BY ELAINE GOODMAN
Daily Post Correspondent
Palo Alto City Council will discuss tonight (Feb. 15) how to move forward with redevelopment of Cubberley Community Center, now that the school district has changed its plans for the site.
Palo Alto Unified School District owns 27 of the 35 acres at Cubberley; the city of Palo Alto owns 8 acres.
The city and school district teamed up to create a “concept plan” for redeveloping Cubberley, releasing a final draft of the plan in November 2019 after a year-long community process.
But the next step for the plan — an environmental review of the proposals — stalled.
A consultant hired to perform the environmental assessment had to redo some of the work when state law changed regarding how to measure traffic impacts. Although the council approved the additional work in June, the environmental review still isn’t finished “and limited staff resources have resulted in further delays,” according to a report from City Manager Ed Shikada.
Meanwhile, the school district changed its plans for Cubberley. The district is no longer interested in building teacher housing at the site or moving its administrative offices there, Shikada said.
That raises the question of whether the city should finish the environmental review for the concept plan, which incorporates teacher housing and school offices.
“A decision should be made whether to continue moving forward and … adopting the concept plan, considering that much of what was identified during the co-design process is no longer applicable with respect to future activities on PAUSD’s portion of Cubberley,” Shikada’s report said.
The school district is now looking at preserving 20 acres at Cubberley for a possible “alternative high school” with up to 1,000 students sometime in the future.
That leaves 7 acres of school-district-owned property that the city could consider buying or acquiring through a land swap.
The council is slated to discuss a possible acquisition of the property tonight.
Former high school
Cubberley was built in the 1950s and served as Cubberley High School until 1979, when the school district closed it due to declining enrollment.
Starting in 1989, the city of Palo Alto ran a community center at the site.
The city leased all 35 acres at Cubberley until it acquired 8 acres of the site through a land swap with the district. In 2020, the city reduced the amount of space it leased at Cubberley as a way to save money.
The Cubberley buildings are now deteriorating and considered to be “nearing the end of their life cycle,” the city and school district said.
For PAUSD, reserving space at Cubberley for a new school is a priority, since it “is the only conceivable location for an additional secondary school should the need ever arise,” the school district said on a Cubberley Master Plan webpage.
“While there is no clear need for a new secondary school in the coming years, there is great emphasis by both the city and Stanford University on creating more residential housing,” the school district said. “More housing means more students.”
And the city would like to continue providing community services at Cubberley.
Divided three ways
The concept plan released in 2019 includes the 35 acres at Cubberley plus neighboring PAUSD-owned land at Greendell School and 525 San Antonio Road, for a total of 43 acres.
The plan envisions about 550,000 square feet of public facilities across the 43 acres, split three ways.
The city would use about 157,000 square feet for Cubberley Community Center, where there could be dance, martial arts, senior programs, non-profit spaces and rentable rooms.
Another 157,000 square feet would be for facilities shared by the city and school district, such as gyms, a performing arts center, a visual arts building, a multi-purpose event space, and classrooms used part-time by Palo Alto Unified’s adult school.
As described in the concept plan, the school district would use about 233,500 square feet, with space for Greendell School, PAUSD offices, staff housing and a future school.
A preface to the concept plan notes that the plan is not binding “nor does it limit the city of Palo Alto or Palo Alto Unified School District from exploring other concepts.”