The sale of 16 undeveloped acres of land for $9.2 million is expected to reverse the fortunes of the financially strapped Pasadena Unified School District, whose leaders anticipate a giant spending spree on school repairs and equipment.
Proceeds from sale of the land, which borders Pasadena High School, will enable the district to afford equipment and school improvements, some of which have been deferred since 1978, when Proposition 13 reduced school budgets.
The district anticipates receiving the money in late spring when Calmark Development Corp. of Los Angeles is scheduled to close escrow.
School board President Noel Hatch said the windfall "will provide opportunities we have only dreamed about" in a district whose 31 schools include many that predate World War II.
"We can now bring some of our old buildings into the 20th Century, and we believe this can have a positive effect on our learning environment," Hatch said.
State law requires that proceeds from the sale of school district property be spent on capital improvements and prohibits their use for day-to-day operations, including teacher salaries.
Although the board has not voted on it, Hatch said he thinks the money will be put into an investment fund that could generate as much as $800,000 in interest annually.
"The last thing we want to do is spend $9 million and then not have anything," Hatch said. "We want to keep it an ongoing asset that will continue to enhance education."
District Supt. Philip Jordan said the district has accumulated a backlog of repair and replacement needs worth about $10 million.
Many Repairs Needed
He said many schools need roof, floor, plumbing, athletic field and bleacher repairs and the district needs to update its computer systems.
The interest income could almost equal the annual allocation that the district receives from the state for capital expenditures, which Jordan said is about $1 million and must be spent according to a predetermined formula.
Although the property was appraised at $6.8 million when it was put up for sale last September, a bidding war among developers drove the price to $9.26 million.
E. J. Remson, planning administrator for the city of Pasadena, said the land is the largest undeveloped flat parcel in Pasadena. It is bordered by Washington Boulevard, Woodlyn Road and Rose Avenue.
Scott Howell, Calmark vice president, said the firm soon will submit plans to the Pasadena Planning Department to build 204 attached single-family homes for middle-income families on the property.
The land is part of a larger parcel the district acquired for Pasadena High School, which opened in 1960. Although about 20 acres were deemed surplus several years ago, the district has been frustrated in its efforts to dispose of the property.
Robert Sampieri, the district's deputy superintendent for personnel and business services, said the district tried to buy up the 10 years remaining on the 25-year lease held by the Pasadena Racquet Club. Failing to reach an agreement with the club, Sampieri said, the district decided to sell the 16 acres that surround the club's four-acre site on three sides.
Sampieri said the district may have held the surplus acreage for many years as an investment "in the belief that the postwar population explosion would continue. Well, it came to a screeching halt and by the time the next generation hits high school, we expect our existing facilities will be adequate."
The Pasadena district, which also covers Altadena and Sierra Madre, was established in the late 1800s. Some of its school buildings date to the early 1900s, such as Longfellow Elementary School, which a spokesman said was designed by architects Charles and Henry Greene, whose Craftsman-style work flourished early in the century.
At its peak in 1966, the district had almost 32,000 students. Enrollment currently is 22,341 and a school spokesman said it has remained about 22,000 since 1980.