The San Carlos City Council agrees the proposed land swap between the city and school district to accommodate a charter school and more field space needs to be discussed publicly — the divide is over just when.
Mayor Mark Olbert, a strong proponent of trading the land above the Tierra Linda Middle School campus for an underutilized parcel on Crestview Drive, is taking to his blog asking residents to attend Monday night’s meeting and request the council agendize the discussion April 14. Olbert had hoped to have the hearing as soon as Monday night but said there was no other support on the council for as quick a turnaround.
Councilman Ron Collins said he definitely agrees the public talk has to happen but called Monday too soon and isn’t sure yet on April 14. The San Carlos Elementary School District held its own special meeting Thursday night to discuss the swap proposal and Collins said he wanted to let that play out and give staff time to ready details before inviting in the public at a meeting.
“I’m not inclined to put in on Monday night’s agenda and I don’t see any compelling reason to do so,” Collins said.
Olbert said he doesn’t buy either the argument that Monday is too quick or that staff needs to do more work. His push for a public discussion is not over details of a transaction, he said, but the more basic question of whether the city wants to do something with the Crestview Property and if so, what?
After a number of closed session and city meetings on the topic, Olbert said “it’s not as if it came as a bolt out of the blue.”
Olbert said the talk needs to happen sooner rather than later and he doesn’t want to give off any impression the city is violating disclosure rules by keeping the discussion private.
The idea moved from behind doors to the public earlier this week when Craig Baker, superintendent of the San Carlos Elementary School District, sent City Manager Jeff Maltbie a March 17 letter seeking a formal agreement for the property exchange.
After hearing how the school meeting goes, Collins said April 14 might be the right time but, speaking on Thursday afternoon, he just wasn’t sure.
Councilman Cameron Johnson said he is fine with April 14 and Councilman Bob Grassilli, like Collins, isn’t sure. He’d also like to hear the school discussion first and set the item for an agenda not packed with other lengthy or complex matters.
“This isn’t just a five-minute discussion,” Grassilli said.
Olbert only needs one like-minded colleague to get the item calendared so with Johnson on board that April 14 date might stick.
Scheduling disputes aside, the councilmembers do call the idea of trading land with the school district a potential win-win that will let the district free up space for fourth- and fifth-graders while creating much-needed fields for the entire community.
However, the city also has a much higher private developer offer on its land which Collins said must also be considered.
“We owe it to our citizens to think about it and consider all of our options,” he said.
Those details are part of why Collins said the city needs to have its ducks in a row on specifics before setting a public hearing. Residents both positive and negative are already sending emails about what they think the city and school are up to, he said.
“People are making assumptions about things we haven’t considered yet,” he said.
Grassilli called the proposal “interesting” but said as with all issues involving land, “the devil’s always in the details” and can’t necessarily be fast-tracked.
In particular, Grassilli points out that the parcels are not exactly the same and, based on the private offer, not the same value.
The district land has been appraised at about $12.9 million. The Crestview Drive property across from Vista Park is appraised around $13.5 million and the city has received an offer from an undiscovered townhouse developer to purchase it for $18 million.
The San Carlos City Council meets 7 p.m. Monday, March 24 at City Council, 600 Elm St., San Carlos.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 102