Poway Unified water tower site sale goes forward

By Elizabeth Marie Himchak

The City of San Diego has made another plea to Poway Unified School District to postpone the sale of a 10.88-acre Rancho Bernardo parcel, but a district spokeswoman said bids will likely be opened next month.

James Barwick, the city’s director of real estate assets, sent PUSD Planning Director Sandi Burgoyne a letter dated Oct. 14 that formally restates the city’s interest in purchasing the site along Avenida Venusto, known as the water tower site.

“As previously indicated, the Rancho Bernardo community is considered to be substantially park deficient and the Rancho Bernardo community would like to see the Property developed into a public park,” Barwick wrote. “The City has taken concrete steps toward gathering the funds to acquire the Property.”

These steps include updating the Rancho Bernardo Public Facilities Financing Plan by year’s end so it includes parkland acquisition. If approved by the City Council, it could allow future development impact fees to purchase the parcel.

While there is around $600,000 in DIF money available, PUSD set the minimum bid at $6.6 million. How the city could make up the difference is yet to be determined since Rancho Bernardo is essentially built out and there are no DIF sources on the horizon, according to David Graham, City Councilman Mark Kersey’s chief of staff.

“To be honest, the gap is extremely wide,” he said. While the city might obtain some money through deferred capital bonds, he said that funding is to be used for a backlog of projects, such as streets that have a higher priority.

PUSD gave the city several opportunities last year to submit a bid after district board members declared it a surplus property. The district wanted to sell it by last December to beat a state deadline that imposes restrictions on how sale proceeds can be spent. However, the state has granted a two-year extension so proceeds can still go into PUSD’s general fund.

After the city failed to submit a bid in January, the district opened the sale. There is reportedly interest to develop the site for residential use, but that requires a zoning change that ideally would be supported by the planning board and must be approved by the City Council.

No bids have yet been submitted for the Nov. 8 deadline, said PUSD spokeswoman Jessica Wakefield. If any are received, they will be opened at the Nov. 12 PUSD board meeting. While the district postponed the deadline four times, Wakefield said there are no plans to do so again despite the city’s request.

“We are aware of the city’s interest, but as of today it does not have sufficient funds to qualify,” Wakefield said, citing a required $660,000 “good faith” deposit.

Barwick asked the district to “please work with us to find a way to use the Property to benefit Rancho Bernardo, especially now that the State has granted an additional two years to apply capital sale proceeds to the District’s general fund and you are not under pressure to get the Property off your plate.”

   
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