School District Swap: Disaster or Opportunity?

February 19, 2018

Complete the UHCA Ed Center Survey here.

 

Alarm bells rang when it became known that the San Diego Unified School District plans to take advantage of an Education Code provision that would allow them to exchange the Education Center property at Park Boulevard and Normal Street for a new, 185,000 square-foot home somewhere near a freeway.  The Education Center property would then be developed, presumably to its highest and best use as mixed use commercial and residential.  That would have a major impact on our neighborhood.


Many residents would rather see the property become a park and the historic Teacher’s Annex building restored as a library and community center, but that costs money. Probably a lot of it. Some want to see more housing, to make living here more affordable and to allow others to move to our wonderful neighborhood. But that has impacts on neighborhood character and quality of life.


The San Diego Unified School District, like many in California, finds itself property rich but revenue poor because of demographic changes and declining enrollments.  It needs a new administrative center, but that costs a lot of money they don’t have. However, it does have the Ed Center property, a significant asset that is underused, and whose buildings are inadequate and expensive to maintain. 


This situation could be a disaster on a par with the threat of condos on the Trolley Barn Park site that rallied neighbors to create UHCA in the 1980s.  Or, it could be a great opportunity.  Imagine if the properties the district trades for a new center are more valuable than the building they receive (which is what they expect). Perhaps a portion of the surplus could go toward funding restoration of the Teacher’s Annex.  DIF fees from development might pay for a new park or improvements to Washington Street.  That would be a big win.


Although it’s natural to fear change, if the change is inevitable it’s appropriate to insist upon compensation for the loss of a historic building, hard-to-come-by open space, increased density, and more traffic.  UHCA intends to provide a forum for such a discussion with city and school district officials at its next community meeting on March 1, because that’s what a community association does.  You should be there (and become a member), because that’s what concerned neighbors do.
 

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