San Dieguito board weighs district office upgrade options

The exterior of the San Dieguito Union High School District office in Encinitas.
(Karen Billing)

The San Dieguito Union High School District board continues to discuss what to do with its aging office building in Encinitas, which has become somewhat of a fixer-upper. At a July 30 special meeting the board delayed moving forward on the design stage for an estimated $4.5 to $7.8 million modernization to the Aug. 19 meeting.

Located at 710 Encinitas Boulevard, the building is over 40 years old and by all accounts in need of a refresh.

“We all know that status quo cannot stay so we’re going to have to do something,” trustee Michael Allman said.

San Dieguito has been studying feasibility options for its office building since 2018. In 2020, former superintendent Robert Haley proposed a potential $20.8 million new district office on the lower field at Earl Warren Middle School, which drew opposition from community members. The board voted not to pursue that option and instead renovate its existing building.

Since last March, the board has been working with Ruhnau Clarke Architects, committing $457,673 in initial architectural/engineering services for the modernization of the Encinitas building.

The board is now weighing its options between a base scope project and adding on enhancements for further operational efficiency for district staff.

The funds to modernize the office building would come from about $19 million in state reimbursement for projects that have already been completed, which can only be used on capital projects. The funding would not come out of the general fund or Prop AA monies.

The base scope, estimated at $4.5 million, would make necessary upgrades to the building including fixing the roofing and heating ventilation and air conditioning system, repairing structural damage to the foundation and making some exterior improvements such as adding operable windows to staff workspaces. The work also includes resolving Americans with Disabilities Act issues related to the elevator, stairways and restrooms.

Renovations that would address operational efficiency, estimated at $3.2 million, would reimagine how the departments connect to each other and how the public accesses the building. Improvements would include an enhanced board meeting room, dedicated spaces for closed sessions and confidential student and personnel meetings, improved and collaborative workstations for staff and a new front lobby.

“I love that we’re designing a space that’s better for the public and better for our people,” remarked Vice President Melisse Mossy. “It’s not overbuilding, it’s overdue and it creates a better workplace without going overboard.”

While all of the board members see the benefits of the modernization, they want to ensure they are fully exploring all other opportunities which include selling the building and finding a potential new office building to purchase or rent.

John Addleman, executive director of planning services, said real estate brokers could not find 17,000 to 20,000 square feet of office space located in the district’s 85 square miles, except for a space in Del Mar with an asking price $9.6 million. The property is under parked and has no ADA access to the second floor, Addleman said.

The Encinitas building is appraised at $5 million and with a district investment in tenant improvements could sell for $7.7 million, he said. While the proceeds from the sale could cover the initial renting of a new facility, going forward rent would need to come out of the general fund—currently the district owns its building outright.

Trustee Katrina Young was the lone vote in favor of moving forward to the design stage rather than pushing it off another month. The rest of the board members still had questions on the need and wanted to better understand what other projects they could use the money on, particularly if another option could maximize student benefits.

“I can’t possibly put money into this if I don’t know what the other options are,” President Mo Muir said.

Alternate facilities needs are expected to be presented at the Aug. 19 meeting.

The board’s next steps would be voting to move ahead on completing the design for the chosen project scope, putting it out to bid and then approving a guaranteed maximum price, possibly by November.