Plans for a new public library and park at the now-unused Farnum Elementary School site in Pacific Beach--strongly supported by area residents--took a major step forward Tuesday when the San Diego city schools board voted to tie down an agreement with the City of San Diego.
A $3.75-million anonymous donation from a Pacific Beach resident, to help purchase the land and construct a new building, was a key factor in the draft agreement worked out between property officials of the city and school district.
A complete agreement could be approved by the board as early as Oct. 6, schools Supt. Tom Payzant said Tuesday.
The board's action Tuesday comes after more than two years of often-stormy negotiations between Pacific Beach residents and district officials over how to dispose of the three-acre Farnum site, at Cass and Reed streets near Sail Bay. The board had originally targeted Farnum and the now-closed Dana Junior High School in Point Loma for 99-year leases to developers for housing. Those plans led to an uproar from residents opposed to any construction that could change the character of their neighborhoods.
The specifics of the anticipated agreement include:
- City purchase of the Farnum site with a clause allowing the district to buy back the property in 25 years if school officials showed that it was again needed for classrooms. The city would pay $1.25 million in cash to the district upon purchase, using part of the anonymous donation.
- Transfer, by the city to the district, of a small piece of land next to Lowell Elementary School in Logan Heights. Lowell is one of the district's most crowded elementary schools. Estimated value of the transfer is $450,000.
- Improvements by the city to Keiller Park, next to Keiller Middle School in Encanto, with a lease to the district for 25 years. A better park has long been sought by the neighborhood. Estimated value of the improvements is $500,000.
- Transfer, by the city to the district, of the land where the Pacific Beach Library now sits. The site is next to Pacific Beach Middle School and its value is estimated at $350,000.
The city's payment to the district of the difference between the cash purchase, land transfers and park improvements--which total $2.5 million--and the value of the Farnum parcel, as determined by appraisers to be appointed by both the city and the district. The payment would be made over five to seven years.
The agreement will allow the district to receive immediate benefits for specific school sites as well as a large cash sum that could be applied to relieve overcrowding at several other schools.
For the city, the purchase and transfers will accelerate use of the anonymous donation. The name of the donor will be released after the purchase is finalized, an aide to City Councilman Mike Gotch said Tuesday. Gotch, who represents Pacific Beach, was instrumental in hammering out the expected agreement.
An advisory committee on unused property will hold a public hearing on the Farnum site next Wednesday and is expected to recommend the sale to the board. The board could then vote on Oct. 6 to approve the agreement, followed by City Council action.
The advisory committee will take up the Dana Junior High School issue again next week. The Point Loma community has so far been unable to reach an agreement with school district officials on how to use the 13-acre site. School board President Kay Davis, who represents Point Loma, blamed her loss in the City Council primary election last week on anger by Point Loma residents at the stalemate over Dana.