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School District Feels Pressure to Sell Site

October 13, 1998|TONY LYSTRA

A $9-billion statewide school bond issue on the November general election ballot has brought new urgency to the future of a 36-acre lot owned by Simi Valley Unified School District, school officials say.

The district has wanted to sell the property at Tapo Canyon Road and Alamo Street for some time. But the issue has become more pressing.

"Having that surplus property puts us in danger of not being able to receive any money from the state," said Lowell Schultze, assistant superintendent of business.

At issue is a Senate bill signed by Gov. Pete Wilson in August.

District officials aren't entirely sure what SB 50's new rules will mean to them when they get in line for state funds, but they do know the state is less likely to allocate funds to districts with surplus property, Schultze said.

In addition, funds from the sale of the land could be used to open one of four closed elementary schools and make other improvements to compensate for increasing enrollment.

Consultants and district and city officials have yet to settle on how the property will be zoned when it is sold.

An ad hoc committee made up of school board member Caesar Julian, board President Janice DiFatta, City Councilwoman Barbara Williamson and Mayor Greg Stratton has been meeting to decide the property's future.

The district originally asked to change the zoning of the property from medium-density to high-density residential uses, setting aside three to four acres as commercial property, Schultze said.

Williamson wants the property zoned entirely for commercial use.

"I want the school district to get as much bang for their buck on the zoning of this property as possible, and I don't believe that's in housing," Williamson said. "It's in commercial real estate."

All of the parties involved agree they shouldn't hastily decide the future of the property, so the district has withdrawn its application with the city to change the zoning in order to reconsider its options.

"I think it's something we want to do very precisely and when we do this, we only do it once and we do it right the first time," Williamson said.

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