City, schools reach a tentative agreement to extend Cubberley lease

The city leases the school district’s 27 acres at Cubberley, located at 4000 Middlefield Road, and owns the remaining eight acres, shown in orange.

Daily Post Correspondent

The Palo Alto school district and the city reached a tentative agreement yesterday extending the city’s lease of the Cubberley Community Center for five more years.

Superintendent Don Austin announced the terms and conditions at last night’s (Sept. 24) school board meeting prior to a final agreement being signed.

The city leases the school district’s 27 acres at Cubberley, located at 4000 Middlefield Road, and owns the remaining eight acres at the site. The city rents out space at Cubberley to nonprofits, artists and athletic groups.

“We have some good news,” Austin said at the start of his comments.

Set to expire in December

The city’s lease was set to expire in December, which created a lot of uncertainty for the tenants at Cubberley and for the school district’s budget, he said. Until 2014, the city had been paying the school district $1.86 million a year to not develop certain school sites. But in a renegotiation of the lease in 2014, that prohibition on development was removed.

The city instead pays the $1.86 million into a fund to be used for improvements of the Cubberley site.

Cost-of-living increase removed

As part of the new agreement, the district will freeze this current rate of $1.86 million and remove the cost-of-living escalator, which typically amounts to an increase of about $150,000 a year, Austin said.

These funds will continue to go toward improvements of the site.

City Council wanted to hold a joint meeting with the school board to discuss the agreement, but Austin did not recommend this. Council met behind closed doors Monday to discuss the city’s lease at Cubberley, which is when Austin said council members made the recommendation.

School board members agreed with Austin about holding off on a joint meeting, saying that most of the work seemed to be complete at this point, and that they were happy with the outcome.

Austin said he would take the board members’ comments back to the city today (Sept. 25).

As part of the term sheet, which was issued prior to the final agreement, the new lease will begin Jan. 1 and end on Dec. 31, 2024.

By December 2020, the city will complete an assessment of the work that needs to be done on the aging site.

The Cubberley site is the former campus of Ellwood P. Cubberley High School, which opened in 1956 and for a time was one of three high schools in Palo Alto. But the school district closed Cubberley High in 1979, as the district faced declining enrollment.

Building improvements

As part of the new agreement, the city will complete conceptual designs of the first phase of new building improvements, and the district will let the city know if it plans to develop any school facilities on the Cubberley site by December 2021.

And by December 2022, the city and the district will discuss how to share the costs for any improvement of the site. Austin said he has no idea what this would look like at this point.