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ABC Could Profit From School Sale, Study Says

February 08, 1987|LEE HARRIS | Times Staff Writer

CERRITOS — A consultant has suggested a real estate venture that he says could generate an extra $17 million for the ABC Unified School District.

But it would involve closing Haskell Junior High School and moving Whitney High School, the district's college-preparatory school, to the Haskell campus. The Whitney campus would be sold for residential development.

"I realize the sensitive nature (of closing schools) and that is why I recommend this not be done quickly," Wayne D. Wedin, president of Wedin Enterprises Inc. of La Habra, said in an interview.

"I've suggested broad-based community involvement with representatives from city government, parents, different community (residents), different age groups and different ethnic groups."

Wedin was hired by the district to report on district property that is not being used or is under-utilized. The board last week accepted Wedin's six-month study, which cost an estimated $10,000, with little comment. But in later interviews, board members said they were pleased with the proposals and hoped to avoid a dispute by involving as many residents as possible.

Board Member Pleased

"I'm very excited about the whole idea. This will provide us with an income stream," board member Peggy Lee said, adding that public hearings and a community advisory committee will be formed as suggested.

"We plan to go slow on this. The community will be given a chance to look at the report. The broad-based committee will be able to make recommendations," board member Richard Arthur said.

The study was made public during a hearing on ways the district could cut $2 million from its budget for the 1987-88 fiscal year. More than 100 people attended the hearing, and many of them expressed surprise at Wedin's report.

"Wait until the Haskell people hear about this," said Fran Evans, a community activist. "The district tried to close the school about three years ago and failed because of protest from parents."

"It kind of surprised me that they are talking about closing a school and relocating another one," said Jim Weisenberger, a parent and activist. "I think it is going to be very difficult to sell to the general public. I think they'll meet a lot of resistance."

Aside from the caution expressed about school closures and relocation, Weisenberger and others praised the Wedin report and took some credit for the study being done.

"I was impressed with it," said George Medina, a parent active in district affairs who called the Haskell-Whitney proposal a good idea. "It is the first time the district has had anything of a substantive nature done on property management."

The school district ran into a wall of resistance last year when it tried to capitalize on excess property. The district wanted to sell 18 acres of vacant land on the Whitney campus to the city for $2 million. It planned to use the money to build a gym at Whitney, while the city developed the 18 acres as a major sports complex.

The effort failed when some parents complained that the district was not being paid enough.

The district decided to hire a consultant to explore ways the district could build a gym and also gain some revenue from surplus property. The Wedin firm was hired as a result.

Specifically, the Wedin plan suggests:

Closing Haskell Junior High, one of five district junior high schools, and transferring its 560 students to other campuses. Wedin said the other four junior high schools are not at capacity.

Relocating Whitney High School, which is overcrowded and in need of a gymnasium, to the 25-acre Haskell site. There would be enough acreage to expand Whitney as well as build a gym.

The 30-acre Whitney site, would then be available for possible residential development.

The plan would require a "close working relationship" with Cerritos because the city would have to rezone the Whitney property for residential construction, Wedin said.

The district would not sell the land outright, but would enter into a joint venture partnership with a private developer and share in the profits from the sale of single-family homes, Wedin said.

Wedin estimated that a single unit could sell for as much as $225,000. The district could gain more than $10 million by sharing in the sale of the land by the developer and in income from sales of the homes.

Additionally, the plan suggests that the district look at a long-term lease or rental arrangement with a private firm for Cabrillo Lane Elementary School, which was closed due to declining enrollment in 1985.

The district should consider leasing or renting the site. A seven-year lease could bring in $7 million, Wedin estimated.

Leased to College

The site has been leased at no cost to Cerritos College since 1985. The college agreed to pay for maintenance of the property, which it uses as an extension campus.

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