MV Council to review LASD 10th site funding

LASD needs to read this book as it seeks to acquire new land through eminent domain
LASD seems poised to use eminent domain to acquire the 10th site
Written by lalahpolitico

At its Jan. 16, 2018 meeting, Mountain View City Council will review and perhaps approve the Los Altos School District plans to sell 538,000 square feet of TDRs to 6 buyers/developers in order to acquire a 10th school site at low cost. This leaves 72,000 square feet unsubscribed, leaving $9,360,000 worth of TDRs unsold. Google – who had been named as an interested TDR buyer last month – did not subscribe. But the numbers still look “good enough” at various prices per acre – 10M to 17M – for trustees to proceed to eminent domain.

Will the TDR process be held up by technical details. Will MV City Council demand to know who will occupy the proposed school.

What is time line for eminent domain? Is this really the best 10th site in NEC? Why is this happening? What are the risks. Have we been fed factoids$

At its Jan. 16, 2018 meeting, Mountain View City Council will review and likely approve the Los Altos School District plans to sell 538,000 square feet of TDRs to 6 buyers/developers in order to acquire a 10th site. This leaves 72,000 square feet unsubscribed, leaving $9,360,000 worth unsold. Google – who had been named as an interested TDR buyer in November – did not subscribe. But the new numbers still look “good enough” at various prices per acre for trustees to proceed to eminent domain.

See prior post about the TDR math for a 10th site.

Table: LASD uses other people’s money
Several scenarios of Price per Acre:
$10, $12.5, $15, $17 Million an acre

LASD 10th site funding

LASD Trustee Bryan Johnson has said he would support purchase of new land if it did not use more than about 30% of the $150 M Bond.

When a Mountain View developer acquires TDRs, it not only can build MORE mass in its project, but the project also acquires coveted “Gatekeeper” status. Apparently Mountain View keeps developer proposals in a informal stage for a long time, de facto delaying the project. Time is money. When a project is formally assigned a gatekeeper status, it will actually move through the hoops of an approval process. Before that, it is just an idea, waiting to happen.

The majority of the combined LASD – Bullis Charter School community care about what kind of school the trustees propose to to establish at the Old Mill -Safeway 10th site.   Is it for the Charter commuters or for the neighborhood? Last year the MV Council asked the Superintendent this question. The answer: we need to be flexible.  Last week the the Los Altos Town Crier asked LASD this question. The answer: we have yet to determine the occupants.

One can expect that the MV City Council will be asking this question again…who is the site for…and may not settle for a non-answer this time.

Lalahpolitico: As discussed in the MV Staff Report, LASD says it will use 81,000 sq. feet of the 695,000 allowable buildable area on the 8.6 acre site 10th site. With that intention, the District is clearly signaling with its numbers, if not with words, that it is prepared to put a large school, larger than Egan or Blach on the 10th site.  Oh, who could that be? Oh, the 900 student charter?

Old Mill Safeway will "send" its excess buiildable area to MV Whisman Precise Plan Area

Source: the Planning Dept Staff report. The map show where the 6 developers plan to use their TDRs. One developer has 2 sites. All but one receiving site is in the MV Whisman Precise Plan Area.

The majority of the MV City Council meeting on Jan. 16 may be consumed by the Planning Staff’s technical concerns about the TDR process, TDR secondary market, and other planning matters.  For example…

Should the TDR’s expire after 10 years? or not?

Should the gatekeeper process be limited to 2 years?

Can one of buyers postpone the start of their gatekeeper process for 5 years?

The MVWhisman Precise Plan has not been finalized. Most of the receiving projects are in the MVWPP.

The LASD 10th Site funding numbers as of Jan. 13, 2018

The numbers as reported in the MV Planning Staff report for the Jan. 16, 1018 MV City Council Meeting.  There is over $90M of other people’s money.  Wowie.


What Lies Ahead – uncertainty, eminent domain

Let’s assume that MV Council approves the TDR process, approves the $23M  park fund donation, and perhaps asks for some adjustments to the proceedings that staff can take care of.

This allows the District begin trying to buy Safeway-Old Mill 10th site and start down a potential Eminent Domain Path. Although the  6 TDR letters of intent are chock full of language confirming they are really a NOT a promise buy, the District can feel it has the money to spend. It will contact the owners of Old Mill Safeway and invite them to attend a property appraisal.  The District may want environmental testing.

Abbreviated Flow Chart of California Eminent Domain. Case of no pre-judgment possession.

The District will make a written offer for the 10th site than cannot be lower than the amount of the appraisal.

In response to the offer, the owner can refuse the offer and later challenge the District’s right to take the property. If so then…

The District will trustees will adopt a Resolution of Necessity, giving the owner 15 days notice to object to the taking.

At this point the two parties may attempt to negotiate more; the district could sweeten its offer for the 10th site. If there is not agreement, the District will FILE A CONDEMNATION LAWSUIT. The owner needs to file a response within 30 days asserting reasons for objecting to the taking.

At this point, the District might ask court to take pre-judgement possession of the 10th site, IF it deposits with the County treasurer the full amount of the appraisal or a higher offer that it believes is the market value . The owner might be able to oppose this early possession filing in the court. In any case, if the District is successful in this action,  the owners have at least 30-120 says to vacate.  Lalahpolitico:  I believe this deposit of the “full amount with the treasurer allows the District to take title to the property at this juncture and hence to close on the the sale of the TDRs. Then it has all the other people’s money? The district might need to use its line of credit for one or more months for up to the full appraisal amount > $100M while waiting a bit for “closings” and all the other people’s money to roll in.


Of course, the District might not want to take the risk of pre-judgement possession of the 10th site. Instead the district could just wait for the trial to litigate  the right to the taking and to litigate the final compensation before possession.  Shortly before the trial, parties are required to make final offers. At the trial, the judge decides the validity of the “taking.”  A jury  determines the fair value.  Expert witnesses are involved. If the District final offer is ultimately deemed unreasonable by the jury — given the final judgement amount the jury awards — the District may have to pay the owners’ litigation costs.  Thus, the District does not really know the final amount it will pay out of Measure N funds for the 10th site, until after the trial.

Given that the Old Mill Safeway TDR letters of intent seem to be written with stipulation they be “closed” / executed by Feb., 2019, Lalahpolitico supposes the District is expecting to go through trial before taking possession, before taking title, and before putting up all the funds, which are mainly other people’s money. [Caveat: There may be some “earnest money” during the offer processes. 5%? ]


Lalahpolitico supposes the District is expecting to go through trial before taking possession, before taking title, before closing on the TDRs, and before transfering the funds to the owner, funds which are mainly other people’s money.  At least I hope they are doing it that way.

Of course, at various stages in the Eminent Domain timeline, the District might give up trying to buy that Old Mill Safeway site, starts pursuing a different 10th site,  or perhaps give up on any 10th site, and turning instead to reusing the existing 116 acres.

Why are we here now… going down this path?

We are here now because not enough people are objecting to fabrications, half- truths.

1.Let’s start with this factoid.  NEC wants its own school.

This claim is based primarily on a survey by the Greater San Antonio Community Association and presented to the Facilities Master Plan Committee in 2012/13 or so.  GSACA Sounds like a big group eh?  The Mountain Planning report for the City Council meeting Jan. 16, 2018 says about 1200 residents of Mountain View attend LASD. That includes NEC, but also Higgins kids near El Monte attending Springer and others attending Oak! It is estimated about 600 of the 1200 MV students are in the NEC area.  600 – That sounds like enough for a full-up neighborhood school!

But GSACA is not half even of the NEC area and not representative enough to speak for the whole area. Here’s an except from the City of Mountain view /pdf of 20 recognized neighborhood groups in 2015-2016 with their boundaries. That is probably 200-300 dwelling units?

Image: From MV Neighborhood groups.pdf  2015-2016

Excerpt from 2015-2016 list of 20 MV neighborhood associations recognized by City of Mountain View. Group Boundaries in red lines in map below

Image: GSACA not a half  part of NEC

Map of the boundaries of the Greater San Antonio Association relative to the NEC part of the Los Altos School District LASD

The green shaded areas are part of NEC in LASD that are apparently NOT included in the 2012 GSACA survey. FYI, LASD boundaries are Ortega to the east, the railroad/Central Expressway to the north, and Monroe to the west. Some of the Monroe neighborhood is in City of Palo Alto.

Members of the 2013-2014 Facilities Master Plan Committee asked the folks who presented the NEC  “survey” about the residential location of respondents. As Lalahpolitico recalls, a preponderence were from the small Crossings neighborhood part of GSACA area. That is where the head of the association lives, Mr. Friberg.  Yes, that survey found there was decent demand for a local school, which at the time was defined as a neighborhood school.

Yet there are numerous NEC families who prefer sending their kids across El Camino to the green, land-rich campuses of Santa Rita, Almond and Covington school campuses.  Furthermore, educators say that a NEC-only school might have lower “scores.”   Lalahpolitico: I dunno about that. But it is said.

2. Factoid.  The Enrollment Task Force endorsed acquiring land for a 10th site.  

Actually this is a half-truth. They endorsed acquiring land for a 10th and 11th site… one for a NEC located LASD school and one for BCS.  They examined demographer’s 2012-2013 forecasts and maps of student locations and came up with that finding… as they were instructed to not worry about funding.  It was a another committee – which looked only at funds – that  changed the recommendation to simply “acquire  land for a 10th site, because we can only afford a single site.” One of our  Posts on the Enrollment Task Force

3. Factoid.  The “community” does not want two schools sharing one campus on any of the existing 116 arces.  

Well, if the only community you listen to is the hand-picked one of current LASD parents and ex public school teachers…you might find a majority of that community cannot bear sharing, at least not with a charter school.  but it’s ok to dump two private preschools on Covington for example.  Some Covington parents have invited a senior center to share the Covington campus!  And Get This. Ironically, Egan and Blach are already sharing their campuses… with Bullis Charter.!>!>Post on the Conteneo charette game! Post on Some of the diversity in facilities solutions proposed by the FMPC community.

4. Factoid. District Enrollment growth is caused by the rise in population in NEC.

It may have looked that way in  2012-13 when the Enrollment Task Force convened, but years since then pin the enrollment growth on BCS. BCS has absorbed all the growth.  LASD school enrollment remains largely flat since 2012? Prior Post Enrollment Growth at LASD stalls. [FYI the 500-600 NEC students have been split 3 ways, 1/3 to Santa Rita, 1/3 to Almond, 1/3 to Covington]

Notice the enrollment growth line – in brown – of BCS. Thank you BCS for absorbing all the the district enrollment growth…some from each of the seven k-6 schools: Gardner, Almond, Santa Rita, Springer, Covington, Loyola, Oak.


 Table: Numbers behind above line graph in tablular form

Here are the number behind the graph, for people who prefer tables. Click for larger image.

5. Factoid. LASD is land poor.

Actually the District has 116 acres. K-6 schools range from ~9 acres at Gardner in LAH to ~12 acres at Santa Rita.  The junior highs are over 15 acres. Yes, the District sold a couple of schools around 20 years ago… just as native birth rates cratered, but immigration reform opened the floodgates, and Silicon Valley boomed. But compared to almost all other Districts in California, our campuses are around 50 kids per acre as of 2017-18. Luxury. Land-rich. Thank you, BCS for absorbing all the growth! Prior Post. City says No. Prior post: Why City of Los Altos said NO to give away of Hillview… to land rich LASD. 

As others have pointed out the problem is not a lack of land, the problem is a lack of construction…for replacing the portables used for BCS and at LASD schools…lack of construction to make the $150M worth of needed repairs at existing schools…

6. Factoid. The Facilities Master Plan Committee (FMPC) endorsed acquiring land for a 10th site.

Actually they did, but also asked that in parallel the District evaluate options for resusing the existing 116 acres.  FMPC asked that the best land reuse scenarios be compared to the best new land 10th site scenario …for effectiveness in solving the problem, for cost, for timeliness, etc. In addition, the group reviewed about $150M of needed repairs at existing sites as suggested by a consultant, along with another $150M of improvements on “PTA wish lists” at existing sites. Folks, that’s $300M worth of wants and needs at existing sites. Plenty of local VIPS – say LA council member Jan Pepper – have opined that the $150M be spread around to all schools, not consumed by one 10th site effort.   Four more years of 10th site search activity have elapsed since the FMPC was disbanded…years while there were no repairs on any exisiting school. [More on this coming up in a future post. ]

Kohl site in NEC per LASD Los Altos School District

Kohls/Federal Realty 30 acres is what LASD calls site 3, but LASD is looking at only 4 of the 30 acres at 350 Showers Drive …in red shading.  But a larger chunk of the Federal area — such as within the green lines — would make a nice, decent ~8 acre school site.  Lalahpolitico added in purple a partial depiction of the approximate location of a  Hetch Hetchy water easement…it could conceiveably be used for green space….a park at the school? And the Federal owner might not be so litigiously inclined as the owner of Old Mill Safeway?

7. Factoid. Old Mill-Safeway site is the best 10th site because the Kohl site option is too small at 4 acres.

The 10th Site Search Committee came up with a pretty weird assessment of the Kohls site, asserting the site was just 4 acres.  Actually the owner Federal Realty has ~30 acres there.  It could be possible to carve out 8 acres there. Also a LASD trustee said it would be a shame to prevent the City of MV from earning sales tax revenue by removing retail there on the Kohls site.  But  the Old Mill Safeway  site is also zone for mixed use (retail)  like Kohls is. So either site reduces retail sales tax for the City somewhat.  So no difference in that regard.

The Kohls site owner is just beginning to design its project which is mixed use commercial ground floor and housing upstairs. There is a Hetch Hetchy water route easement.  That could be used for park space perhaps?  If City of MV agrees?  Or is the easement a negative factor?  Have the possibilities been explored? And this owner might not be hell bent on rejecting an eminent domain “taking.”  They might cooperate?

To Lalahpolitico, it sounds like this NEC 10th site option had been not well explored. And if the 10th  site is for a LASD neighborhood school, it doesn’t need to be built right away, not tomorrow.  We may have 4 or 5 years to work it out – perhaps amicably – with the Kohls property owner. The tenants like Kohls can continue to rent from LASD for the duration (even after acquisition through eminent domain). There is no urgency for a neighborhood school. The number of NEC students seems stable recently …and might be decreasing as apartment rents go through the roof. Rents is not something the demographers hired by LASD ever considered forecasting! And….it is not clear… as in factoid 1… if the existing NEC area home owners really want an urban school.  

Lalahpolitco: the only thing that is clear is that some “Crossings” neighborhood property owners would love open space right next to them, rather than the Greystar mixed use developement. BTW, if the District “takes” that site Old Mill Safeway site through eminent domain, the District will undoubtedly have to pay for up to $ .5 M to  $1M of development costs Greystar has already sunk into planning its mixed use project. Plus the jury may raise the fair market value of the property. Risky business acquiring this 10th site. Prior Post describes pros cons of 4 NEC sites that LASD considered.

Furthermore, apparently some cheap sites in LAH have not been explored either…if a 10th  site is intended for BCS 


MV City Council Agenda Jan. 16, 2018


MV City Council Special Session starts at 6:30 pm on Jan. 16.  After  consent items, there is the PUBLIC HEARING for two items 1) extension of a moratorium on cannabis activities 2) TDRs related to LASD.

Anyone who wises to make public comment on the use of TDRs or the use of City of MV park funds, should be there no later than 7 pm. I don’t think the cannabis item will take very long. Maybe show up at 6:30 to be safe.


And of course you can email MV City Council.

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.