The San Carlos City Council still has several steps to take before potentially striking a land deal with its elementary school district for the Charter Learning Center but at least one councilman says he doesn’t even think the city should make the first move.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the council will be asked to call for the discontinuance of its North Crestview site as park land as required by law for that particular zoning change. The city is also required to put the question on the ballot but before the council can officially call for an election it must first set a protest hearing.
Councilman Matt Grocott said he will not vote in favor of even having that hearing because he wants the city to keep the Crestview land rather than potentially sell, swap or lease it to the San Carlos Elementary School District.
“You don’t trample on the minority just because you can with a democratic vote,” Grocott said. “When it was designated a park, there was a promise made if you will to the citizens of San Carlos that this would stay a park and people could rest assured in that status.”
Grocott said he’d feel differently if only a few people remained that cared deeply about the matter but that there are “simply enough people around who remember why it was done and feel strong enough about it.”
Mayor Mark Olbert has been a very vocal proponent of a swap deal between the city and district for land it owns near the Tierra Linda Middle School campus. He strongly believes that the city should move forward with the decision because the two sides are still talking. If those discussions should falter, then the decision to hold the protest hearing can lapse, he said.
Besides, he added, this is an opportunity for the city and the district to establish a foundation by working with each other on this issue and using that to address other issues that arise on their common constituent base.
“This is the first example I’ve seen in a long time for the two agencies to work together ... that sets the stage for future collaboration,” he said, adding that it should be seen as a positive that the district is interested in working with the city rather than operating independently.
The question will be how the remaining three councilmen lean.
If the council approves the resolution, a protest hearing will be set for June 30 for written public comment on the idea. The council can overrule the protests by a vote of four of the five members and, if so, call for a special election Nov. 4. The election must be set by Aug. 8 and the council’s last regular meeting before then is July 14.
Even if the matter goes to voters who approve the zoning change, the City Council must still agree by a majority to whatever arrangement it makes with the school district. Some of the pending challenges are the unequal values of the two parcels, Crestview residents who say the neighborhood is not a good place for students and extra traffic and the city not having the millions of dollars needed to turn the Tierra Linda land into a full park with athletic fields.
The school district is pushing for a decision quickly because it is under a time crunch to use 2012 bond money and wants to know if it needs to find an alternative.
At its last meeting, the council leaned toward selling Crestview to the district but met in a closed session the next week to look at potential other options. Olbert said after the meeting there was no reportable action taken.
The San Carlos City Council meets 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 27 at City Hall, 600 Elm St., San Carlos.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 102