibility?  Is it legal. We can’t build on a toxic waste dump, or close to a freeway.  Mr. Kenyon knows all the DSA requirements.  Hill or stream property is not feasible. The current use can limit the feasibility.  There is impact.  Let’s get the impact issue out on the table.

PABLO:  There was one parcel the literally had a creek running through it…so if you wanted to build a bridge [laughter]. Think about where you would like your kids to be.


SCHOOL AND SITE CRITERIA – 8 acres, 400+ kids, grade separation

DOUG:  Size?  The district has a lot of experience operating schools of a particular size. We prefer 550 kids per school. A sweet spot academically and socially for kids. We don’t want to be restrictive about this.  We could run a school of 400 – maybe a choice program.

MEGAN:  What about acres? Single story or two story.

DOUG:  It’s 8 to 12 acres. Stories – that where we get into the architects advice.

MEGAN:  What is smallest amount of land you could do 550 on?

PABLO:  8 acres.

DOUG:  the average for our k-6 campuses is 10.  The junior highs are very different. They are 18 acres each. Track, field, gyms, bigger kids.

MEGAN:  So does doing a smaller school help you get to a solution.?

DOUG:  If we get a parcel which holds only 400, we need a second parcel. Do the math. In order to make a dent.  BCS has said to us they intend to grow to 900.

MEGAN:   Well how big a school to you need for that?

DOUG:  Those 900 kids aren’t all in one bucket.  There are a large number of elementary school kids and a very small number of junior high kids. There are lots of specialized spaces.  If we build out a site for BCS with all these junior high spaces, the costs would sky-rocket.

MEGAN:  Are you talking to BCS now so you know what the portfolio of long-term solutions are?

DOUG:  The fact that we are in mediation is public information.

MEGAN:  Oh, I though mediation was over.

DOUG:  No there is ongoing mediation.  I can’t talk about it.

MEGAN:  Is the mediation going to address that [ways of accommodating charter junior high kids?}  Or is it on some side issue?

PABLO:   On the size issue…one of the solutions is to not use a standalone site. You combine it with an existing site, and now you have a different footprint.  This leads to more creative solutions…What we’ve done in the past is not the only approach, we can have new approaches.  We want to alleviate issues of child safety, of traffic, of growth.

MEGAN:  What are the child safety issues? I’m trying to understand the term.

DOUG:  Think of the course of the day: ingress and egress, grade separtion, DSA requirements…for building a school on state.

MEGAN:  What are they that would constrain the site?

PABLO:  K-3 needs to be fenced off so they don’t wander off.

DOUG:  Any of city sites the city uses for parks are safe for kids.  We don’t have to worry about them except for ingress and egress issues.

DOUG:  As an example, Hillview – I’ll probably get in trouble for saying the work – Hillview is on San Antonio, and there is another school on San Antonio, so clearly the road is not so busy that that is a problem.  Right?  If Hillview were to abut 101…


TIMING – fast, let’s meet every week

MEGAN:  Timing? What is that?

DOUG:  As soon as possible. Fast is important. We will have a bond hopefully on the November ballot.  Ideally if the city and district are to do a deal, we’d like that to be in place so we can talk about that. We can’t go the public as ask them, “ Hey,  will you give us $150 million, we’re not sure where we are going to spend it.”  I’m willing to meeting with you guys every week for the rest of the summer.

MEGAN:  The city council doesn’t meet again till August 8.

DOUG:  Can’t you do “special” meetings.

PABLO:  The district has 4 special meeting set up before August 4.   All we have to do is setting on a price and be done with it.


MEGAN:  We evaluated all city owned property [except the parking plazas].  Size was the criteria that eliminated them from consideration.

PABLO:  You applied your own filter to the properties.  We’d like to know what that filter was.

JEANNIE:  In our letter we told you what we used as our first pass filter.  Size was first. We ruled anything less than 5 acres.  Located within Los Altos School District boundaries or adjacent. [Grant and Montclaire were ruled out].  Accessibility – we took the 6 acres of Redwood Grove off the list…and it has a creek. [laughter.]  If we combined MacKensize and MSC one has 6.8 acres [it does not include the fire department.]   We would have to relocate our MSC.  We also included Rosita.

DOUG:   Cupertino recently moved their administrative offices outside of the district. Could the MSC move out of the city limits?

MEGAN:   It distributes sand bags to residents.  It deals with sewer backups.  You don’t want it too far away.

JEANNIE:  It is part of our emergency response.  It has to be in the city.


WHY JUST THESE TWO SITES – bigger size, lesser impact on city services

JEANNIE:  On Rosita Park , if you had the flexibility to move your district administrative offices.  Rosita alone is 5 acres, but the total Covington site is 21.7 acres.   Use two entities could get creative about Rosita – we could look at joint uses.  Hillview came off the list because of joint use.  We have 6 distinct uses on this 18 acre Hillview-civic center parcel.  Adding a school, would be 7 uses. The complexity was too high. We thought the other two parcels were the ones to look at.

PABLO:  What are the 6 current use on the civic center-Hillview>

JEANNIE:  City Hall, library,  Senior center, Bus Barn theatre, History House,  Youth Center, History Museum, Community Center, Apricot orchard.

PABLO:   When you look at a smaller footprint, say 10 or 12 acres, does that then prevent you from providing some of those services?

MEGAN:   We would no longer provide the same services we have been providing.

PABLO:   Two or three or four would fall off?

JEANNIE:  At this location, nor at another location, could we provide these services.. That’s why it’s not on the list.

PABLO:  Did you guys look at multi-use?

MEGAN:  If you look at the other two we want to talk about.  That’s why the discussion is about those two sites



PABLO:  Why can’t you talk about it? What precludes you?

MEGAN:  It’s a legal issue. That fact that you guys could use eminent domain to take the property.  That fact that you won’t take it off the table by writing that letter eschewing eminent domain.  I’ve been singing that same tune for 2 years. That is the advice of our legal counsel as long as the threat remain. You have your reasons for doing what you want to do, and I am not going to debate them with you.

DOUG:  So in the bucket of being creative. No. 1 are we going to do some kind of a swap. Maybe you want 2 acres at Blach and 2 acres at Egan.

MEGAN:  We have similar constraints on minimum size.  You could move a couple of tennis courts.  But a park has a minimum to be a park.

DOUG:   It would server the city well if it were to have an open conversation about whether Hillview is feasible.  I know you ambitions of your own as to what you want to do with site.  If you don’t have this conversation, I think it makes it more difficult for you guys to pass a bond.  There is some portion of the community that says Hillview is a viable option. Until it is deemed not to be viable through intelligent dialog, I think people are going to stay on the sidelines with their support of the city’s community center bond. We haven’t talked about this as a board. What if we address your legal concern with a one-year agreement, that says we won’t do anything for a year.?



MEGAN:   I’d have to think about that.  I’d like to express my disappointment though. I think you are very well aware that Hillview is too small to serve the need, and is too contrained, and the impact to the city and the services we provide is too great .  I think you guys as a school board are intelligent enough to figure that out for yourselves and put to rest that Hillview should be explored.  I think you guys could help us by doing that.  That fact that you don’t disappoints me.

DOUG:  You have a lot more information than we do. That’s why I want the dialog. When we go out for a bond, that every body looks at it and says this makes sense.  There’s a better option over there, or over here.  This option is good, let’s go with it.

JEANNIE:  We applied our criteria. We identified two pieces of land. What are the attributes that make these two sites worthy considerations.  What are the weaknesses and how to mitigating them.  We have two sites.  Let’s got through them.

PABLO:  We can talk about both.  But just to comment on your comment. About being disappointed. That’s a pretty strong comment about us looking at alternate uses for city owned land.  The disappointment from our constituents may be mutual.  In other to strike something off, one should look at it with an open mind, to see if their are creative, collaborative, solutions to multiuse properties before you strike it off the list.   The disappointment you are portraying is similarly on our side.  There is a close-mindedness in even looking at this.  Maybe when we all look at it we will say it [multiuse at Hillview or just Hillview] makes absolutely no sense.  We owe it to everyone to look at it.  If nothing else comes out of it, at least will know for posterity they looked at it and they deemed it infeasible, therefore it is no more an alternative.

DOUG:   Hence, we take it off the table for a year.  We get to look at your concerns, and maybe say, that makes sense.

JEANNIE:  Let’s park that. Let’s come back to it.


ROSITA PARK DISCUSSION – move Los Altos School District admin offices

MEGAN:  what part of Rosita would you use?

DOUG:   The whole thing…On Rosita, What would we do with that facility.  The most logical thing is to have two sites that are completely independent of one another.  I’ll be polite in saying that sharing space has not worked well. Right?  We don’t want to be in a situation where we use less of Rosita than the whole thing, and then instead say, “Oh, you can share and decide who has recess when.”

MEGAN:   We have programs and services on Rosita. The tennis courts, neighborhood playground structure. The field itself, to my knowledge is not programmed during the school day. The field could be used for school athletic purposes.  Rosita has both regulation soccer and regulation baseball.

PABLO:  the play structure is the easy one.

DOUG:  How much space is there with the tennis courts and play structure?

MEGAN:   3 tennis courts… maybe two acres.  This is an old aerial photo. [the group looks at the site and acres it is about a couple acres.]

PABLO:  Obviously you have given this some thought.  What was your alternative about relocating those?

MEGAN:  We didn’t know if you needed all of Rosita. So we didn’t think about relocating.  Because the tennis courts are on the edge, you could think about carving out that space with spots and leaving it there.

PABLO:   I though you said it was appropriate?

JEANNIE:   It is 21.7 acres if you look at all of it, the entire site. Let’s say its around 22 acres.  If you look at Covington school, your administrative offices,  and Rosita Park, that is 22 acres to work with.  We have not been a big analysis.  Maybe there is another place in the neighborhood to put a play structure.  We don’t want to just use the schools [for a play structure].  We need to find something to be carved out.

PABLO:   What about those locations that were below your filter?

JEANNIE:  Yes, but the tennis courts…we could be creative. I’m going to optimistic.

MEGAN:  As a starting point, we don’t want any net loss of land. We have insufficient park land for our residents. So when we look at Rosita, the parking lot, the field those can be shared. The only thing to worry about is the play structure and the tennis courts during school hours.  It our intent to retain ownership.  We are not going to sell land. Replacing these tennis courts on city land IS a net loss to us.  So I’d rather look at having you leave the courts and work around them.

DOUG:  What if we locate the tennis courts to Egan?

MEGAN:  That’s a possibility

DOUG:  I ask because of the logistics of two school sites.

MEGAN:   Yes, the courts don’t have to stay in this location.

JEANNIE:  It is a solvable problem.  Figure out to share those facilities that are not  programmed during the day.

MEGAN:   The first issue you mentioned is ingress and egress.  There are improvement coming for the Foothill El Monte intersection that would improve the throughput of El Monte – which is now heavily impacted by the elimination of that second land.  B. Any schools next to each other have to have offset starting and ending schedules.

Pablo/DOUG:   We’ll have to be looking at that from a CEQA viewpoint.

MEGAN:  C. The third thing that is a challenge for the site – as it is for MacKensie too – is there another ingress egress point along the backside here.

DOUG:  There may be interesting conversations about ways to get other access points.

This is a very gentle broad statement. We can be creative on that…. So instead of having 450 kids arrive by car, some arrive by bus…I don’t what the cost structure of that looks like.

Megan/JEANNIE:   I think Palo Alto has them.  Cupertino too.

JEANNIE:   You concern about traffic and ingress egress are shared by us.  For us to look at this site, we have to explore all this.

MEGAN:   What are you trying to solve? We don’t have insight into that.

PABLO:   We would get one extra school site.  It is a feasible option.

JEANNIE:  Is this worth having a continued discussion on this site?

PABLO:  Definitely

MEGAN:  The field can be a simple shared use arrangement.  But that assumes that the field remains a field, and is not in the middle of the site.  Moving the field would create access issues.  Does that constrain you in any way? Keeping it there would minimize the impact on neighbors, because they are used to that field being there.  Other neighbors might prefer a new two-story building. We invested in restrooms and a snack shack.

DOUG:  What was the investment.

Marcia Sommers:  2.1 million all.  $50 to 60 k for the snack shack.

MEGAN:   If you move the field that will cost you 1 million.  That is what we estimate moving the Hillview field to another spot would cost. Fields are expensive.

{laughter}  We need proximate parking, access, what is next to it.  Don’t put it in the middle, build around it and make it a private feeling field.

DOUG:  If we maintained access though, even if it were in the middle, if the parking were proximate to the field still…

MEGAN:   If there is line of sight from parking to the field, that tells me as a member of the public, that this is a public space and I can go and enjoy it.


JEANNIE:   There will be higher cost and lower cost ways to site elements on Rosita.

I want to comment on your criteria. We have discussed several now.  Now I am looking at feasibility and DSA, but when you look at the issue of timing…

MEGAN:   This site you could pretty much build on it tomorrow. Of course you have to CEQA…But from a neighborhood happiness problem you may have a timing problem.  You should expect to be sued over the adequacy of your CEQA and I can expect the City to be sued about whether our city-school deal is fair to the city tax-payers.

DOUG:  We get advice from counsel about that.  You will too.

MEGAN:   About your time perspective.  Either of these sites will require these processes no matter what.

DOUG:   We would have that constraint, if we were building on cornfield.

PABLO:  The timing I am talking about is coming to our agreement.

MEGAN:   If you were to come up with two designs, one where you leave the tennis courts, the other where you move them…

PABLO:   You mentioned that you don’t want to give up ownership of the site.  So this is not a land swap. We are not talking about a sale. Are we talking about a lease?

MEGAN:   You might want to land swap the tennis courts.

DOUG:  What about the rest of the parcel?

MEGAN:   A lease. Unless you could give us the same site parcel somewhere else. And then we’d have to look at our park map and see if that location is of benefit.  We are very short of park land in the north.

JEANNIE:  And they are very short of school land in the north. [Laughter] [ Grant and Marymeade…. are located outside the District]

MEGAN:   We don’t want a net park acreage loss.

JEANNIE:  We are all in the same boat.  We can’t speak for our elected bodies here. All we can do float ideas and such.  I agree with Megan, look at a landswap and / or leasing.

MEGAN:  What sort of time line for a lease would you be thinking?

DOUG:  A bond pay out for 30 years.

MEGAN:  I was thinking of a 10 to 15 year time.  Because this is part of your larger long-term solution.  I don’t see you having an agreement [ with BCS] for longer.  We want to align with that.  You make a solution, and then you are out of Prop 39 at some point.

{some crosstalk about understanding one another about the direction of the future]


MCKENSIE PARK DISCUSSION – city uses of the Maintenance Yard

MEGAN:  So do you guys want to look at the other one? [MacKensie park and MCS]

Aside: group looks at MacKensie and maintenance yard arerial map. The fire station there is not part of the city site.

PABLO:  How many acres is the site?

JEANNIE:  The park and the yard together is about 6.8 acres.

MEGAN:  So this site has street frontage, commercial property neighbors.  Access is not great. The challenge is not Fremont. But rather the intersection of Foothill and Springer, which backs up.  On the other end of Fremont, is Loyola corners. There is no access from the back.  No access off of Altos Oaks. It’s not that easy to get to Fremont.  I would have thought that Covington would be an excellent place to put a school. There are huge traffic problems getting into Blach.

DOUG:  Ironically the access ,  I understand what you are saying about the access to Mackenzie.

MEGAN: But the impact of the traffic backing up, is low.  People queue politely.

DOUG:  There is the potential to separate pedestrian/bike traffic from cars.  Unlike Portola Ave. at Egan where all converge on the same place.

MEGAN:   But this site is next to an existing school.  When you talk about “neighborhood schools” the neighborhood is going to Loyola.  So this site becomes a commuter school, no matter what you do with it.

PABLO:  There is precendent for traffic at McKensie as a school.  Pinewood on Fremont has the same issues.

MEGAN:  No, it is easier for Pinewood.

JEANNIE:  It is kind of similar. There are solutions. For me it is unclear if this location is where you need a school. What are your other options?  A 900 student school site? Or just meeting Los Altos School District growth needs from North of El Camino?

PABLO:  What is is acreage without the MSC?

Megan/JEANNIE:  It’s tiny. The tennis courts and this grass area are tiny.

PABLO:  If it is not a school what else could we do with it?  District offices?

MEGAN:  On the MSC, I don’t think there is space to add the district offices. Where are you are putting the MSC


MEGAN:   This field space is programmed. So that is a constraint. But the field is not a regulation field. The park has two  play structures.  The MSC has storage including District storage.  Also our emergency operations.  We might be able to split some on this into several smaller sites.  The emergency function for example might be split off. … I’ve never seen anyone on this tiny play structure – it’s more of a sculpture.

DOUG:  If you need to use the site for emergency purposes, that would create traffic problems.

MEGAN:  Same as 550 kids arriving everyday???

DOUG:  Could we approach the county to get the fire station off of there.

MEGAN:  I don’t think that would be your commute pattern…arriving from the south.

PABLO:  Wasn’t the city planning on doing some upgrading to Loyola Corners? Exits, on ramps, bridge?

MEGAN:  The county is going to replace the bridge, but there is not enough street width to configure it. We did look at it. The one ways have to stay one way.

DOUG:  This site has more challenges to it.

PABLO:  Well if it’s a district office that might not be too difficult.

DOUG:  You mean your talking about using this parcel of land [sic…they seem to be referring to part of the site…the park part?]

JEANNIE:  Well, I’m sure we aren’t keen on…[sic district offices on McKensie]

PABLO:  That would free up a couple acres at Covington, giving room for more school there

MEGAN:  Rent some offices to replace your district offices. Why would you need three acres for your district offices?

PABLO:  It doesn’t have to be three

MEGAN:  Rent some office space. Right now you are single story buildings.

PABLO:   [Teasingly] Well, Mackensie is closer to my house! [laughter]. For all the board meeting we have to go to!

DOUG:  So are committing to stay on the board? [more laughter]

MEGAN:  I used to think that Covington was best type of road to site a school on. Traffic is traffic.  So the problematic traffic on these two sites are not deal breakers. Is Mackensie of any interest [ as a school].

JEANNIE:  If you do a magnet school how does it solve your problems?

DOUG:   That an internal board discussion [sic doing a magnet, choice, or whatever].  My impression. Rosita makes more sense from raw space. Access may be easier at MacKensie because of less competition.  But MacKensie is smaller, limiting what we can do with it.  I think we should talk it back to the board.

MEGAN:  We can’t get back to you till July. We have infrequent council meetings during the summer. I wanted more meetings, but no one else on council agreed with me.

DOUG:  I’d like to get going with a cadence of really regular meeting to hammer this out.  I could do this every Thursday night for the rest of the summer, if that is what it takes.

Pablo: – 7 to 11. We’ll bring pizza.

Megan:  – Very quickly, I’ll have to report it as more than a $50 gift.

MEGAN:  I’m trying to think of what is the right next step.



PABLO:  The next step for us would be to take this MacKensie idea back to the board, to see if there is anything there.  And take the Covington Rosita site, and start to work on how we can configure that.  But I’d also like the next step to be, and look at this third site [Hillview] is….or isn’t feasible.

MEGAN:  I’ve ready every single joint use proposal anyone has ever sent to me and it’s pretty clear – if you read them – they don’t apply to this site. And none of them work for this site.

PABLO:  How many have you seen so far?

JEANNIE:  Every one that  has crossed my desk.. MEGAN:  for me 6 or 8. JEANNIE:  plus for me I’ve gone off on my own searching and digging, I haven’t for one that applies to our situation.  The vast majority of them apply to cornfields.

MEGAN:   They are all about an expansion of city services….to school land…not a contraction of city services.

DOUG:  Let me turn this around. We can invite you to come and present to the board meeting as to why it is not a good idea. With the provision of the other item I already proposed.  Let’s have a discussion so it [sic Hillview] can be taken off the table.



JEANNIE:  Megan put her disappointment out there. So let me get mine in.  Your purpose for having such a discussion is it because you genuinely have not, through whatever homework, through whatever you discussions you are having with the public, you think this is truly a viable site?  Are you doing this for your purpose or you think the residents of the city of Los Altos need to hear it?  You have come to the same conclusion that we have. It’s the residents that need to hear this?  Or that you have not come to the same conclusion?

DOUG:   I still hear from a fair number of residents, who believe it is a viable option. Me personally, I think it is possible, if the two parties were interested in making it work, it is a possible option. I’ve said several times that I don’t have the same level of knowledge about it that you guys do.  Frankly, there is no amount of reading I can do that is going to educate me as well as a dialog.  Here is an example. What are the programs? How often do these thing run during the day. That kind of stuff. Where?  I have not been able to get anyone to engage in that discussion so we can have a back and forth, so that these things, here, they sound like they could run in this kind of a room?  Yes? No? Oh you need those facilities, now I understand.  So far what I’ve gotten is people have sent me 12M file.  Go read this 200 pages of documentation.  This is what you guys do, you do it every day. It is what you are experts in. I’m asking you to share some of that expertise with us.  As I said before, I still hear from lots of community members who think that should be on the table.  I want to be able to look at them with a straight face and say. We had a dialog.


NEXT STEPS – City Lawyer re 1-year letter on eminent domain, School architect

JEANNIE: Well we are not empowered to make that decision. That is something we would have to take to council.

MEGAN:  I think the first step is for them to pursue the sites idea back with their board.  I can take the Hillview eminent domain moratorium to the city attorney in parallel.

DOUG:  Yes, let’s do that. We have a board meeting on Monday.  We can put this on the agenda. We are willing to go to 3 in the morning. The sites may be a longer conversation.  We have 4 meetings in July.

MEGAN:   A. The first thing you have to figure out is if you guys are interested in these sites at all.  Then you have to figure out how we are going to do it. B. you guys need to figure out how you are going to configure the site. C. Even if talk about this at your next meeting, you are still going to need time to think about a configuration  And if you haven’t done all that…

PABLO:  We need to talk to the architect.

DOUG:  We can parse some of that very quickly.

MEGAN:   So you need to have a board discussion on these two sites.  If there is board support, you need to figure out a design of site plan.

PABLO:  So those are the two ideas. We also have a third one, also going back and working on this one-year moratorium on the dirty word [sic eminent domain].

MEGAN:  That would happen July 22.

PABLO:  And at that time concurrently, while you are considering the moratorium, you would also decide how we would move forward with looking at this site [sic Hillview?]

MEGAN:  I’m not understanding that.

PABLO:  So on July 22, if the moratorium [sic on eminent domain on Hillview] is agreeable to the council, concurrently, you would also be empowered to discuss the various options sic [for shared use of Hillview]?

MEGAN:  I do not know. I can’t tell you that our council would advise us to do so. It’s not a short time thing.  Honestly a moratorium, all that says is “I’ll wait, and use all this against you in a year. “


NEXT MEETINGS…. July 2 7:15 pm

MEGAN:   Next week is out for a follow up meeting.

DOUG:  Wed July 2. 7 to 9 pm

MEGAN:   I could make 7:15 pm.  And at that time will you know if your board is considering any of the two sites we discussed?

DOUG:  I am working on the assumption we should chase every viable option.

PABLO:  Does the city have other options we haven’t considered?

JEANNIE:  No, we are not sitting on anything.  [laughter]

DOUG:  I’m not joking about scheduling several of these meeting.

MEGAN:  Do you envision taking public input, if we pursue any of these sites in depth?

DOUG:  If we get to that point, I think we will need a full joint meeting or both these subcommittee.

MEGAN:  The agenda for our June 22 council meeting is already out. We exceed the Brown Act. We give 7 days notice. It’s a full agenda.

PABLO:   I think a joint board meeting is best once we have some cohesion.

DOUG:  After a week or so, we’ll know if our board feels the joint meeting needs be a full board meeting or just the subcommittees.

MEGAN:  Another challenge in coming to some sort of framework or agreement, we are expecting this to be part of the larger solution. And you are constrained about how you want to talk about the larger solution {sic to the charter facilities struggles and north of el camino enrollment growth}. We may hit a constraint where we can’t go further.



MEGAN VOTES NO on SCHOOL BOND that includes eminent domain

PABLO:  Any we also would like you to support the bond.

MEGAN:  I can tell you where my vote is going to be. For no eminent domain against public land.

JEANNIE:  We did not take public comment tonite.  And we won’t on July 2.  We have not explained to the public why we are making our choices.  All of us have preconceived notions of what’s doable and not doable. The impact on us personally or our neighborhood. Or what have you.  We are trying to get to a point where we have something, and have people comment on what we have.  Versus, it’s easy to see all the limitations with any site.  Every site has issues, barriers.  Let both organizations look at what’s negative. If we are going to more forward, how are going to mitigate the impacts.  We need to figure out the appropriate time, so that people can react to something specific.

DOUG:  I agree and support your sentiment.  There is a balance — between input to shape a proposal — and on the other hand, getting something solid to have a debate about.  Yes, we need to have some kind of framework/agreement in place before public input.


RESULTS OF SCHOOL BOND SURVEY – release is for June 23

MEGAN:  At the next meeting, or earlier if it is easy, can you provide us the insight on the bond survey… And what that means for your site decision-making.

DOUG:  The bond survey presentation will be on Monday.

MEGAN:  I have trouble getting things off your Los Altos School District website.

JEANNIE:  I feel very positive about this discussion, thank you.

PABLO:  Ditto.
























About the author


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 became fascinated with the business of local politics only in the past couple of years.

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