What’s the plan for Cubberley’s Future? City Council, at its Monday, May 13 meeting, 8:30pm will discuss and hear public comment on the Cubberley Community Advisory Committee’s recommendation to create a phased, shared or joint-use site plan so that the City could maintain community center uses and the school district could reopen a high school when one is needed. Modern, efficient building layout would create 9 or more acres of reclaimed land if the City and Palo Alto Unified School Dsitrict (PAUSD) work together. See http://www.cityofpaloalto.org/gov/agendas/cubberley_community_advisory_committee.asp

Why is this plan important? The 35-acre Cubberley site is Palo Alto’s last large, publicly owned parcel available for public facilities development.  PAUSD owns 27 acres, currently leased to the City.  The City owns 8 acres.  CubberleyCommunity Center services and programs are used by more than 600,000 visitors of all ages and abilities per year. Programs and services at Cubberley include:

  1. Health and wellness Multiple playing fields and gyms at Cubberley offer space for indoor and outdoor sports for all ages, fitness classes, plus affordable stroke recovery and heart therapy programs.
  2. Visual and performing arts Music ensembles and lessons, theater, dance at 3 large studios plus several smaller ones for all levels and ages, and 22 artists in residence. In addition to space for classes, Cubberley provides performance space in its theater, auditorium, and pavilion.
  3. Education and child care Pre-school through college and life-long learning
  4. Non-profit organizations including Wildlife Rescue and Friends of Palo Alto Libraries, meeting rooms, hourly rentals, and many city services

If a shared use plan isn’t implemented, and PAUSD reclaims the entire site, how will current  programs and services at Cubberley be affected? The majority of surveyed Cubberley tenants indicated that they would have to close or relocate outside of Palo Alto if Cubberley space were not available.  They cannot be squeezed into the city’s smaller community centers at Lucie Stern and Mitchell Park.

How would a shared use plan affect our schools? The plan preserves the school district’s flexibility to open a future comprehensive high school if it is needed.  Our schools enrich the community, support our property values, and create countless opportunities for our children to succeed.  A phased, shared-or joint-use plan makes room for future students who are entitled to expect the same opportunities and deserve comparable facilities while preserving community resources at Cubberley that enrich our youth.

Can the site carry a high school and community center? Yes. With more efficient site, circulation and parking design, we can capture 9.4 acres of underutilized space. 9.4 acres is comparable in size to six football fields or more than 300,000 net square feet of single story buildings.  The effective creation of 9.4 new acres would result in ample space for both a community center and a high school comparable to Gunn or Paly – all without necessitating multistory buildings.

What is the urgency? Palo Alto is growing. Segments of the population who use schools and community facilities most, children and older adults, are getting disproportionately larger and this trend is expected to continue. PAUSD enrollment projections anticipate the need to develop a third high school as soon as 2025.  Meanwhile, the population growth driving those projections will also create increased needs for community services, so we need to start planning now to make a plan for continued community services when the district is ready to build.

I thought they were talking about a lease. How does the lease relate to Cubberley’s future? Very soon Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) and the city will renegotiate the lease of PAUSD’s 27-acres of the former Cubberley High School site to the City of Palo Alto for community center use.  This lease will determine the short-term availability of the space for existing programs and services on the site.  More importantly, the lease discussion relates to planning for Cubberley’s long-term future, and to some extent, could be used to define a cooperative planning process between the two agencies for this important site to build a future shared high school and community center facility without a disruptive gap in community services and programs.

Why doesn’t the city just fix Cubberley up and use it until PAUSD needs it?  The cost of maintaining the aging Cubberley facility is increasing, with $18.8million in deferred maintenance on top of other significant ongoing costs.  The city is reluctant to make a large investment in the property if the district is likely to reclaim it.  Buying and developing separate real estate to replace even a fraction of the current programs and services at Cubberley will require enormous investment.

Can we move the community facilities? Available sites for new schools and community resources are few, diminishing, and prohibitively expensive. The longer we wait, the fewer options we have. The 35-acre Cubberley site, in a prime location that is easily accessible by walking, bicycling and transit, is vital to the efforts of the City and School District to meet the increasing needs of the Palo Alto Community.  This period of negotiation is an opportunity to move the city and school district to collaborate to determine the best use of the site.

How can I help? Please ask City Council to formally support a cooperative, phased, shared- or joint-use plan for Cubberley.  Take action today!


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