ENCINITAS — Councilmembers invited residents to come up with business plans for a community arts center at Wednesday night’s meeting. But the proposals won’t necessarily be tailored specifically to the Pacific View property.
Roughly 20 residents at the meeting urged the city to buy the property from the Encinitas Union School District. They argued, as many in the community have for years, that it’s the ideal spot for an arts center.
Deputy Mayor Lisa Shaffer said the city is currently negotiating over the purchase price with the district. In the meantime, she encouraged residents to look at ways to fund an arts center — even if it’s not at Pacific View.
“(Proposals) could inform plans for Pacific View if we’re successful at the real estate negotiations,” Shaffer said.
“Or it could lead to action in some other location if Pacific View doesn’t happen,” she added. “But I don’t see any reason to wait to have that discussion, we have a lot of interest.”
With a unanimous vote, councilmembers directed the Cultural Tourism Marketing Committee to work with the community on developing business plans for an arts center. The proposals could include partnerships with nonprofits or businesses.
The committee will come back to the City Council with proposals at an undetermined date.
The city recently obtained two independent appraisals of Pacific View, one for $7.3 million and another for $3.3 million. Several residents mentioned the appraisal figures during the meeting.
The figures were previously known only to city officials following a closed session meeting.
Shaffer made the appraisal figures public in an email to a resident because she mistakenly thought a U-T San Diego article had already listed them. During the meeting, she apologized for the mix up.
EUSD expects to get its own appraisal soon.
Several weeks ago, EUSD Superintendent Tim Baird said that Pacific View could be worth up to $13.5 million — the appraisal amount when the school shuttered in 2003, according to a U-T San Diego article.
Resident Sheila Cameron said she was “shocked” to read the $13.5 million figure in the article.
This fall, the nonprofit Art Pulse offered $7.5 million for Pacific View.
Given that voters have approved various education bonds, Cameron said the district shouldn’t be so greedy.
“I think it’s time that the school district thought about what they can do for us,” Cameron said.
Councilwoman Kristin Gaspar also noted she was disappointed by the $13.5 million figure.
“It seemed like an opportunity we had was being taken away,” Gaspar said.
Gaspar said that even if the city buys Pacific View, it would still have to pay to update the dilapidated property’s infrastructure.
And she added that dedicating money to Pacific View means less money for other infrastructure projects.
Earlier in the meeting, the City Council heard a report on its financial capacity for large investments like Pacific View.
For this fiscal year, city revenues total $56.2 million, while expenditures are $51.4 million, according to Finance Director Tim Nash.
Over the next six years, it’s estimated the city will have $5 million in its unappropriated fund that could go toward Pacific View or other projects.
Nash noted the Moonlight Beach lifeguard tower, Beacons Beach improvements and sidewalk upgrades are also high on the city’s list of priorities.
Some residents said the city could fund a community arts center at Pacific View by renting out some of the space to vendors. Dominic Alcorn said a café or coffee cart could generate revenue for the city.
Ron Ranson said the focus should be on artists, not commercial ventures. He argued that, under no circumstances, should housing be built on the property.
“We need a more creative society,” Ranson said, adding that it’s “a golden time for Encinitas to come up with something unique.”