LASD finalizes $155M land deal for new Mountain View school | News | Mountain View Online |


LASD finalizes $155M land deal for new Mountain View school

12-acre acquisition clears the way for a campus at San Antonio shopping center

It's official: The Los Altos School District is now the owner of a large chunk of the San Antonio shopping center, buying it for $155 million with intent to build a school campus for Mountain View students.

The district finalized the deal with the prior property owner, Federal Realty, on Dec. 11, acquiring 11.7 acres of property near the corner of California Street and Showers Drive from the real estate giant. The transaction puts the school district in an unusual position of becoming the landlord to the JoAnn fabrics store, Kohl's, 24 Hour Fitness and several other smaller tenants on the site.

The purchase caps off an eight-year effort by the school district to buy land for a new school. Despite the lengthy planning process spanning four school board elections, the district's mission has remained remarkably consistent -- make space for students from the rapid residential growth in Mountain View.

"I think the boards had the foresight to look toward the future and take into account housing," Assistant Superintendent Randy Kenyon told the Voice. "Looking at the long-term, this makes a lot of sense. The boards should be congratulated."

The mechanics behind the district's deal are remarkably complicated, harnessing a unique way to finance the high cost of land in a way that doesn't decimate the school district's construction budget. In addition to a $150 million bond measure passed by voters in 2014, the district is getting $20 million from the city of Mountain View in exchange for 2 acres of the newly bought land, which will be developed into a park. The city is also chipping in another $23 million for joint-use open space adjacent to the classroom facilities.

Because a school campus won't fully develop the land to its maximum-allowed density, the district is "selling" other developers the property's remaining density rights to use elsewhere in Mountain View. The so-called transfer of development rights (TDRs) is expected to generate $79.3 million and is a rare, if not unprecedented, method in the state for raising funds for school construction.

The city's combined $43 million, the Los Altos district's bond anticipation notes -- essentially borrowing against future funds -- and $65 million in Measure N funds were cobbled together to create the $155 million needed to buy the land, Kenyon said.

Federal Realty released a statement on Thursday, Dec. 19, hailing the sale as a "testament" to the value of its real estate portfolio in Silicon Valley, noting that it controls 140 acres in the region, totaling 2.4 million square feet of commercial space. Unlike the district's announcements, Federal Realty is describing the deal as a sale "under threat of condemnation."

The company originally bought 35 acres of the shopping center in 2015, which includes the district's land and the Walmart site, for $62.2 million, or about $1.8 million per acre, according to the statement. The sale price to Los Altos School District amounts to $13.3 million per acre, more than seven times what Federal Realty paid four years ago.

Kenyon said the agreement brokered with Federal Realty allows the commercial tenants on the school's portion of the shopping center to stay for three years, during which time the school district will be collecting about $2.5 million in annual rents. Though that income is entirely unrestricted, Kenyon said he is recommending to the board that the rent money go straight into the district's capital fund.

As for managing the day-to-day operations of fabric stores and gyms, Kenyon said the district isn't getting involved.

"We'll be their landlord essentially, but we're using Federal (Realty) as a property manager," he said. "They're going to still be involved, they will be doing things like taking care of the property and collecting rents."

What kind of school to put on the land has been the subject of fierce debate in recent months and remains a major question hanging over the expensive endeavor to build a campus in Mountain View. Los Altos School District's boundaries extend well outside of the city of Los Altos, including areas of Mountain View in and around the shopping center north of El Camino Real.

For its part, the Mountain View City Council has made clear it wants the school to serve students living in the surrounding neighborhood. Los Altos School District community members are more split, with some advocating that the district move Bullis Charter School to the future Mountain View campus. Bullis is currently housed in portable classrooms across two campuses, and consolidating the charter school on a single, permanent site has been a priority for more than a decade.

Representatives from the charter school have raised concerns that its more than 1,000 students couldn't reasonably fit on the Mountain View site, nor would the school be located in a place that's convenient for families traveling from throughout the Los Altos district.

A third option, proposed by the district and the charter school in April, would be to relocate Egan Junior High School students to the new Mountain View site starting in 2024, relinquishing the current Egan campus to Bullis Charter School. The idea has proved deeply divisive and lambasted as a mistake by district parents and residents, who feel the proposal was tantamount to losing a neighborhood school to appease Bullis. School board members are tentatively planning to make a decision on the future school site's use by the end of the school year.

In the coming months, Kenyon said the district will be working with the city of Mountain View on a master plan for the site, including where the 2 acres of city-owned parkland will be located and how to orient the school and joint-use facilities. The only real hard deadline the school district has committed to is that sports fields, blacktop space and other recreational amenities will be available for city use by 2024, Kenyon said.

But planning for the property can only go so far, he said, when the school district still hasn't decided what school will be there.

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8 people like this
Posted by Gary
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Dec 24, 2019 at 10:32 am

Gary is a registered user.

The Mountain View City Council ended up proposing this odd and burdensome method of subsidizing a school district in exchange for binding land-use restrictions - including that the school NOT be a charter school unless the charter school gives priority in enrollment to neighborhood school-age children. Bullis will not offer that priority. However, deals can be re-negotiated. The LASD and others that still want to use the site to get Bullis out of Los Altos may look for Mountain View City Council candidates who will support such a switch-a-roo. Candidates will need to be at least asked about their position. And, of course, not all politicians answer truthfully.

5 people like this
Posted by Sanity
a resident of another community
on Dec 24, 2019 at 11:35 am

The use of the site ought not be that controversial. The relocation of Egan was a genius idea, but the board has stirred up such opposition by the wait presented the idea that it is unlikely. The board is not very effective at getting good solutions. It lucked into having this land given to it. A neighborhood elementary school is needed and really the only choice.

For years the board claimed kids in that area are all low income and the school would be hurt by having such poor kids in the school. I don't agree with that argument. It's actually ludicrous and offensive and absurdly patronizing. However, the fact is the area is too large to all go to a single elementary school. Forecasts have the area fairly quickly growing from last years' 800 total students to 1000. That means about 800 will live there in grades K-6 by the time any new school opened.

The truth is the bad service at present is more pronounced on that side of San Antonio. On the other side of San Antonio the kids go to the closest elementary school existing, Santa Rita. So simply leave the intact. If the new school serves an area only on its own side of San Antonio, it's about the ride size of a school, i.e. LASD standards of 500 to 600 students in one K-6 school. This brings kids back home from where they new travel, 3 miles away to Covington to 2 miles away to Almond. Combine those 2 tiny areas of LASD and it makes a workable new school size, one that meets the neighborhood need as well as the city council's directions.

It's worth noting that the student population in Los Altos has been dropping off and will continue to do so. Right now Santa Rita is already more than 50% serving the Mountain View area. This is the 2nd largest LASD elementary school to serve Mountain View behind Springer. In 5 more years, Santa Rita will be more like 60% composed to Mountain View kids, and the district as a whole will be as much as 1/3 comprised of Mountain View residents. Facts help.

11 people like this
Posted by Fed Up Parent
a resident of another community
on Dec 24, 2019 at 4:24 pm

This will be an insanely EXPENSIVE school. Total price tag: $240 million.

1. LASD is paying $30 million for land and $90 million to build a school.
2. Mountain View is paying $43 million
3. The residents of MV/LA/PA are paying by putting up with a 7-story monstrosity that that will cause traffic problems. We are also paying because there will be less housing and less retail because of this project. Let's estimate this "price" we are paying at $80 million since that's what developers are paying to build more densely.

Is the school needed? Absolutely not if you are talking about acreage. There's plenty of land in Los Altos to accommodate the growth anticipated in the San Antonio/El Camino area.

If you are looking to give the residents of San Antonio/El Camino a neighborhood school that they can WALK to, then the school is needed. But is that LASD's plan? NOPE. Look at @Gary's post above. He and other LASD-proponents think it's "burdensome" that a school located in MV should serve its neighborhood students.

What makes more sense to them is to use the $240 million school to fight its long-standing war against Bullis. Bullis has made clear that 10th site doesn't make any sense because it's too far for most of its students, and it's too small for them.

Of course, the fact they don't want it is PRECISELY why LASD wants them to have it.

$240 MILLION is a huge price tag to pay to fund LASD's vendetta against Bullis.

The residents of MV/LA/PA need to fight back against this horrible plan.

6 people like this
Posted by District loves playing landlord
a resident of Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Dec 24, 2019 at 8:13 pm

"Kenyon said the agreement brokered with Federal Realty allows the commercial tenants on the school's portion of the shopping center to stay for three years, during which time the school district will be collecting about $2.5 million in annual rents. Though that income is entirely unrestricted, Kenyon said he is recommending to the board that the rent money go straight into the district's capital fund."
There we have it. Randy Kenyon's final words for 2019. Unrestricted income of 2.5 million per year. Why give that up and build a school? It will be much more lucrative and exciting for the district to just let the tenants sit and simmer for 6 years, 10 years, and so on and collect rent each year. Extend the agreement with Federal Realty. Don't worry BCS. Moving day is far, far away and you can continue to grow, grow, grow. MVCC will have to wait for their neighborhood school. I'll be glad that Kohls and 24 Hour can sit and simmer too! Meanwhile, the costs to build a school will go up, up, up! Can't wait to pass more bonds to fix the 9 schools and dump the income from rent into salaries.

2 people like this
Posted by @Gary
a resident of The Crossings
on Dec 24, 2019 at 8:22 pm

Are you and your school buddies too entitled to send your LASD kids to the 10th site? What is it with you people on the Los Altos side of El Camino who think this site is on the other side of the tracks?[Portion removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]
Shame on you for advocating for segregation.

1 person likes this
Posted by J
a resident of another community
on Dec 24, 2019 at 8:57 pm

Does anyone want to talk about why Bullis Charter gave preferential treatment to LAH residents for years but won’t giver enrollment preference to the North El Camino area?

Blame LASD all you want for wanting to balance their schools. What about BCS trying to keep “the poor kids” out of their school by refusing to give everyone equal chances of gaining enrollment.

6 people like this
Posted by Gary
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Dec 24, 2019 at 9:03 pm

Gary is a registered user.

As to the post above directed @Gary, I am not a Los Altos resident and did not advocate anything in my post (first above), although I have written about getting a neighborhood school at any 10th site instead of Bullis Charter. As to the prior post above, interesting that the LASD is looking to raise spending money renting out school sites. The MV-Whisman District has 3 school sites leased out long-term for CASH: Whisman, Slater and Cooper. School district employees - starting with administrators - are most concerned about school district employees. Students come and go.

6 people like this
Posted by Fed Up Parent
a resident of another community
on Dec 24, 2019 at 9:27 pm

MV City Council will soon learn that LASD is an entity that does NOT deal fairly.

1. The city is contributing $43 million to the new school
2. The residents of MV is contributing $80 million by having to put with up increased density and traffic.

Obviously, they are doing this so that the MV residents in LASD can get a neighborhood school. But, as you can see from posts by LASD-proponents like @Gary and @J, LASD is not interested in serving MV students. Instead, the "thanks" that MV will get for its $123 million contribution is:

1. publicity efforts to get MV councilmembers (who oppose them) un-elected
2. more traffic to the new school because it will be serving Bullis, 80% of whom live in Los Altos (so they will be driving).

LASD trustees specialize in negative public stunts against parties they don't like. They have accused Bullis of discrimination with close to zero evidence and have encouraged protests by LASD families against Bullis families.

They have also very aggressively accused Santa Clara County of failing in its oversight job with zero evidence (while cc'ing many lawmakers in Sacramento).

MV City Council members - you are next.

8 people like this
Posted by Gary
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Dec 24, 2019 at 9:29 pm

Gary is a registered user.

Last year, the LASD had a majority of the MV City Council ready to fund the 10th site with city "transferable development rights" and not prohibit use of the site by the LASD to exile Bullis Charter. Among that City Council majority was John McAlister who had unlawfully failed to disclose on his city statements of economic interests that had was a major co-owner of a small corporation operating day-care at Covington School under a lease from the LASD. After McAlister was reported, he eventually recused himself - leaving the scheme to exile Bullis a vote short. A MV councilmember, Margaret Abe-Koga, signed up for a LASD advisory group and recommended that the potential 10th site on California Avenue in MV be used for Egan. That may be its best use. But LASD operatives likely have another plan - about which I warn in my opening post.

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