City eyes surplus school property for new Rancho Bernardo park
By Elizabeth Marie Himchak
The City of San Diego is interested in purchasing a 10.8-acre site Poway Unified School District owns in Rancho Bernardo so it can become a public park.
Whether the district agrees to sell the vacant property at Avenida Venusto dubbed “the water tower site” to the city or opts for a potentially more profitable sale to a developer is yet to be determined. PUSD board members met in closed session Monday afternoon to discuss the sale, but there was no reportable action taken, said Sharon Raffer, PUSD’s spokeswoman.
Seven Rancho Bernardo residents attended the 3 p.m. meeting in support of the site being sold to the city so it can become a park. Marlene Cowell, the board’s executive assistant, said George and Mary Leitner, Robin Kaufman, Sally Grigoriev and Mike Lutz addressed the board before it went into closed session. Lori Moody and Debi Renken also submitted speaker slips indicating their support, but did not to speak.
On Sept. 27, James Barwick, director of Real Estate Assets for the city, submitted a letter to Sandi Burgoyne, PUSD’s planning director, restating the city’s interest in purchasing the land. Copies of the letter were sent to the PUSD board members, Superintendent John Collins, Mayor Jerry Sanders, Councilman Carl DeMaio, Park and Recreation Director Stacey LoMedico, and other city and community officials.
Barwick wrote this was the second time in recent months the city informed the district of its interest. Since the first letter on July 19 the city has been working on obtaining an appraisal of the site.
The deadline for the city to provide written notice to PUSD of its interest was Aug. 14. Barwick wrote PUSD officials have indicated the mandatory 60-day period for negotiating with public agencies has expired, so it can now offer the site to other interested parties. However, since the city did not obtain an independent appraisal until last month “and is in the process of conducting additional due diligence,” city officials still want to meet with district officials to see how the city can purchase the site for use as a public park.
Raffer said this summer “there is no set timeframe on when the sale must be completed, however, the district has created a timeline to have closed escrow and receive funds no later than … December 2012.” She added proceeds from this and other properties the district deemed “surplus” in May will go into the district’s general fund.
“The Rancho Bernardo community is considered to be substantially park deficient,” Barwick wrote. “This is an important opportunity to develop the Property into a public park, which is consistent with the wishes of the community.”
This summer, the Rancho Bernardo Community Council, Planning Board and Recreation Council, along with the Community Association of Bernardo Heights wrote letters to the city requesting the purchase so the site at Avenida Venusto, just south of the Bernardo Heights Community Center, can become a park.
Similar action was taken in 2006 when the district tried to include the parcel in a land swap proposal that was eventually abandoned once the community objected to the deal that would have led to the site being developed for 171 condominiums. The district has owned the land for more than two decades. When a nearby water tower made it incompatible for a school due to state earthquake standards nothing was built, but it was occasionally used for temporary storage.
Per city guidelines, a parcel designated for a school that is not built is to be first considered for park space or other recreational facility before it can be sold for other purposes.
“The District’s appraisal indicates the highest and best use of the Property is to hold for future development with residential use,” Barwick wrote. “The entitlement process to develop the property with single family homes will require the community plan amendment process, wherein the City Council must first determine there is no need for a public park.”
Per city standards outlined in the Rancho Bernardo Community Plan, RB has a 34-acre park space deficiency since the standard is 2.8 acres per 1,000 residents. With RB being built out, many have said this is likely the last opportunity to gain additional park space.
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