San Carlos will give its residential North Crestview parcel to the elementary school district for a new charter learning school campus in return for two district-owned sites and $1.5 million for a synthetic turf athletic field, according to the terms of a tentative agreement released Tuesday after weeks of negotiation.
The trade calls for the city to give the San Carlos Elementary School District its vacant land for the Charter Learning Center currently housed on the Tierra Linda Middle School Campus. The district will give the city approximately 4 acres on the backside of Tierra Linda, a 2.9-acre open space piece adjacent to Heather Elementary School currently used as a dog park and $1.5 million to invest in a city-owned athletic field at Tierra Linda. The city would cover any other costs with its new field and park and the deal calls for the district to prevent any development on the existing Heather Field for the next decade. If any of the three parcels in play are ever used or sold for development, the city and school will split the profits.
“This is a win-win on both fronts and a giant win for the community,” said Mayor Mark Olbert.
Olbert and district board President Adam Rak both said they were excited the two agencies were able to work together although each conceded there are still many steps ahead.
The decision comes ahead of the City Council’s planned June 30 protest hearing on plans to abandon Crestview as park land and allow it rezoned for other uses including possibly a school campus. Although yesterday’s announcement is tentative, Olbert said it gives the City Council and residents something more concrete to discuss Monday night rather than a less defined idea.
Superintendent Craig Baker formally proposed an even land trade earlier this year but city officials balked because the Crestview site was appraised at $13.4 million while the school land was appraised at $12.4 million. The city also noted that it did not have the money to improve the school site into a usable park and field which would leave it with a less valuable parcel and no greater playing space.
The city counter-offered that the district purchase the land for $12.4 million but was declined.
The last few weeks saw both the City Council and district board meeting in numerous closed sessions — with vocal opponent Councilman Matt Grocott abstaining — trying to reach yesterday’s agreement which members describe as a compromise.
“I’m generally pleased. Nobody gets everything they want in this,” Councilman Ron Collins said.
The school district wants to relocate the charter school to free up space at Tierra Linda as enrollment grows. Rak said building on the 4 acres it is now offering the city was not an option because the district wants a separate campus and there is already challenging amounts of traffic in the area due to Tierra Linda and Carlmont High School across the street. While traffic is a city issue, Rak said student safety is the district’s purview.
Traffic is one issue Crestview residents raised at previous city meetings in opposing a school in the steep neighborhood. Rak said there is outreach to SamTrans about a possible bus route and Charter has talked about encouraging more carpools to cut down on congestion.
Councilman Cameron Johnson said he respects the concerns about traffic and loss of open space and might share them if he lived near the property but that the City Council has to look at the good of the entire community.
“Ultimately, though, this decision is up to the voters,” he said.
If four of the five councilmembers Monday night vote to override any protests of its plans to abandon Crestview as park land, the council will place the question on the November ballot.
The school district must also find a way to recover the $1.5 million it gives the city. Rak said the district is speaking to sports groups about donations.
Rak said the district also needs to continue talking about alternative campus locations in case the council doesn’t override protests Monday night or voters in November don’t pass the zoning measure.
The city and school district will split the cost of the $50,000 election.
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