School board considers its realty options

Trustees steer away from using existing school site

''Happy times are here again,’' read the hopeful slide at the end of a PowerPoint presentation on buildings the Del Mar Union School District is looking at buying to house the district’s headquarters.

At the Feb. 24 special meeting, Comischell Rodriguez said the trustees may be able to begin making offers by the end of March. With buying a new building in their sights, the trustees voted to no longer discuss the proposals the 7/11 Committee submitted for using surplus space at one of the district campuses for office space. However, temporarily co-locating the district office at a school remains an option if the board is not able to meet its May 2011 deadline to be out of the Shores property.

With the 7/11 Committee report was on the agenda, parents continued to object to putting the district office at any school, requesting that option be completely taken off the table. Ashley Falls parent Heidi Niehart’s frustration reached a boiling point during public comment.

“You are the board, we elected you, make a decision or get off the board!” Niehart shouted. “I am really fed up with this.”

Trustee Annette Easton said that there are still too many unknowns to limit themselves by completely removing the co-location option.

“The entire board shares the frustration that’s in this room,” Easton said. “But we can’t take co-location off the list because it potentially sends a false signal.”

“Our number one intent is not to co-locate,” Trustee Katherine White echoed. “I personally don’t want to co-locate, but I’m uncomfortable with removing it because we don’t know if we can stay on the (Shores) property and we don’t know if we can buy.”

As the board discussed why it wanted to keep a temporary combined operation as an option, there were outbursts from several parents, one yelling, “Resign now!”

The board looked at several options for the new district office, presented by real estate agents Chuck Wasker and Mark Kagen. No price tags were disclosed, but all options were said to be under the

$8.5 million the district has from the sale of the Shores property.

“We have many opportunities, and this is a wonderful time to (go after them),” Wasker said.

One is a pair of buildings under the freeway on Sorrento Valley Road. They are not fully built-out inside, so additional funds would have to be used to do tenant improvements. Also, they are just outside the district boundaries, so lawyers are still reviewing whether it would be possible to house the district offices there.

Another option is a 2.3-acre slice of land on Jimmy Durante Boulevard in Del Mar. The landowner already has plans for a building approved, and the district could opt to adapt the plans to make the building even smaller.

Wasker said the one big issue with this option is that it would take about 18 months to build, which would be difficult considering the district’s tight timeline. Choosing this option might involve temporarily putting a district office at a school site if the Del Mar City Council does not approve extending the district’s lease at the Shores.

Superintendent Sharon McClain is expected to ask the city for an extension at the council’s March 8 meeting. If the lease were extended, rent on the facility would have to come out of the district’s general fund.

President Rodriguez said one of the district’s best options is a facility on Sorrento Valley Boulevard. It is a two-story, 20,000-square-foot building that would house all of the district’s needs and is already fully built-out. On the second floor, there is a large open space that can be used for meetings. It would be ready to move into without many tenant improvements, enabling the district to meet the deadline, she said.

Trustee Katherine White, who used to have employees work in a nearby building, expressed reservations about it. She said due to the adjacent power lines, the computer terminals would sometimes shake and women hoping to get pregnant worried about the health risks associated with being so close to the power lines.

While some parents were vocal in their anger, others were hopeful about the “promising” property options for a new district home and said they hoped the board would act quickly.

“To me, it’s a no-brainer,” parent Cynthia Edgerly said. “These buildings are perfectly acceptable and well within our budget. Buy a property, there’s no reason not to.”