District may reveal LASD 10th site identity by mid-November

LASD, NEC 10th site, Mountain View City Council
Will LASD reveal the target NEC site and who it is for?
Written by lalahpolitico

LASD is assembling a complex  TDR deal for a LASD 10th site in the NEC area of MV. It’s for real.   At the Oct. 24 meeting, Superintendent Randy Kenyon presented an “example” of how funds from  TDRs and funds from a “parks” contribution from the City of Mountain view would allow LASD to acquire 8 acres for under $25M.  Magically, LASD seems to be pulling a rabbit out of the hat!

Trustee Bryan Johnson said that as long as the land cost is only 20% or 30% of  of the $150M Measure N, he approves of getting new land rather than using existing land. [ 20% of Measure N  is $30M.  30% is$ 45M.  So the example Kenyon presented Oct. 24 amounts to ~17% of Measure N.]

Cynically, LASD seems to be positioning the NEC site for Bullis Charter School.

But before getting all cynical though…let’s first look closely at the numbers in the Kenyon LASD 10th site TDR example. Then second, let’s look at four ~8-acre sites that might plausibly be acquired, probably under threat of eminent domain.  And finally, let’s review in detail why the NEC LASD 10th site seems slated for BCS.

Randy Kenyon Example – get ~8 acres

LASD 10th site, Los Altos School District, Randy Kenyon

Let’s look at what what price per TDR sq foot Kenyon is assuming. Also let’s verify that a FARof 1.85 is truthful


There are 43,560 feet in an acre. So 8 acres totals 348,480 sq. ft. of land to be acquired for LASD 10th site.

Among all four of the plausible 8-acre sites in NEC, the allowed FAR ranges from a low of 1.3 to 1.85 and even 2.35. So Lalahpolitico has no problem with going with the 1.85 FAR figure.  Thus the allowed development on the example 8 acre site  is 644,688.  

Kenyon assumes a school building of 75,000 sq feet.  This is a large school….around the amount of buildings on Egan and Blach. Egan is listed at 69,000 square feet and Black at 65,000 in a district budget document. Oak, Loyola and Santa Rita are between 39,000 and 42,000 each. Covington is 52,000. All the space numbers include portables.

Choosing this 75,000 school size number for LASD 10th site  is the first indicator that LASD is intending the NEC site for Bullis Charter School.

Thus the unused FARin this example is 569,688 sq ft. On this slide Kenyon is asserting that one TDR of square feet is worth $130 per square foot. LASD told MV City Council they have talked to the major corporations – Google, LinkedIn, etc. Let’s assume that $130 per sq. ft. was what one or more of those entities said it was willing to pay. Furthermore, let’s assume the potential buyers expressed keen interest in the full 500,000 to 600,000 sq feet of TDRs. The market will clear; assume no unsold TDRs.


This is a page from the ElCamino Plan Area. One plausible 8 acre site is  in that area, while the other three are in the San Antonio Precise Plan area.


Next, Kenyon assumes a land cost of $15M per acre.  Is this realistic for the four sites which might be acquired?  Sources say the land that is now being used to build the Prometheus project — a 7 story rental complex on San Antonio across from the glassy LinkedIn office building — was sold at $14.5 an acre. Sources say that in the San Antonio Precise Plan area, the “Mixed Use Corridor” section probably would fetch $15M per acre , while the “Mixed Use Center” section would fetch $17.5 per acre  ( it can have the high 2.35 FAR ). So yes, $15M an acre is realistic.


LASD 10th site

Here Kenyon asserts LASD can price the TDRs at $130 per sq. foot. Let’s assume that Google or other large developers have said they are willing to pay that and to buy some or all of the 500,000 to 600,000- square feet


Thus the owner of the example 8 acres LASD 10th site —  worth $15M an acre — wants $120M for the site in order to sell to LASD. Yowie wowie! Almost all of Measure N $15oM.  But no worries. As show in the slide above, the TDR offset of ~$74M and the City of MV park fund of ~$23M lower the cost to LASD down to just $22,940,560.


Lalahpolitico:  All four of the LASD 10th site properties may involve an eminent domain threat …and maybe the full legal process. Only site 3 on the map below has part of it FOR SALE. Which owners will fight a threat of eminent domain,  which might fold? I dunno. LASD will find out.

LASD 10th site NEC

LASD may reveal at its regular board meeting Nov. 13…which site it is wishing to acquire. But here are the four that are plausible…more or less…with pros and cons…


Plausible Site 1:
Old Mill Office/old Safeway,  a little over 8 acres

This is a familiar site.

Two-three years ago this was one of the ” top of the list ” sites the LASD 10th Site Committee pursued.  Two things halted the pursuit 2-3 years ago. 1) At that time LASD did not know about TDRs or available MV park funds,  so it was looking at paying the full $120M market price.  2) And the seller only wanted to consider a 60 year or 99 year land lease.

What’s changed since then?  1) LASD is more informed about commercial real estate  and has become savvy about MV city politics. 2) Also the original seller has stopped demanding land leases started doing outright sale of holdings.  [City of MV will not commit the $25M of park funds to a park that is not a “forever” park, but just a land lease.] The seller is the same entity that owned most of parcels where  the Prometheus 7 story rental project is now going up. The seller tried for a land lease there, but at the end of the day, concluded a sale.  According to sources,  the seller actually already has sold Old Mill/ Safeway land  into what appears to be some kind of joint venture with Greystar developers.

Old Mill Office - old Safeway bulding Mountain View NEC LASD 10th site

Sign at Old Mill-Safeway parcel shows the Greystar proposal for development. Sign stands in front of the old Safeway…the blue-green roof…California St. at San Antonio

The Greystar project plan for the Old Mill/ Safeway land is for several  4 or 5 story condo/mixed use buildings. The project plans has gone through some Planning and Council review, but was in the past months the project was kicked back to architectural design review. There was some concern about “massing” along California St.  Sources estimate around $500,000 has already been spent on architects.

Sources suggest that just the threat of eminent domain by LASD could motivate a sale at market price without a premium and …without litigation. LASD would have to cover the $500,000 of planning expense of Greystar at this potential LASD 10th site.

Advantages of this LASD 10th site:

  1. Minimal new construction costs for LASD. With a seismic upgrade, the Old Mill Office could be remodeled for instructional spaces. The old Safeway might be sound enough to be a gym or multipurpose.  Does it have a commercial kitchen? Lalahpolitico:  The LASD offer of  $80M worth of multi-story, modern, awe-inspiring new construction with a theater…an offer that LASD dangled before the “BCS community” over a year ago when the trustees promoted the 4-acre site at  5150 ElCamino in Los Altos…is now withdrawn.
  2. Close to CSMA, walk to CSMA.  There is a safe, round about way to walk under the San Antonio overpass to reach the Community School  of Music and Arts. Lalahpolitico:  Thus, there is an opportunity for BCS to  enhance its music and arts program through collaboration with the CSMA non-profit..
  3. FAR1.85. It is in the San Antonio Precise Plan area and is zoned Mixed Use Corridor.  This site almost perfectly lines up with Randy Kenyon’s example
  4. It might be the fastest path to a new school opening…if they keep the office building.
  5. Virtually no tenants. The remaining tenants like Planned Parenthood were told 2 years ago to plan on moving.
  6. Single owner – aka the Greystar joint venture entity
  7. It would be the cheapest site,  if they keep the Old Mill office building for classrooms and just do the relatively inexpensive seismic retrofitting.
  8. Estimated price per acre is $15M
  9. The Crossings home-owners get a park/school along Pachetti Way – their gateway street.[ Nancy Morimoto, Covington partent, LASD employee, and member of  the 10th site committee… lives here at the Crossings.  Lalahpolitico: Do people who live at the Crossings care about education? Or do they care about preventing Greystar’s high density and housing units that will compete with their properties? David Feinberg said at the Oct. LASD meeting, that  residents were “looking forward to the open space and playing fields”. ]
  10. If everything went “perfectly,” a school could open here for fall 2018. [Update Jan. 16, 2018: No it won’t happen that fast. See a newer post about eminent domain process.]
across from NEC LASD 10th site is a movie theater, parking garage and LinkedIn office bulilding

Panorama shot of what is across California Street from the proposed school site at Old Mill/Safeway.  Shot from where the Greystar development proposal sign now stands. See above image of Greystar sign.  Movie theater in the middle….Linked In office on the right in distance. [Perspective is distorted by panoramic, wide-angle technique.]

Disadvantages of this LASD 10th site:

  1. Lalahpolitico:  This site is rather noisy.  The outdoor playing  fields might have the most severe noise pollution of any of the sites.
  2. Lalahpolitico: Traffic flow seems the least auspicious of the four.  Ingress egress along California or San Antonio looks iffy.  I guess BCS parents can drive down and around Showers and come in various back ways including Pachetti.

Plausible Site 2 : Joanna Fabrics …. to Kohls
6 to 12 acres

Federal Realty owns most of the east side of the old San Antonio Shopping Center…including 24 hour Fitness and Trader Joes. It’s a lot of acres abutting Showers and California Street . A plan for developing several multiuse rental/condo buildings with new streets and pedestrian-bike pathways has been informally shown to MV planning and to MV city council.  For unknown reasons, there has been no further progress on that plan. Lalahpolitico:  Are all the big owners in NEC waiting for LASD to “drop the other shoe.”

Kohls, Joannas NEC LASD 10th site

Some of Federal Realty’s land. This shot is from Shower Drive looking west at the Kohls store hidden by trees.

Advantages of this LASD 10th site:

  1. It is in the San Antonio Precise Plan area and is zoned Mixed Use Center and in practice has a FAR of 2.35.
  2. Estimated price per acre may be $17.5 M
  3. Single owner entity
  4. The Crossings home-owners get a park across the street along California Ave.
  5. [Update: Jan. 16, 2018.] There is a Hetch Hetchy water lines easement. Current commercial owners pay a lease  that run until 2010 to use it for a entrance driveway and parking. If LASD acquired a parcel here — as a government entity they probably would not have to pay this lease. Potential disadvantages: It is unknown if the City of MV would let LASD sell TDRs for this 1-2 acres worth of land? Probably not. In any case, LASD would not be able to locate buildings on top of the easement.

Disadvantages of this LASD 10th site:

  1. The parcel will have to be subdivided between Federal Realty and LASD
  2. The commercial tenants need to leave
  3. The City of Mountain View will lose the retail sales tax estimated at about $1M
  4. There will be demolition
  5. A new school needs to be designed and built
  6. It would be at least 2-3 years to school opening.

Plausible Site 3 : Target
6 to 12 acres

A single entity, the Pear Family foundation, owns the Target site, and possibly that entire block.

Target store NEC LASD 10th site

The Target store with red roofed porches, photographed from the parking lot of Wheel Works tire store along Showers Drive. ElCamino is behind the high rise offices and residences in the distance.

Advantages of this LASD 10th site:

  1. [Update Jan.16, 2018: correction of FAR from 1.85 to 2.35] I understand this parcel is zoned Mixed Use Center and has a FAR of 2.35
  2. Better ingress and egress than some other sites. Possible approach from 3 sides – 3 streets
  3. Single owner entity
  4. Estimated price per acre may be $15 M. [Update Jan. 16, 2018: With a higher FAR, price per acre is more like $17.5.]

Disadvantages of this LASD 10th site:

  1. The parcel may have to be subdivided between the foundation and LASD, if the district does not want the whole thing.
  2. One tenant – the Target store –  will have to move. Maybe a nearby liquor store too.
  3. City of Mountain view will lose the retail sales tax estimated at $1M.
  4. Of all the owners, this is one which is most likely to fight Eminent Domain in court..
  5. A new school needs to be designed and built.
  6. It would be at least 2-3 years to school opening.
  7. If the Pear foundation were to win the eminent domain case, courts typically award a 30% premium over market price.  Say at $120M market value at the time of LASD seizure…several years latter, LASD could see a judgment of $~36M plus legal fees. This risk will apply to all the sites discussed in this post.

ElCamino strip mall for sale, NEC LASD 10th site

Part of the strip mall at ElCamino and San Antonio is for sale. Sprouts grocery is behind the CVS drug store. Well Fargo bank parcel has a different owner. This is not a “clean deal”

Plausible Site 4 : Sprouts 5-6  acres?
more acres if CVS, WellsFargo, Citibank would sell

A single entity owns the Sprouts parcel.  And it is currently for sale at around $15M an acre. That’s the good news. The bad news:  To assemble a full 8 acres, at least 2 other parcels with 2 different owners would need to be obtained.  CVS drug store is in one.  Wells Fargo bank is in the other.  [ a fourth section which would be desireable, the corner at Fayette and San Antonio – Citibank and Cort Furniture —  is apparently held by yet another owner ]

Advantages of this LASD 10th site:

  1. The core Sprouts store parcel is for sale and would not require eminent domain
  2. It is zoned ElCamino Precise Plan, a Village Center area with a FAR of 2.3.
  3. [Update: Jan. 16, 2018. I have been advised that ALL the parcels here have a far of 2.3. ]Thus all the parcels I mentioned here appear to have a FARof  1.3 to 1.85 to even 2.35.  It is unclear which FAR the  City Council would let LASD apply to a TDR deal. Update:  The FAR of 2.3 seems to apply to all parcels.
  4. Ingress and egress could be  pretty decent  – approach from 3 sides – 3 streets
Sprouts rear access from Fayette

Behind Sprouts grocercy store, this is good ingress-egress to Fayette Street. There is also access from San Antonio and from ElCamino. There is a Hetch Hetchy water pipes easement just OUTSIDE the boundaries of the CVS-Sprouts parcels.  The easement is on the right hand side of this photo,  the dirt area the 3 SUVs are parked on. It might make a decent soccer field or two? It extends all the way to El Camino.

Disadvantages of this LASD 10th site:

  1. Multiple owners involved do a parcel assembly; not a “clean deal”
  2. Eminent domain is still likely to be involved in parcel assembly.
  3. Multiple tenants need to leave.
  4. City of Mountain View will lose the retail sales tax revenue estimated at $0.5M.
  5. Demolition… and then a new school needs to be designed and built.
  6. It would be at least 2-3 years to school opening.

Site 0 – tacos and vets – 3 acres

3 acres is too small

The District briefly looks at this corner – which if FOR SALE – but it is too small and aggregating anything surrounding it is improbable.

What signs point to BCS being located at the NEC site


LASD trustees and management are often guilty of secrecy, indecision, procrastination, and occasionally spin and lying by omission. However what they DO say out loud, is generally not an out and out lie. Let’s listen.

Clue one

At the Oct.23 meeting, the Superintendent of Business, Randy Kenyon‘s example deal was for a 75,000 square foot school.  That’s a big school, not a k-5 school.  That’s a school for the Bullis Charter School with its 850+ students.

Clue two

At the Oct. 23 meeting, former trustee Tamara Logan, claimed that the majority of the “community” did not want to see 1200 to 1500 students “squeezed” at Egan or Covington or elsewhere.  In other words, she claimed putting two schools on a single campus is unacceptable – no matter what – to the “community. She is consistent in having always, always, always resisted “using existing land.”  BTW People say Logan was ” very disruptive” at the Creative Facilities Solutions September event, where an architect presented modified Gelfand architect plans [LASDs architect in 2013-14]  for putting two schools on a single existing campus.

Clue three

At the Oct. 23 meeting, Nancy Morimoto — member of the LASD 10th site search committee, LASD employee as clerk{?}, LASD parent, resident of the Crossings — spoke approvingly of the open space provided by new a NEC school.  She said it did not matter what kind of a school. Lalahpolitico: In other words, it’s for Bullis Charter School.

Lalahpolitico: What’s in it for Nancy?  A boost to her property value maybe, you think? With no addition of new housing units by Greystar or Federal, next door , etc., her house holds more value.  Her offspring may be at least midway through k-6 at Covington.  In a couple of years, Covington could be reconfigured as a 6,7,8 middle school with 500 students.  Her offspring could spend their entire youth k-8 at single location, never exposed to more traffic than that of 500 students.  Is that idyllic or what?

Clue four

At the Oct. 23 meeting, Dave Feiberg, head of the Crossings HOA, spoke warmly of the open space a new school would provide/ensure.  He said he has spoken to many HOA residents, and “none were opposed.”  

Lalahpolitico:  Of course they were not opposed to open space, a playing field, and preventing the construction of new housing units and density next to them. This sounds like classic NIMBY … it’s all about a person’s property value. I am surprised, the Crossing residents are not clamoring for a LASD-run neighborhood school. They would be, IF THEY ACTUALLY CARED about the greater good, education, and traffic mitigation. Perhaps Feinberg did not bother to ask the Crossings residents which school, what grade levels, they wanted in a school? I can remember back in 2013, when residents asked for a small,  k-2 neighborhood school that all the NEC area’s little kids could walk to.. without the need for car transport. Bullis Charter School is not that school.

Clue five

At the Oct. 23 meeting, Steve Taglio spoke about the NEC 10th site finally “allowing the District to do all kinds of things we’ve wanted to do for a long time” Lalahpolitico:  [but couldn’t do because of this BCS problem].  The thing the District wants to do is to move the sixth graders to Egan and Blach.  It has refused to do so for at least 5 years… 1) because when that grade is moved, it will make all seven of the k-6 school have smaller enrollment and look uncrowded,  and 2) because the Trustees insist that 15+ acres each at Egan and Blach can’t handle 1500 students…what with BCS co-located there.  [1500 on 15 acres is not crowded by California standards.]

Speculative Crystal Ball

A. Old Mill/Safeway looks like the cheapest AND the fastest. It feels like the likely preferred site for LASD’s TDR deal

B. Here Lalahpolitico speculates on how LASD is hoping the future unrolls.

  1. On Dec. 5 MV City Council approves the complex TDR package deal.

When MV Council does so it either 1) does not require LASD to reveal whether they will build a neighborhood school there or put the charter there,  OR  2) Council approves the deal EVEN IF LASD reveals the District prefers to put the charter there. In other words, no matter what further office congestion happens in the MV North Bayshore Area and no matter what the traffic problems around the new MV NEC school…. a park and some kind of school is worth the trouble to the majority of MV Council.

2. The owners of Old Mill / Safeway decide not to resist the deal and an actual eminent domain process is not necessary. All the parties execute all the deal documents with 30-60 days. Ernest monies go into escrow.

3. The deal closes escrow with 3o days of that.  The TDR buyer transfers the entire TDR money to the “seller”.  City of MV puts in its 25K from reserves.  LASD puts in it ~25M from a line of credit.  Randy Kenyon, LASD Superintendent for Business, has secured a line of credit of at least $25 about two years ago.

4. So mid-spring of 2018, LASD hires Greystar — the builder who was planning  to build the mixed use condos on the Old Mill office site — to instead seismically retrofit the existing Old Mill Office building.  Maybe the old Safeway building is torn down … or converted to a gymnasium. [Of course another contractor besides Greystar could do the work.]

5. At some point in here, LASD will know if the NEC Old Mill school can open for the Fall 2018 beginning of the school year or not.  They will tell the the subcommittee that is negotiating the next “5-year Facilities Agreement” when to plan on moving in.  I suppose LASD could ask BCS to move mid-year?

5. The contractor finishes the retrofit during the summer and BCS opens its doors that August 2018 in this new “campus.”  Probably LASD does not rent the BCS Egan camp to BCS for its 2018 Boosters summer camp program for less-privledged kids. Instead of allowing the summer camp, in June 2018 LASD starts removing the Egan portables.

[UPDATE/CORRECTION NOV. 9, 2017.  A reader has pointed out… the current 5-year-facilities contract between LASD and BCS runs through June 2019, not June 2018 as implied in this article. So if BCS wants to stay in their configuration through 2019, LASD cannot start removing portables from Egan/Blach in June 2018. Lalahpolitico: The less that LASD reveals about progress of its TDR deal making over the next few weeks and months, the more it looks like sabre-rattling.    Is the TDR deal largely a District tactic to induce the BCS 10th Site Negotiation Committee into moderating their demands? ]

6. The Gelfand architects are re-engaged to finish plans for upgrading Egan and Blach to accommodate LASD sixth graders.  Perhaps they move to the “middle school” model occurs as early as Fall 2019. Certainly by Fall 2020.

7. LASD starts prioritizing the 100 to $150 M of urgent repairs needed at existing sites.  Fortunately, since LASD spent only 30 or 40 million on Bullis Charter, there is lots of Measure N Bond money left to do the repairs.

7. Perhaps the following years 2019-2020 or so,  Gelfand architects are hired to convert Covington from a k-7 to a middle school for 6,7,8.  When Covington opens as a middle school, middle school attendance area are redrawn.  All three middle schools – Blach, Egan, Covington now have enrollments around 500.

A dream come true for all 3 of the LASD trustees who live in the Covington attendance area. Their kids might actually wind up going to the same campus from k to 8!  And hell NO to 1200 or 1500 students on their beautiful 18 acre school campus.

8.  Are LASD trustees hoping that BCS will struggle and shrink enrollment in the new NEC location over the ensuing years? IF that were to occur, at some point “the friends of LASD” like Tamara Logan could go before the Santa Clara County Board of Education and try again to get the BCS charter revoked. At that point the NEC school site could be converted to a District-run neighborhood school. Of if there has been a major local recession due to the Trump federal income tax reform…and student enrollment has collapsed across the Bay Area…the District could sell the school portion of site to the City of Mountain View for a larger park. Lalahpolitico: Personally, I think if you hand BCS a lemon, they will make lemonade.

Mountain View City Council 2017, Los Altos, LASD, TDRs

MV City Council preparing to discuss the crafting of a Master Agreement for TDRs and shared Open Space/Recreational Facilities with the Los Altos School District. on Oct. 3

LAST WORD – Just say NO to “Flexibility”

Obviously sane people want an alternative future to the one I imagined in the Crystal Ball forecast above. What to do?

–Lobby MV Council

One angle is to lobby MV council members one-by-one before their Dec. 5, 2017 meeting.

Remind them they promised MV voters that the limits on office production in the various precise plan areas were supposed to mean something…they were supposed to be hard limits.

Remind them that BCS is a magnet school and most students arrive by car, not by walking. Council should stipulate that the school be a LASD-run school with a NEC attendance area.

LASD has lobbied them all, saying that the District needs “flexibility.”  What is this flexibility? It is that this NEC site will be used as threat, a club, the District can use in the upcoming renegotiation of a 5-year facilities agreement…subcommittees on both sides have been appointed…the talks probably begin real soon…surely by January 2018. Will we have continued peace or strife again?

–Lobby Property Owners

Encourage them to resist eminent domain and go litigate. This would cause delay. LASD might blink.

–Lobby TDR buyers

Tell them they are shameful, complicit bad hombres.

–or Just sit back and wait for “the deal” to fail to gel

LASD has lined up various parties to the TDR deal, but when it come time to put up some earnest money, thoroughly read proposed letters of intent, memorandums of understanding…various parties might see problems, risks…they didn’t before.

“There is a lot to do….it might go wrong.” Vladamir Ivanovich, LASD Trustee, Oct. 24, 2017


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 several years.