ENCINITAS — The community breathed a sigh of relief when the Encinitas Union School Board voted 4-1 on Feb. 15 to enter into negotiations with Art Pulse to sell the Pacific View Elementary site. But the two parties have yet to agree on the particulars of the deal, and negotiations have resulted in significant delays.
San Diego-based nonprofit Art Pulse was chosen in part because the group plans to purchase the site for $7.5 million and has some funds on hand.
“As a school board, we have to be fiscal stewards of the district and protect our kids and their education,” Encinitas School Board President Emily Andrade said at the February meeting.
Envision the View and the Sanderling Waldorf School were also in the running. Both offered to lease the 2.8-acre oceanfront parcel. Trustee Maureen Muir supported Envision the View’s plan to turn the site into a community center.
While several proposals have been tossed around regarding the future of the site, none have been met with success. In 2005, an advisory committee was created consisting of various stakeholders. An initial proposal to build a medical complex with office space and condos was met with disapproval by the downtown community.
The school board sued the city after the City Council refused to rezone the property from semi-public to residential last year. Encinitas Unified School District Superintendent Timothy Baird said the board would drop the suit if negotiations with Art Pulse were successful. “I’m hoping that we will wrap this up in the next month or so,” he said in mid-July.
Baird said the sale was “not a simple land transaction.” “There are a lot of pieces to this,” he said. “We are asking for money up front to enter into escrow.” Baird said he hopes to have the property in escrow by the time the school year begins but doesn’t want to rush the process that was slated to be finalized this past spring. “You’ve got to do it right. We’d like this to be a win-win for everyone”
While Baird said he could not give an exact amount because negotiations are still on going, Art Pulse Executive Director April Game said the organization is negotiating to lower the $400,000 deposit to $300,000.
Game said local developer John DeWald was paying $300,000 towards the deposit. “If they (the district) lower the amount to enter into escrow then Art Pulse can focus on fundraising for the other costs (of the project),” she said.
DeWald has also agreed to pay $3 million of the total purchase price of $7.5 million. In return, Game said he would own part of the land in order to develop single-family homes.
“Art Pulse will only have to come up with $4 million, plus the construction costs,” Game said.
Game plans to involve the community in various planning meetings and initiate a capital fundraising campaign.
According to the organization’s tax returns, it took in just over $98,000 in 2010 and has run at a deficit since 2008. Game said a large loan given to the organization by one of its board members was going to be partially forgiven.
She estimates the cost of arts center construction, including permits to range from $5 million to $12 million.
The city’s Director of Planning Patrick Murphy said the organization has submitted a request to submit an application to amend the specific plan to create a new zone for the property. “An applicant must first request council to allow it to submit a formal application to change the zoning,” Murphy said.
Game said the “arts center zone” would allow for artists-in-residency, retail, studios and a café. “This is good news for the longevity of the property, for the community,” she said.
Located on Third Street between E Street and F Street, the school is surrounded by commercial buildings and smaller homes. It closed due to declining enrollment in the area in 2003.
The property was gifted to the city in 1883 for a school site. The original schoolhouse is located to the west of the property and houses the Encinitas Historical Society.