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Thursday, November 29, 2012

More About The Ill-Advised Capital Appreciation Bond

More bad news on Capital Appreciation Bonds, the same infamous bond Emery is exploring right now to finance Anna Yates Elementary School's move over to the Center of Community Life on San Pablo Avenue.  The public tolerance for this kind of reckless spending and lack of transparency is growing thin.
From the Los Angeles Times:

California school districts face huge debt on risky bonds

About 200 districts have borrowed billions of dollars using so-called capital appreciation bonds. Districts may have to pay 10 to 20 times the amount borrowed.

November 28, 2012|By Dan Weikel, Los Angeles Times

  • Newport Harbor High School in Newport Beach is part of the Newport Mesa School District, which issued $83 million in long-term notes in May 2011.
Newport Harbor High School in Newport Beach is part of the Newport Mesa School… (Mark Boster / Los Angeles…)
Two hundred school districts across California have borrowed billions of dollars using a costly and risky form of financing that has saddled them with staggering debt, according to a Times analysis.
Schools and community colleges have turned increasingly to so-called capital appreciation bonds in the economic downturn, which depressed property values and made it harder for districts to raise money for new classrooms, auditoriums and sports facilities.
Unlike conventional shorter-term bonds that require payments to begin immediately, this type of borrowing lets districts postpone the start of payments for decades. Some districts are gambling the economic picture will improve in the decades ahead, with local tax collections increasingly enough to repay the notes.
CABs, as the bonds are known, allow schools to borrow large sums without violating state or locally imposed caps on property taxes, at least in the short term. But the lengthy delays in repayment increase interest expenses, in some cases to as much as 10 or 20 times the amount borrowed.
The practice is controversial and has been banned in at least one state. In California, prominent government officials charged with watching the public purse are warning school districts to avoid the transactions.
One sounding the alarm is California Treasurer Bill Lockyer, who compares CABs to the sort of creative Wall Street financing that contributed to the housing bubble, the subsequent debt crisis and the nation's lingering economic malaise.
"They are terrible deals," Lockyer said. "The school boards and staffs that approved of these bonds should be voted out of office and fired."
Most school bonds, like home mortgages, require roughly $2 to $3 to be paid back for every $1 borrowed. But CABs compound interest for much longer periods, meaning repayment costs are often many times that of traditional school bonds.
And property owners — not the school system — are likely to be on the hook for bigger tax bills if the agency's revenues can't cover future bond payments, Lockyer and other critics say.
Several financial consultants who advise school districts on CABs declined to comment, as did the chairman of their trade group. Education officials acknowledge some drawbacks with CABs, but argue that the bonds are funding vital educational projects.
The Newport Mesa Unified School District in Orange County issued $83 million in long-term notes in May 2011. Principal and interest will total about $548 million, but officials say they are confident they can pay off the debt.
The bonds "have allowed us to provide for facilities that are needed now," said the district's business manager, Paul Reed. "We could not afford to wait another 10 years."
Overall, 200 school systems, roughly a fifth of the districts statewide, have borrowed more than $2.8 billion since 2007 using CABs with maturities longer than 25 years. They will have to pay back about $16.3 billion in principal and interest, or an average of 5.8 times the amount they borrowed.
Nearly 70% of the money borrowed involves extended 30- to 40-year notes, which will cost district taxpayers $13.1 billion, or about 6.6 times the amount borrowed on average.
State and county treasurers say debt payments of no more than four times principal are considered reasonable, though some recommend a more conservative limit of three times.
"This is part of the 'new' Wall Street," Lockyer said. "It has done this kind of thing on the private investor side for years, then the housing market and now its public entities."
The Poway Unified School District, which serves middle-class communities in north San Diego County, is one of the school systems faced with massive CAB debt payments. In 2011, it issued $105 million in capital appreciation bonds to complete a school rebuilding program.
Because the recession had depressed property values and tax revenue, Poway district officials realized that using conventional bonds might jeopardize a promise to district voters to limit the tax rate.
So on the advice of an Irvine-based financial consulting firm, they turned to the long-term notes. Under the deal, the school board could keep construction moving, avoid reneging on its pledge to voters and stay within the legal limits. And it would not have to repay the bonds for decades.
By the maturity date of 2051, however, the $105 million in Poway notes will cost district taxpayers almost $1 billion in principal and interest — more than $9 for every $1 borrowed.
That deal, first reported by the Voice of San Diego news website, raised alarms. But some Poway officials defend it as necessary to complete much-needed projects.
"It was well worth it," said Jennifer Zaheer, president of the Palomar Council Parent Teachers Assn., which serves Poway Unified. "In my son's experience, there's a big difference between using a trailer and having a new classroom."
Poway Supt. John P. Collins said the bond deal was one of the only options the district had. Property taxes are limited by voter-approved state laws, which cap the amount districts can levy on landowners. In addition, the Legislature cannot raise taxes without a two-thirds majority and state education funding has been cut because of the economic downturn.
"How does the state expect school districts to fund facilities given all the restraints today?" Collins said. "Capital appreciation bonds are a necessary tool right now."
While expensive, Collins said Poway's long-term notes should be viewed in the context of all the bonds issued for its construction program. Because the district also issued conventional notes, he said, the overall debt repayment ratio for $377 million in bonds is about 4.2 times principal, close to San Diego County treasurer guidelines.
However, Lockyer and some county treasurers say the guidelines apply to individual bond sales, not broader repayment cost averages. They note that the principal and interest of Poway's CABs represent more than half the district's total debt obligations of almost $1.6 billion.
Poway is not the only school district to sign on for large CAB repayments, according to the Times analysisthat examined statewide records for hundreds of bonds issued by school and community colleges. Some of the more extreme cases include:
• The Fairfax Elementary School District in Bakersfield issued $1.02 million in capital appreciation bonds in 2011. By the final maturity date in 2048, the district will have to pay back $15.6 million — $15.25 for every $1 borrowed.
• The Santee School District in San Diego County issued $3.53 million in capital appreciation bonds in 2011. By the final maturity date in 2051, it will have to pay back $58.6 million — $16.57 for every $1 borrowed.
• What appears to be the most expensive deal in the state was made by the Rim of the World Unified School District in Lake Arrowhead. It issued $283,612 in bonds in 2010. By the final maturity date in 2039, the district will have to pay $6.65 million in principal and interest — $23.45 for every $1 borrowed.
In Los Angeles County, 29 districts have issued $556 million in long-term CABs with repayment obligations totaling $2.3 billion. Pay-back ratios range from $2.40 for every dollar borrowed in the El Camino Community College District near Torrance to $9.20 per dollar borrowed in the Westside Union School District in the Antelope Valley.
"These things are all over the place right now and should be of massive concern to taxpayers," said David Wolfe, the legislative director for the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn. Capital appreciation bonds "kick interest and principal payments 40 years down the line. Property owners who never voted for these bonds will have to pay for them."
School officials cite economic forecasts predicting that the bonds can be repaid without increasing tax rates. That's partly based on the assumption that California's historically high property values will rise over the next 20 to 40 years along with district populations and tax revenues.
Some county treasurers are concerned that those calculations may be overly optimistic or designed to make the CAB deals work.
"The projections can be unrealistic, especially for assessed valuations," said San Bernardino County Treasurer-Tax Collector Larry Walker, noting that the Fontana school system issued CABs at the bottom of the Great Recession.
"They said we'd be back to normal in three years," Walker said. "Property values were down then and it's clear they are not going to come back in any short time period."
Lockyer and county treasurers also say the high debt payments could threaten a school district's ability to borrow for future construction projects or pay for instructional improvements.
"There could be financial and political ramifications that tie the hands of districts," said Jordan Kaufman, a Kern County assistant treasurer who has studied the use of such bonds statewide. "In most cases, taxpayers don't know what has gone on, and in some cases board members do not know what they were doing."
No California school bond can be issued without voter approval, but details of how the money is borrowed is left to district officials.
Problems with CABs prompted Michigan to outlaw them in 1994. One of the first warnings in California came in May 2011 when Los Angeles County Treasurer-Tax Collector Mark Saladino cautioned financial firms that advise school districts to avoid borrowing agreements with pay-back schedules longer than 25 years.
Last month, the California Assn. of County Treasurers and Tax Collectors suggested that legislation be drafted that would limit bonds to 25 years, bar balloon payments, allow future CABs to be refinanced for better terms and increase oversight of such transactions by outside government agencies.
"We want to keep it simple," said Glenn Byers, an assistant treasurer for L.A. County. "If we can limit the term of the debt and level the annual debt payments, we will eliminate the problem."
Times staff writers Doug Smith and Maloy Moore contributed to this report.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

School Board Vote: Elementary School Will Close Forever

Concerned Parents Say:
School Board Kills The Best Thing
Going At Emery Unified

In a final unanimous blow, the Emery School Board of Trustees voted to forever shutter Anna Yates Elementary School Monday night, demonstrably, the best thing happening here at the Emery Unified School District.  The clock is now ticking for Anna Yates, the gem of Emery Unified; as the doors will close on the last child in the spring of 2015 when students will be shuttled over to the high school site where the Center of Community Life on San Pablo Avenue is now being constructed.

Some parents have lamented the closing of Anna Yates comes at a time of great and building academic synergy at the school; educators internally and external parental forces have conjoined to dramatically drive up academic achievement over the last few years.  The results have been reflected in the rising test scores; the Academic Performance Index (API) indicates Anna Yates has met and exceeded all the academic goals for this year, moving from an API score of 780 last year to 815 this year eclipsing the statewide API average of 788.  This year's dramatic jump comes following rising scores for the last five years at the school.

Emery High School, also known as Emery Secondary School on the other hand remains mired in a morass of low morale and low achievement, well below State averages.  The school has not met any of the District or State academic goals for this year.  The API scores at the high school shows an actual decline from 636 last year to 635 this year.
This decline has happened amid great pronouncements to the contrary from the District about rising academic achievement at the secondary school over the last couple of years.  Teachers there have complained about low morale and a recalcitrant administration profiled in a follow up audit by the National Center for Urban School Transformation earlier in the year.  The report condemned the District for its poor performance at Emery Secondary School.

Anna Yates Elementary School was recently
remodeled at a cost of $9 million.
The Board voted to close the elementary school Monday  despite a vocal opposition group of some 70 letter signers who pleaded to be allowed to make their case for saving the school last summer.  Board members, one by one told the  dissenters the School District had already decided about closing the school, a charge confirmed by Schools Superintendent Debbra Lindo last Saturday at a community meeting.  Ms Lindo contends the District had decided to close Anna Yates more than ten years ago despite assurances made by the former Superintendent and Board President Josh Simon in 2010 that the citizens would be allowed to decide that in the design phase meetings for the Center of Community Life.
It was noted at the time that Measure J, the plebiscite that citizens supported in 2010 to sell the school bonds necessary to build the new school, made no mention of closing Anna Yates Elementary School, giving ammunition to those who contend that citizens and parents should have been permitted to weigh in on the wisdom of closing the school.

Concerned parents have complained as the elementary school is closed and a new facility is built co-located with the high school, the management staff, critical to the rising test scores at the elementary school, will be dramatically reduced.  District officials have confirmed this, citing cost savings from such a reduction as a major reason to close Anna Yates.  The closure will leave one large school with one management culture, and likely worse academic outcomes looming for Kindergarten through 6th grade children, parents say.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Transit Center: Zombie Redevelopment Rises In Emeryville

Undead Redevelopment Agency Roaming Emeryville
Wareham Continues To Feed At Public Trough Even After The Demise Of The Redevelopment Agency

When it comes to Wareham Development in
Emeryville, its funding source, the
Redevelopment Agency, just won't
stay dead.
Call it the government agency that can't be killed.  How else to explain how favored Emeryville developer Rich Robbins, CEO of Wareham Development, recently dealt with his corporate welfare funding problem?  That being; how can he continue to receive taxpayer money for his development proposals after his favorite milk cow, the Emeryville Redevelopment Agency was killed by Sacramento?  Answer:  If Redevelopment is dead, no matter... City Hall can be directly summonsed to fund his projects...use the Emeryville General Fund via tax increment financing, just like the long gone Redevelopment Agency.

Wareham has been moving forward with its Transit Center project, a contentious office and bio tech tower on Horton Street until the Redevelopment Agency died and so now, Mr Robbins has convinced three council members, a majority, to fund the project with tax increment financing out of Emeryville's General Fund (council members Jennifer West and Jac Asher voted NO).
The way it's going to work is that the General Fund will be tapped for 12 years, for the project's tax increments, to help fund the project.  Wareham puts the money up front but no taxes will be paid by Wareham for the Transit Center for the 12 year term; all those funds that normally would be paid to the city as every other business does will be shuttled back instead to Wareham.  This is an unprecedented move by City Hall that begs the question; why should Wareham receive this public gift?  And why not any other host of businesses in town?

Since Redevelopment Agencies have been shut down by the State, for exactly this sort of abuse, now the city council majority is getting creative in how it gives this favored developer public money.
The council obviously was listening recently when Wareham surrogate and Chamber of Commerce CEO Bob Cantor recently encouraged them, "[Now that the Redevelopment Agency is gone] you have to get a little bold" in giving away public money to Wareham.
Wareham it should be noted, has been on the receiving end of many such agreements with City Hall, having received more than $4 million in taxpayer assistance over the years.  Additionally, Wareham received the entire amount of Federal grant money garnered by Emeryville for toxic waste clean-up, some $1 million, leaving other developers with toxic soils out of the loop.

"Toxic Soup Bubbling Up"
"Toxic Soup Bubbling Up"
Toxins are migrating at the
site according to Wareham...
State officials say BS
to that charge.
The council members were warned by Wareham at the November 6th council meeting that they must move quickly on this project because toxins in the soil under the proposed project are on the move.  "It's a toxic soup, bubbling up" said Geoff Sears, Wareham's point man for squeezing the council over the years. This alarmist claim goes against direct statements from the California Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC), the agency who designed the entombment of the toxins leftover from the years when it was a Westinghouse manufacturing site.  Toxins were left but a containment system including 40 foot subterranean slurry walls and an "engineered cap" were built some years ago to permanently entomb the toxins and stop their movement.  DTSC officials have said the site is safe as long as it is not opened up.
Now Wareham says the containment system is no good and Emeryville must move to approve work on the site because toxins are bubbling up.  We'd like to see Wareham defend this fatuous claim and we challenge the council to question Wareham on this.  We think this was meant to cause alarm by rube council members to wring out a better deal from them.

Irony: Wareham Won't Clean-Up The Site
After all the hand wringing from the city council about how we need to clean-up the site, Wareham now informs us they won't even do that as part of the Transit Center project.  Previously when the Redevelopment Agency was alive, Wareham intended to remove all the toxic soil but now, as part of a redesign to save money, only the top 10 feet of soil will be removed leaving the rest to be entombed under the building. A new engineered cap with slurry walls will be installed to leave the problem to another generation.

This iteration of the Transit Center with it's City Hall give-a-way is but the newest version of Emeryville taxpayers paying a well connected developer for a project of dubious public benefit.  We've already given Wareham over $4 million dollars for other projects around town and for this project we've already changed our General Plan especially to accommodate this building by ignoring our building height mandates.  As the Tattler has noted, the 'transit" part of the Transit Center is a joke; it's really just an office building with four bus bays in the lower parking area.

Readers are invited to use the Tattler's search engine by typing in "Wareham" to peruse all the stories highlighting the give-a-ways this developer has been receiving from the City of Emeryville. We say NO to opening up and putting at risk our General Fund to help Wareham once again, regardless of the interpersonal relationships that have blossomed between Wareham's Rich Robbins and City Councilwoman Nora Davis and City Manager Pat O'Keeffe.  It's a terrible precedent and Wareham has already benefited more than enough at our expense.

California has killed the Redevelopment Agency.  Let's not bring it back to life just to continue to help this politically connected developer.  Let's turn the page and move on past this kind of moribund public policy and develop our town in a more bottom up fashion.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

From The Archives

The Tattler's 'From The Archives', brings back Tattler stories from the past that we deem to still be of interest.  From The Archives will appear on an occasional basis.  

The following is a story from November 7th 2010, right after the passage of Measure J, the school bond initiative for the new campus on San Pablo Avenue as part of the Center of Community Life.  Readers will note a main cause of concern at the time was the wisdom of trying to improve academic achievement by the building of a new facility, something the School District was adamant about.  
The amount of the bond, $95 million, has since been reduced owing to a reduction in the bond raising capacity of Emeryville, something the District said was improbable if not impossible at the time.  Added City money was to drive the cost of the Center of Community Life to some $120 million before interest charges.  
The story also highlights how the School District shuts down dissenting voices among the citizenry, an ongoing problem that has only increased since 2010.
Lastly, readers will note there is no mention of closing Anna Yates Elementary School in the story...that's because the District was still on record in 2010, claiming the public would be able to decide for themselves about closing the school in the coming months after the election.  This was before the District switched and adopted their current claim that the closure option was decided almost a decade earlier (presumably by District officials).

Here then is our From The Archives offering for today:

New Building Only Option Considered
Groupthink Shut Out Alternate Visions For School District

Opinion/News Analysis
What started out as an idea to increase academic achievement at Emeryville schools morphed instead into a strange insistence by the polity that an expensive new building must be erected.  The culture became permeated with groupthink after critical thinking was purged from supportive committees by the school board and the city council.
Is this really the best way?
As a consequence, the recently passed campaign for Measure J, the school rebuild bond, progressed just how the hired political consulting firm said it would.  From the opening salvos of city-wide push polling with its hidden agenda meant to sway voters to the final stubbing out of oppositional voices by the cancelling of freewheeling public forums called "living room conversations" along with the purging of alternative voices from official committees; the only idea taken into consideration was the building of a $120 million new school edifice (nearly $400 million with interest).  All fell into line and dissent was effectively quashed.  And that was the intent, right from the start.

How about something different?
The whole idea that a new school building is the best way to increase student academic achievement, accepted carte blanche by the elite, was never challenged because contrary voices were not allowed on any of the committees that were set up ostensibly to investigate this dubious premise.  The enablers never saw fit to question the official 'wisdom'.  Other voices, were they allowed to flourish, might  have argued a different vision be considered; a vision that, as it turns out is supported by a majority of educators.

Real Academic Achievement:
Small Class Size & Higher Pay For Teachers
In the academic community, as it turns out, there is no consensus on this Emeryville steamroller idea that it takes a new building to produce good academic results for students.  On the contrary, most educators outside Emeryville say it's small class sizes that brings higher academic student achievement.  Teachers are almost unanimous about this.  Many also point to the need for quality teachers and higher teacher pay is a proven way to attract better teachers.  Many academicians will say new buildings may help increase student performance somewhat but pale when compared to making smaller class sizes and hiring better teachers.

Center Of Community Life committee meeting
Those that might have asked if the emperor has clothes and question the inevitable new school building project were never able to point out the plethora of other school districts getting by with much older school buildings than the 1962 Emery High.  One only needs to look to Berkeley High School, built in 1901 (added onto in subsequent years including a large add on in 1964) and doing a far better job educating its students than Emery.   In fact the Berkeley High campus was recently designated a historic district by the National Register of Historic Places, something Emery High School is not eligible for because it's too new.  It is an inconvenient fact that many school districts across the United States are educating their children in much older schools than Emery and that they have exceptionally high academic student achievement.

Now There Are Fewer Options
We've put all our eggs in one basket
Perhaps most disturbing is the likely prospect that the $400 million dollar school rebuild project will squander Emeryville voter's admirable penchant for fiscally supporting their schools, possibly for a generation or more.  Any chance of reducing class sizes or increasing teacher pay with additional financial help from the residents is now much less likely because of the expensive new building we're going to get.  It would seem we have put all our hopes for a new regime of academic achievement in one basket; the one basket that will offer the least chance for success.  In terms of bang for bucks, we have gone for a lot of bucks and not much bang.

In an alternate universe where dissenting voices were welcome in Emeryville, these other ideas for driving up student achievement might have been part of the dialogue, they might have saved the residents a lot of money and better achieved the goal of improving education at our schools.  But back here on Earth, in this Emeryville, it seems the only alternative is their way or the highway.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Culture Of Disinformation At The School District

Is Emery's New School Site Too Small?
District Says That's Not Worth Answering

Is the new $64 million proposed Emeryville school campus too small?  That's a question the School District will avoid, even if it means purposely keeping citizens in the dark.
Attendees at the November 19th Planning Commission meeting witnessed the School District in full spin mode as they grappled with questions from the Commissioners about lack of space at the new Center of Community Life on San Pablo Avenue.  But more revealing was how School District officials dealt with that question at a community meeting on the Saturday previous.

Warning: Semantics Are Played To Partisan Effect
With the School Superintendent and School Board members standing by, Center of Community Life architects told a questioner from the audience at the Saturday meeting that the new school will meet the minimum requirements for space as dictated by Sacramento.  No problem here. That's all that needs to be offered on that question?
That terse response tells Emeryville citizens a lot about the Emery Unified School District and what it has become.  It shows a willingness to deceive the people to move forward a flawed school project.  As it turns out, there are no legal minimum requirements for school space dictated by Sacramento, the State does have recommended minimum standards however.
And there's the rub: School District officials purposefully gave citizens at the Saturday meeting the impression that the State of California has no problem with the new Emeryville school.  Instead of seizing on the word "requirement" and using it to obscure and misinform, School District officials should have taken the opportunity to help people understand that the new school is too small for the site according to the State of California.
The Center of Community Life
Warning To Citizens Who Would Question The New School:
Makes sure you get the semantics correct in your question,
the School District will turn it around to their advantage. 
They could have used the opportunity to tell us that they believe that the school will still be acceptable, even desirable.  They could have used the art of persuasion to get citizens to sign off on their public school investment.  Unfortunately, this is not part of the culture of the Emery Unified School District.

This is not just a question of the School District being petty.  They see this Center of Community Life as potentially unpopular and something to foist upon us by decidedly undemocratic means.  The stakeholders part of the equation is a problem they see that needs to be managed.  The idea of public schools is deeply progressive and for these Emery School District officials to subvert that intrinsic progressive nature of public education is disturbing.
Unfortunately this is merely one more sad story in the growing litany of a School District that takes its ques from Niccolo Machiavelli rather than a deeply connected partnership with the citizenry.

To the citizen that had the temerity to ask if the new school is too small according to the State of California; the answer is YES, it is too small according to the State.  Shame is on the Emery Unified School District.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Where is he now?  We haven't seen this guy of late.
Reprinted from the Emeryville Tattler:

THURSDAY, MAY 24, 2012

Triangle Turkey!

Turkey Terrorizes Emeryville

Sighted today, Emeryville's newest resident. In the Triangle neighborhood, on 45th Street at San Pablo Avenue, out for an evening stroll.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Planning Commission Joins Sacramento: 'New School Is Too Small'

Emery School District Fights Back:
We Don't Care About California Standards
"These Are OUR Standards"

Emeryville's Planning Commission deliberated Monday night about the Center of Community Life on San Pablo Avenue and the new school to be built there.  Their findings were unanimous: the site is too small to fit everything the School District wants to cram in there.
Although the findings were part of a study session and not legally binding, the Planning Commission now joins with the State of California in its admonition about the $64 million new Emeryville school, that it doesn't meet minimum standards for size in both outdoor area and built out space.
School District officials attending the meeting acknowledged the new school will not meet State minimum standards for space but they bristled at the idea that the Emery Unified School District has no standards for the children.  The District has its own standards they insisted, "This [school] is what WE are doing, these are OUR standards" said District Architect Roy Miller.  He went on to claim the State lacks the authority to stop Emery from building the school the way it sees fit, regardless of any space standards ensconced in Sacramento.

Schools Superintendent
Debbra Lindo told the
Commissioners, regarding 

the school project, "There has 
been a tremendous amount 
of community input."
The Planning Commissioners each took their turns commenting about the site but Commissioner Buzz Cardoza seemed to sum it up the best for his colleagues, "There's no getting around it, we're squeezing too much on one piece of land" he said.  Commissioner John Scheuerman agreed about the cramped space and added, "Emeryville deserves better".  In the end, every single commissioner made the lack of space their primary stated concern about the proposed school and community center.

After the commissioners read a letter from a parent about the mistake of closing Anna Yates Elementary School and moving it over to the Center of Community Life site,  Commissioner Cardoza commented, "A 6 through 12 grade school would fit [the site]" but not a Kindergarten through 12th grade facility as is planned.

Roy Miller rose to inform the commissioners that urban schools with their tight confinements commonly don't meet the State minimum standards for space.  He attempted to mollify the commissioner's concerns by downplaying the space issue for the $64 million new Emeryville school; space mandates are "regularly modified" he said.  No commissioner made a claim of satisfaction in response to Mr Miller's appeasing words.
Commission Chair, Vanessa Kuemmerle, asked for a comparison with other neighboring schools but Mr Miller said he didn't have that information at hand.

The School District officials packed up their gear at the end of the meeting, vowing to return at a later date when the Planning Commission is scheduled to make its binding vote on the project.

Monday, November 19, 2012

State: New $60 Million School Will Be Sub-Standard

Sacramento Says:
New Emeryville School Doesn't Meet State Mandated Minimum Standards

Emeryville Parent Challenges Planning Commission

Emeryville parent Brian Carver has alerted the  Planning Commission, scheduled to vote tonight on the final schematic design of the new school planned as part of the Center of Community Life; the facilities do not meet California minimum space standards for children.  Additionally, Mr Carver asks the Planning Commission to consider the fact that the School District has engaged in an end run around citizen engagement and disallowed the people of Emeryville to help decide if the Anna Yates Elementary School should be closed and moved to the new high school site.   Lastly, the District has not committed on telling the people of Emeryville what is to become of the newly abandoned school properties as it moves forward with the contentious Emeryville Center of Community Life.

Here is Brian Carver's letter:

Dear members of the Planning Commission:

Thank you for service to our City.  I have followed the development of
the ECCL project very closely, and as a parent and active community
member I continue to have concerns about this project's design and cost.
Most importantly, I simply do not believe that this project provides
enough outdoor space for our children.  Even at Anna Yates, since the
recent change to move the 7th and 8th grades to that location, we do not
have enough space for kids to play (particularly in the morning, before
school).  We have had times at the school where the play structure is
"scheduled," meaning that only certain classes may use it for recess
that day.  My concern is that the drive for "efficiency" and shared use
will not solve this problem, but will be a very expensive replication of
it at the San Pablo site.

There are State guidelines that outline the amount of space necessary in
new schools.  While EUSD staff insists that no one meets these
standards, I do not believe that after many millions of dollars we
should be creating a project that shortchanges our kids and community on
space.  A new project should aim to do better, rather than to replicate
the failures of others.  We should also be looking at how much space
neighboring, successful public schools offer--these schools will be
competing with us--and if we do not have adequate space for outdoor
activities, learning, and programming, then enrollment will suffer,
potentially to the point that maintaining a School District in
Emeryville becomes fiscally unsustainable, all while leaving our
residents with decades of bond payments.

Finally, the Commission should condition any ECCL plan approval on firm
commitments from the District regarding the future uses of the Anna
Yates and Ralph Hawley sites.  Both Board Trustee Simon and
then-Superintendent Sugiyama promised the attendees of the July 2010
City-School Committee meeting, myself included, that residents would
have a voice in the decision to co-locate all the grades at one site.[1]
They assured voters that this opportunity was guaranteed by the
language of Measure J itself.  However, this summer, when over 70
individuals signed an open letter to the District urging the Trustees to
keep the elementary students at the Anna Yates site, the plea fell on
deaf ears.[2]  At this weekend's design meeting, Superintendent Lindo
told attendees that the co-location decision was made over a decade ago
and was not up for discussion.  This is not the community engagement
process that was promised in 2010 or in the language of Measure J
itself.  Since the District will not keep its promises to residents,
perhaps it will keep promises to the Planning Commission:  Ask them to
assure you that these public properties will not be sold off or rented
to a competing private or charter school.  Ask them to go on record as
to their plans for these sites' long-term use and maintenance as a
condition of any ECCL approval.  It should be part of their
responsibilities as Trustees to have long-term plans for the use and
maintenance of public properties, but residents have had no luck in
getting these Trustees to be transparent about such plans.  I hope you
can.  (Anticipating a rebuttal: A task force whose very charter directs
its members to conclude that the Anna Yates site should be used for
adult education is not a part of any transparent community engagement

Thank you. Please do what you can to ensure that our children have
adequate facilities for recreation and play to support their learning.

Brian W. Carver
Emeryville resident and parent of a child at Anna Yates