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Encinitas In Tussle Over Pacific View Elementary’s Multimillion-Dollar Site

By Alison St John. Historic Schoolhouse on the site of Pacific View Elementary in Encinitas, 2014
By Alison St John. Historic Schoolhouse on the site of Pacific View Elementary in Encinitas, 2014
By Alison St John/KPBS

Pacific View Elementary in Encinitas closed 10 years ago and the school district now uses it for storage. But the property is a few feet away from a dramatic ocean overlook and the land is worth millions. Just how many millions is up for debate.

The city of Encinitas has offered to pay $4.3 million for the land to keep it for public use. But the school board has voted to auction off the property, with a minimum bid set at $9.5 million. They said the money will go to benefit public schools.

Superintendent Tim Baird said the school district wants to work with the city, but has an obligation to their students and families to get the highest bid. Encinitas Mayor Teresa Barth said even if the school district got $9 million, once that money is spent, it’s gone. But the land could remain available for generations if the city buys it for public use.

One major reason for the big discrepancy in land-value estimates are the limitations on how the property can be used. It could not be sold to a developer to build private homes, for example, without a zoning change. And who would grant a zoning change? The city of Encinitas.

But even the city council might not have the power to change the zoning, because Encinitas passed an initiative last year that said any significant zoning change has to go to a vote of the people. That could be a major roadblock for any new development.

Baird said the school district got an offer two years ago of $7 million from an arts group, but unfortunately that group couldn’t raise the cash, so the deal fell through. Since then, he said, property values have gone way up, so he believes $9 million is a reasonable minimum amount to ask.

The school board passed a resolution asking for closed bids on the property and they scheduled an auction to start with the highest bid on March 25.

Wednesday evening the Encinitas City Council will consider what to do next. One option is to raise their offer, but there seems little chance the city would or could meet the school district’s minimum bid. Barth said the city hopes to avoid getting into a legal battle over the issue, but the council will also hear a presentation on whether it would be feasible to use eminent domain to take the land.

UPDATE. The city council voted to direct the city manager to write a letter to Superintendent Baird, expressing the city's disappointment in the school district's decision to hold an auction on the property. They pointed out that there is no request for a rezoning of the property on record at the city. And they invited him to submit a proposal for a purchase of the property by the city.

The council will take up the matter of the price and terms for purchase of the property again at a meeting in February.

Bob Hines January 23, 2014 at 10:00 PM
If the city doesn't get the property, and it is sold to some residential developer, both the school district and the developer will strongly feel the negative image perception from this community. It's Encinitas, for heavens sake, so make a deal to benefit the community ... just don't forget to ask the community what it wants. Not sure some unknown kind of art venue is the answer, but the property should have some type of on-going entity that can support itself, so it's not a total $ drain on our community. Community needs some dialogue on what it wants to do with one of the last 2.8 acres of land by the beach. My two cents.
Jay Berman January 25, 2014 at 02:12 PM
Encinitas takes prime commercial land out of the tax roster ... the old Mossy facility certainly did not need to be a public works yard and the Hall property .. a massive park .. we need to pay for running the city and replace the taxes that are lost from city acquisitions of private properties. I suggest the Pacific View property be cleared and subdivided into 18 to 22 residential, single family home lots and sold off to individuals to build houses on within a year. Those lots would go for over a million each, once developed with houses , the property taxes received by the city would be substantial. They should also sell off the old fire station 2 for a single family home ...
Lynn Marr January 27, 2014 at 10:20 AM
This is donated land, which should remain in the public domain. The land has a public value beyond more tax money. The land belongs to the public; it's part of our historical heritage, an irreplaceable asset, which should not be privatized for a "one time injection" into facility improvement funds. The "bottomline," the highest value is not short-term capital gain. Our local character, and what the public would appreciate is a true community arts and learning center. This could provide a positive revenue stream to the City, more open space, and would benefit our children and future generations, as the donors of the land intended. Superintendent Tim Baird is being greedy and short-sighted. The County owns the land upon which our Downtown library sits. It leases that to us for one dollar per year. What if it had said, no, we want to develop that property and will sell it to the highest bidder for a one time cash injection? Sometimes the greatest common good is the highest value, not the almighty dollar.
Jay Berman January 28, 2014 at 12:21 PM
You can't keep taking land off the tax roles without putting some back. The city owns way too much land as is ... I wonder how they are going to pay just to maintain the new park .. 44 acres could have brought the city a lot of good jobs and tax revenue, instead, it will just suck money out of the city ... Same with the old Mossy facility ... if it is sold and not developed the district makes out, not the city .. someone has to pay the taxes to keep public services working ... like street maintenance ... we have some of the worst streets that need repair and coating in the worst way ... this city has a lot of recreation as is, not even taking our beach into consideration ...
Lynn Marr January 31, 2014 at 02:19 AM
The land wasn't on the tax rolls. The school district is tax exempt. The City does NOT own "way too much land as is." The Mossy facility is completely different. That was not donated land. The City overspent getting that. I don't know that it was zoned public/semi-public. The City can afford to do a better job of maintaining our roads and pay a reasonable price for the Pacific View property. Thanks, Bob Hines, for your excellent comments! Yes, the community wants to Save Pacific View, an irreplaceable part of our heritage. The old classrooms could be rehabbed as a true community arts and learning center, with a positive lease revenue stream! The highest and best use is not about a one time injection into the School District's facility improvement funds. We already passed School Bonds O and P and Prop 30 to support our school children. This land was donated, for the children, for the Old Schoolhouse, long before Superintendent Baird came to town. He has a pro-development agenda, as he did in Ojai, before he was recruited to EUSD. Save Pacific View!

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