St. Williams for 10th site vs. Better 5150 El Camino Price

LASD trustees will discuss St. Williams in closed session. Public Comments before at 6pm
LASD trustees will discuss St. Williams in closed session. Public Comments before at 6pm
Written by lalahpolitico

July 13, 2016. Each week the local Los Altos paper has helpfully printed a story that lets the seller of the 4-acre offices at 5150 El Camino know in no uncertain terms that the School District has real alternatives for a Bullis Charter School 10th site.  The sellers need to understand that the Trustees don’t want 5150 El Camino at just any old exorbitant price. They must realize that the Trustees have school sites they can split. And now the local paper reminds the owners of 5150 El Camino that maybe, just maybe,  the Trustees also have 4-acres they could purchase at St. Williams Church at El Monte & Covington. Wink, wink.

Apparently the 5150 El Camino seller — a mammoth real estate investment firm —  wrote the draft of the first “term-sheet,” aka offer letter.  The Los Altos Town Crier reports that on June 27 the Board discussed in a closed meeting the first offer made by the seller, and they did not vote to accept it.

[UPDATE JULY 14, 2016, 7 pm.   The board announced that NO ACTION was taken in the closed session on either the 5150 El Camino property or on the St. Williams property discussions. ]

“We Didn’t Get What We Wanted”

The local paper quoted Board of Trustees President Pablo Luther as saying, “We did not take action because the board didn’t feel it was the right thing to vote on.” … “We thought we would vote if we got what we wanted,” he said…“We didn’t get what we wanted out of negotiations,” Luther said… “We did not vote on it. Is it the best and final offer? I don’t know, and the ball is not in our court.”…“The only other option now is to split one of our sites.”

Is TA Realty returning the "ball" -- a second term sheet -- into the School District's court

Is megacorp TA Realty, the owner of 5150 El Camino,  returning the “ball” — a second term sheet — into the School District’s “court” July 14th closed sessions. [Photo Flickr liee_wu]

Lalahpolitico concludes the “ball” has been back in the seller’s court now for about two weeks.  Are they returning a “new volley” – term sheet – that the Board will discuss July 14th at the 6pm closed session?  A “real property negotiation” topic about 5150 El Camino is on the closed 6pm session agenda Thursday July 14, 2016.  So what does the Board want?  Who knows.   In online postings, a LASD board member has posted in the past that 5150 was worth $10M an acre. Lalah sources say it is worth more like $15M an acre. Can the sides cross that kind of price chasm? And resolve other terms and conditions? Or not?

St. Williams for What? Parking? Driveway? School?

Also on the closed session agenda for July 14th 6 pm,  is a “real property negotiation” topic regarding St. Williams Church. There are three speculations as to what exactly might be discussed: 1) formalizing [with a contract] the existing arrangement of reciprocal evening use of of each others’ parking lots for overflow parking. 2) negotiating with St. Williams  for an easement from El Monte through and around the parking lot to create an additional access driveway to the Covington Campus. 2) Outright sale of the 4 acre St. William property.

As the local paper says, the school district is “tight-lipped” about all these questions. Pablo Luther did not respond to a Lalah email for clarifications.


Zoning map of St. Williams shows it is PCF

The St. Williams Church is zoned PCF – Public or Community Facility – not R1, R3, Commericial – so it should be cheaper than El Camino sites.


Use PCF zoned land, Save El Camino for ABAG Housing

Clearly much of the Bullis Charter Community is hoping the School District’s upcoming negotiation with St. Williams is for sale of 4-acres. It’s zoned PCF [Public or Community Facilities – Park, Church, School] not for R1 or R3 housing or office/commericial.  So theoretically the 4-acre St. Williams property should be much cheaper per acre than 4-acre 5150 El Camino.  A extra 4-acres would make “splitting” Covington easier.

Lalahpolitico is surprised by size of “super-frugal” contingent of the general community who think there is no need to split Covington. Instead the Trustees should “put on the big boy pants,”  give Covington to the 900 student charter, and resdistrict Covington students back to the 4 schools they used to attend. “The kids will be just fine.” Put 6th grade at Egan and Blach. Spread the bond money around all the schools. And let’s remember that the District’s Facilities Master Plan Committee  to-do list of projects at the existing schools consumes the entire $150Million bond money.  [Or just don’t issue all the bonds, and essentially let the taxpayers keep their money.]

LASD and City Competing for El Camino Land Use

El Camino Commercial Thoroughfare zone in red - no place for a k-8 school or even a high school

El Camino is destined to become a Grand Boulevard for dense housing next to high-speed mass transit. ABAG tells us so. The City “needs” these parcels to become housing…

El El Camino is a horrible location for any publicly-owned k-8 school especially a 900 student Bullis Charter School tenth site. Also El Camino has been already been designated to become the Grand Boulevard of the Bay Area – a place for high density housing and high-availabilty mass transit.  

In fact the City of Los Altos — in its 2014-2014 long-term planning — is relying on El Camino parcels being transformed into housing. In that way, our City can meet its commitment to ABAG to do our “fair share” to provide new housing – almost 500 new units across income levels by 2024.  At “underutilized” 5150 El Camino, the City says 144 housing units could be constructed.  At Village Court on El Camino, the City says 105 housing units could be constructed.  Is the LASD left-hand ignoring what the City right-hand is doing?

Apparently the MVLA High School District believes it has facilities shortages and is looking for school sites. Perhaps 5150 is a better fit for high school students. But given that a couple of decades ago, MVLA sold the old Castro High site for use as a small park and high density housing right in downtown Mountain View, Lalah doesn’t see 5150 working out for a high school.  Let it go to high density housing.

Lalahpolitico: But we’ve got to change the laws about the School Impact Fees on new housing units.  They are way too low: on the order of a one-time $7500 per unit. Thirty units provide $225,000; enough to buy one new classroom? Not even.


Lalahpolitico: Thank you Los Altos Town Crier for letting megacorp TA Realty know that our School District has lots of alternatives to megacorp’s class B property and presumably rapacious first offer.

Maybe megacorp will make a better offer for 5150 El Camino on July 14th, and the board will vote to accept it. Or maybe LASD is actually finally looking into purchasing St. Williams, but won’t announce that after the closed meeting.  Or maybe the board will TAKE NO ACTION again and make no announcements. 


Articles on Los Altos El Camino Housing: Colonnade on El Camino, and 5-story 4880 El Camino Project

Article on LASD’s pursuit of 5150 El Camino. What is a term-sheet and why should I care?

Article on TA Realty

City Housing Element report

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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