District also postpones auction as a safeguard
ENCINITAS — On the heels of an eleventh hour offer and after months of back-and-forth negotiations, it appears the Pacific View site has a new owner.
The EUSD (Encinitas Union School District) board of trustees voted 4-0 on Friday afternoon to accept the city’s confidential offer for the property.
“I’m so relieved for the community,” Mayor Teresa Barth said in a phone interview after the meeting. “I know so many people were genuinely frightened by the thought of losing that legacy property. And now we’re going to be able to preserve it for the future.”
The exact price and terms of the deal have yet to be disclosed. However, EUSD Superintendent Tim Baird said the city’s offer was at least $9.5 million. And the city agreed the 2.8-acre land will remain public and can’t be rezoned or resold.
Those conditions were laid out in a letter EUSD sent to the city on Monday stating council had one last chance to purchase the property. Otherwise, EUSD would proceed with its planned auction March 25, the letter went on to say.
On Wednesday, with the auction nearing, councilmembers then voted 3-2 in closed session to put forward a confidential offer.
“We’re just glad it finally worked out — that the city and district could come to agreement on this,” Baird said.
The district will meet with the city on March 24 to discuss how the city will pay for the deal and the type of purchase agreement, Baird noted, adding he hopes to complete the sale soon.
Various plans for the property, including homes and an arts center, have fallen through since the Pacific View school shuttered 10 years ago.
A fresh round of negotiations started last fall when the City Council announced it would like to purchase the property, stating it’s the ideal spot for an arts or community center.
In late November, the city put forth a $4.3 million offer, which the district deemed way too low. EUSD then voted to auction the property off, raising the prospect of homes or mixed-use development going there.
While it seems a deal has been reached, as a backstop, the board of trustees also voted to postpone the auction until May 22.
“There’s certainly details to be done,” Baird said. “So I think it was prudent for the board to postpone instead of cancel (the auction). But there’s still plenty of time to get this deal done so this auction can be canceled.”
Baird noted Trustee Maureen Muir recused herself from the meeting because her husband, Mark Muir, serves on the City Council and voted on the item.
Mark Muir and Councilwoman Kristin Gaspar voted against the city putting forward an offer for the land on Wednesday night.
At that meeting, Gaspar said the property is unique, but the city wants to pay too much for it.
“The offer comes with considerable sacrifice to our entire community, absent public discussion about that sacrifice,” Gaspar said. “The offer being made strays far from the appraised value.”
The city received two appraisals of the property, one for $3.3 million and the other for $7.3 million.
The public has eagerly watched the Pacific View negotiations, and gotten involved. To break the stalemate between the city and EUSD, last month resident Scott Chatfield launched SavePacificView.org, an online campaign that resulted in 700 emails urging EUSD to stop the auction.
“Credit goes to the 700 people, most of whom sent heartfelt emails,” Chatfield said.
When reached on Friday, Chatfield said he “salutes both entities for showing courage and doing the right thing.”
John S. Pitcher deeded the property to the district in 1883. Back then, Encinitas’ original schoolhouse was built on the site, and it returned to the property about 30 years ago.
The city also agreed that the schoolhouse would remain on the site, Baird noted.
Barth said she expects the city to hold community workshops — both online and traditional town halls — to gather input on what could be done with the property.
She likened the property to the Encinitas Community Library, which was also contentious due to the price.
“The library is a community asset that was worth every penny and more, and I know Pacific View is going to be the same,” Barth said.