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Palo Alto works with PAUSD to redevelop Cubberley

City proposes up to a 50-year lease on more land to renovate current community center
Art by River Wu

The city of Palo Alto is working on a proposal that would have it enter into a long-term groud lease with PAUSD to redevelop the 35-acre Cubberley Community Center.

The district currently owns 27 acres of the Cubberley Center, part of which it uses for educational programs. The city owns the remaining eight acres, and leases the majority of Cubberley from the district.

City Manager Ed Shikada said the city’s proposal is to negotiate a long-term lease with PAUSD for upwards of 50 years, giving the city time to restructure the entire center.

“The city would want to have primary control over the property in order to plan the campus (layout), build (and) make investments with (it),” Shikada said.

Board President Jennifer DiBrienza said PAUSD is willing to work with the city. She said the district indicated in a letter to the city in March that it might sell seven additional acres of Cubberley, and the letter invited the city to make a proposal to the district.

If the district did sell seven acres to the city, DiBrienza said PAUSD would consider a ground lease for the remaining 20 acres, but would want to retain primary ownership. She said the stakes are high because while it is unlikely the district will need the 20 acres, officials want to have it if they need it.

“I think the school board has been kind of conservative in making sure that if, in the future, a future school board and future district ever needed to build another school, we would be able to do that,” DiBrienza said.

In order for the agreement to work, DiBrienza said the city needs to finalize a proposal that matches the needs of PAUSD.

“Right now, the ball is in their court to come up with a few proposals and bring them back to us so that the school board can consider them,” DiBrienza said.

Chair of the City Council Cubberley Ad Hoc Committee Julie Lythcott-Haims said her committee is working with city staff to discern what the city’s needs are for additional Cubberley acreage as well as figure out what the city wants to do with the land.

“The community has varying opinions about what Cubberley can and should be,” Lythcott-Haims said. 

“I have the duty to gather, listen to, analyze and synthesize the opinions of a community, and so it’s safe to say that there are myriad opinions, some of them quite complimentary …  but there are also opinions that might conflict with others.”

City Council Member Vicki Veenker said the city wants Cubberley to be a community center that welcomes everyone and improves wellness.

“People love all the things that are offered there, and we want to build on that and continue to provide memories to people that are really positive about the community they grew up in,” Veenker said. 

“The variety of things people are interested in, to learn new skills and develop talents—we still want to see all of that. We want a place where people can come together.”

Veenker said a key part of the plan is listening to what Palo Alto residents want in order to ensure any changes are welcomed by the community. 

“This is a great opportunity for the city and the school district to really partner together and to show our residents that we understand that we have a common interest in serving the city,” Veenker said. “While the focus of the two bodies might be slightly different, the goal is to work together to make sure we have a healthy community for students and residents at large.”

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Annika Chu, Staff Writer
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