Hillview Community Center Bought for Reuse as a School

Slider - Town Crier Headline Private School Leases Hillview
Written by lalahpolitico

Newspaper Clipping - City Hall Offered Rights to Acquire School Property

The ambitious 18 acre Los Altos Civic Center Master Plan devised 2009 is in limbo.  It was soundly rejected in polling in 2010. Our Los Altos city council has reacted to the rejection of the master plan in city polls and has decided to plan to build ONLY a new community center as a first phase.  That seemed to be what the survey said people preferred. No new city hall, no new police station. Just a community center please.

Our city council directly that the new community center building would be on the 8 acres of the total site that used to be a school.  No other building – the city hall, the police station, would need to torn down or disrupted if the community center were build on that part of the 18 acres. But now, a separate governmental entity, the Los Altos School District, is saying it needs more land, more sites, to accommodate future Distrist growth and  also to handle the growth of our local charter school.  One site the District has its eye to accommodate enrollment growth is  the Hillview School site – an 8 acre parcel , a part of the total 18 acres at the civic center site at Edith and San Antonio.

Can the district morally lay claim to the 8 acres of the Hillview site, part of the the civic center?  Apparently Yes.

It is absolutely true that the old Hillview School site was sold by LASD to the City of Los Altos in 1975  with the intention to keep it safe for resuse as a LASD school at some distant date in the future.  Is that time now? Carole Kuiper of the local League of Women Voters with the help of the Los Altos History Museum has found the Town Crier articles which document the intention to save the Hillview land for resuse as a school.

1975 Town Crier Clippings – readable large font

What is Hillview Site Worth?
No bids on Hillview site.
City Hall Offered Rights to Acquire School Property.
School bid postponed
Council Seeks to buy Hillview site
Private school leases Hillview
Hillview School sale to city completed.


Hillview Community Center looks like a better LASD 10th site alternative when compared to Raynor Activity Center in Sunnyvale

Today Hillview Community Center looks like a plausible LASD 10th school site to some people

“Hillview Community Center can be changed back to a school” – Land-Banking

Los Altos Mayor Richard Hansen in 1975:

Noting that LASD trustees have “made it absolutely clear” that they’re going to sell the  Hillview, the mayor said. “Supposing a private developer buys it and plants houses on it.  If the city buys it, it can be changed back to a school.”

In those times, the Los Altos Property Owner Association was attempting to totally halt the sale of the eight-acre Hillview site and the District’s entire school redistricting and consolidation plan  by suing LASD. But “reassured that Hillview’s future role as a school was not endangered by the city’s purchase of it, the head of the association withdrew his objection to the city council action to purchase the Hillview site.”  So that is how it happened folks.

The city was planning to use a grant to help finance the purchase – under $500K spread over 2 years.  The grant was HUD funds.  “Citizens expressed fears that acceptance of any federal funds will force development of high density, low cost housing.”

Mayor Hansen, “If we can’t get HUD funds on our terms, we won’t tie them. There’s nobody trying to jam public housing down your throat. Frankly, what we’re trying to do is to keep that land the way it is.”

Per the Town Crier: “The intent… was strictly for land-banking purposes, a concept endorsed by a citizens’ committee that studies the issue.”  [Lalahpolitico: who were those people in the citizen’s committee people? If you know, please contact.]


Former Mayor Roy Lave at MVLA League of Women Voters

Former Mayor Roy Lave at MVLA League of Women Voters. In 1975 Lave was on the Council and helped rezone Hillview School  as Public Facilities, helping to save the parcel for public uses.


At a District meeting to accept bids, around March 12, 1975…

To encourage more potential bidders, the LASD board adopted resolutions making it possible to buy the 8 acre Hillview site and the adjacent 2.5 acre portion of Lot 18 either as two separate parcels or as one 10.5 acre piece of property.  Minimum acceptable price specified for the combined acreage was $1.6 million.  But there were no bidders at the March 12, 1975 meeting, so bidding was closed. A trustee suggested that the perhaps the price was too high. The City did not bother to formally submit a bid of $420,000 it had made informally because that was so far below the minimum. The trustees had hoped to convince the city to rezone at least some of the 10.5 acres of property for multi-family, in which case it might be worth $1.6 million. But the City did not. Rather “the City used its zoning control to hinder the sale of the land to private developers.”

With the zoning held at only R-10, the District did later receive one bid of $425,000  [sic on the 8-acre parcel] from Woolworth Construction Co., a homebuilder. At that point the District offered the parcel to the City, but it had to act within the week, or the parcel would go to Woolworth. The district offered the City the eight acres for $405,000 which was the same as Woolworth’s bid, less the commission. The City delayed till its May 27, 1975  meeting any decision.

The city had previously  informally offered $420,00 for the whole site – the 8 acres and 2.5 acres of adjacent Lot 18.  Lot 18 was not part of the District offer at that point.  Lot 18 was once part of the district’s administrative headquarters. In 1973 two acres of the old administration site were sold for $460,00.  [Would this be right along San Antonio Road?] At this point in the negotiations, as a condition of sale of the 8 acres to the City, the District was still asking that the 2.5 acres of Lot 18 (not in the deal) be rezoned as Planned Unit Development ( PUD), multi-tenant. By  that time the City Council had rezoned it a Public Facilities zone designation. )

On August 26, 1975, the District trustees and then on August 27 1975, the City Council approved a final contract for the 8 acre parcel for $433,350 to be paid over two years. Duane Feisel, a member of the Los Altos Property Owners Association, was according to the reporter, “reassured that Hillview’s future role as a school was not endangered by the the City’s purchase,” Feisel withdrew his public objection to the council’s approval of the purchase.

What about the 2.5 acres?

The research materials on hand do not quite answer the question, what happened to the 2.5 acres of Lot 18.  Where is Lot 18?


Photo of modulars put on Egan and Blach in 1975

City finds a tenant to occupy part of Hillview in 1975. Lots of empty space at first apparently.

Consequences of the Closure of Hillview – Attendance boundaries redrawn 300 kids redrawn, middle school crowding, first portables

The district offices moved to Covington, which was changed from a junior high to a k-6. Hillview’s former k to 6 students  – 379  of them minus the sixth graders – had their neighborhood school closed by the District and were probably moved to Almond and Covington. Egan Jr. High’s enrollment climbed from 314 to 507, while Blach’s climbed from 286 to 568.  [lalahpolitico: capacity is rated at 700 for each of those middle school today.]  To prepare for the 1975 fall surge in middle school enrollment per campus, windowless portables with six classrooms each were added at both Blach and Egan. [lalahpolitico:  Perhaps this was the first use of portables in the District? Were the middle schools in a 7,8,9 grade configuration in those days?]

1975 Law Review – School litigation is nothing new in Los Altos

More on the Zoning Change… Digital

Source:  Santa Clara University School of Law – “Empty Corridors- Sale of Schools”

“Some cities are facilitating the retention of surplus school property for public use by amending the municipal zoning ordinances to include school property in resricted zones.  For example, subsequent to a resolution by the Los Altos School District governing board to sell one elementary school and a portion of a former administration site, the Los Altos City Council enacted Ordinance No. 75-4, which amended the Los Altos Municipal Code Zoning Map by placing all schools withn the city limits in a newly created Public and Community Facilities District (PCF).  Property within a PCF may be used for schools, non-profit recreation areas, golf courses, churches, museums, and open space — a limitation which substantially reduces the market value.  A second elementary school within the Los Altos School District is to be closed and sold in June, 1976, and the school district has made the sale of the property contingent upon the granting of R1-10 (single family home) zoning. {page 602-603} Empty Corridors – the Sale of Surplus Schools”

The First Huttlinger alliance…

Source:  Santa Clara University School of Law – “Empty Corridors- Sale of Schools”

About a year ago, a new non-profit was formed in our town called Huttlinger Alliance for Education (HAE). They provide money and expertise to fight the charter movement in the legal arena and also via public relations campaigns.  HAE has said they adopted the name of local personality E.O Huttlinger who was active in the 1970’s.  Apparently the first Huttlinger was affiliated with the Los Altos Property Owners Association and filed suit to stop LASD’s 1975-76 consolidation plan which resulted in the sale of Hillview and Portola elementary schools and the closing of Covington as a junior high.

“A group of Los Altos citizens contended that the decision by the governing board of the LASD to close Hillview and convert Covington to an elementary school was economically unsound.  Covington was the largest junior high in the district and had facilities lacking at the two junior highs on the periphery of the LASD. The two smaller junior highs, Blach and Egan, lack multipurpose rooms and swimming pools and have much smaller libraries then Covington.  The cost of converting Covington to and elementary school coupled with the cost of increasing the capacity at Blach and Egan amounted to a total expenditure of $1,240,000. Had the governing board elected to retain Hillview and Covington Schools and to close Egan Junior High, the expenditures would have amounted to roughly $448,000. It ws the contention of a citizens’ group called the Los Altos Poperty Owners that the LASD governing board plan involved an unnecessary expenditures of $747,000.  The group filed a suit against the school district and government board…”  {page 605}  [Lalahpolitico:  as far as I can tell, they did not win on appeal.]

Lalahpolitico Analysis – Citizens need to weigh in

In 1975 the Hillview School site was purchased by the city to save it as a school, but it was also purchased to extend the community center. The residents of the city of Los Altos and surrounding areas have enjoyed the Los Altos Community Center 8 acres  for nearly 40 years.  Seniors use it. Non-profits including Friends of the Library have essential offices there. The Recreation department serves four school districts and thousands of adults a year.  Now residents and voters must weigh what is the right path forward for the Civic Center / Community Center in 2014.

  • a dedicated LASD school on the Hillview part of the 18 acres? Can we part with all or most of it?
  • a LASD school with some shared facilities? – maybe a shared multipurpose room?, a shared baseball field? TBD.
  • a civic center with multigenerational facilities, inclusive of  student needs, but not a school

New school facility expansion solutions recently offered to LASD but not accepted for unknown reasons…

  • The city has offered to help the District reconfigure Rosita Park in order to put a second school or larger school on Covington
  • BCS offered to sign a 15 year agreement to remain split on Egan and Blach and to cap BCS enrollment at 900, drop litigation, etc.

Note: neither of the above close a school. Lalahpolitico: So why the LASD trustee hesitation?

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.

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