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Land swap could be on fall ballot: Crowd divided over proposed San Carlos city, school trade
April 23, 2014, 05:00 AM By Michelle Durand Daily Journal

The possible land swap between the city of San Carlos and its elementary school district is on a tight timeline to meet the deadline for the November ballot, with a decision necessary in the next two months on whether to even head in that direction.

The San Carlos Elementary School District has a drop-dead deadline of November because of requirements on spending 2012 bond funds which it hopes to use to build the Charter Learning Center on the city parcel on North Crestview. The school would house up to 400 students and free up space at Tierra Linda Middle School in return for giving the city land near the campus which it could use for park needs like a soccer field and gym. The district wants a city decision sooner rather than later so that, if that answer is no, it can look elsewhere to build.

District Board President Adam Rak asked the council not to consider if it favors the proposal but instead “how we will make it happen.”

Councilman Bob Grassilli questioned if the City Council will have adequate information to decide a preference for the Crestview site before heading before voters. The city could spend up to $1 million on traffic studies and other analysis and then “in November the electorate asks what are you smoking?” Grassilli said.

The council took no concrete action last night but leaned toward a trip to the ballot.

The crowd at a packed special council meeting Tuesday night was a mix of residents who favor the swap and those who worry building a school on Crestview will bring extra traffic and noise and impact the property values that help fund schools.

Opponents, some who wore stickers embossed with “Stop the swap,” said they are not anti-school or anti-child but that the steeply sloped area surrounded by multi-family housing is not ideal — or necessary safe — for a school with approximately 400 students. Neighbors cited fast drivers and streets without sidewalks among the concerns for children.

However, backers said the swap will minimize site overcrowding because the students have to go somewhere even if it isn’t on a new campus. They also lauded the idea of more field space.

Katie Stamos, a parent of three, said she is pro-swap because of pedestrian and traffic safety concerns if hundreds more students remain at Tierra Linda. She called it an “accident waiting to happen.”

Crestview resident John Hoffmann said he favors the swap because education is more important than neighborhood views.

But before the public could give the council its two cents, city officials spent the first hour clarifying what they can do and how the process would work.

The City Council has a minimum of nine options to consider for the North Crestview site, according to City Manager Jeff Maltbie: make no change; retain ownership and improve it as a park and sports field; trade for the Tierra Linda site through a combination of land and money; trade for the school site and sell it to a developer for new single-family homes; sell Crestview to the district outright for a charter school; sell Crestview on the open market to a developer for housing; sell it on the open market for the highest offer; lease the land to the school district; or use the land for an Interstate 280 connection.

Any of the non-park options require the city adopt a resolution declaring it benefits the public interest and call a special election to discontinue its use. Passage requires a simple majority and the ballot would simply ask if the voters want to discontinue use without any specific use designated. If passed, the city could then sell or trade the site. If it fails, the city must wait one year before going to voters again. Placing the matter on the November ballot is estimated to cost $32,000 and requires a council vote to do so in roughly August.

Residents could also get a zoning measure on the ballot but City Attorney Greg Rubens doesn’t think it would override the code requirement of a vote to discontinue the park use.

City officials must also weigh the associated costs of a trade.

In March, the city received an unsolicited $18 million offer by a housing developer for the land which was appraised last May at $13.5 million but that offer recently expired. The 4.7-acre along Tierra Linda is appraised at $12.9 million and converting that space into a park with full-size soccer field, tennis courts and improvements is estimated at $11 million with $129,000 in ongoing maintenance — money the city says it doesn’t have and that could require a bond measure or tax.

If the city makes the swap without the money to transform the land into a park, it will be left with no athletic fields and a piece of land worth less than what it traded, said Alisande Rosynko who urged the city instead to sell the land and put the money into its other capital needs.

(650) 344-5200 ext. 102



Tags: school, crestview, council, district, could, million,

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