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Facts about the La Puerta surplus property process

by Steven Llanusa, president, CUSD board of education and Jim Elsasser, superintendent, Claremont Unified School District

We appreciate the opportunity to explain the process the Claremont Unified School District (CUSD) board of education and staff have taken relative to the potential sale of district property located at 2475 N. Forbes Avenue, often referred to as the La Puerta property, which was raised in a November 16 letter to the editor.

California Education Code (Ed Code) dictates how school districts dispose of property. Ed Code 17388, et. seq. requires school districts to engage a Surplus Property Advisory Committee to address the potential sale, lease, or other use of district-owned properties. Ed Code dictates both the composition and the duties of the committee. In December 2010, the board of education passed a resolution authorizing the formation of a Surplus Property Advisory Committee.

The committee held two public meetings to discuss options for the La Puerta property in October and November 2012. Then the committee held two subsequent public hearings on December 13 and December 18, 2012.

During the January 17, 2013 board meeting, the committee presented a final report to the board, which included a recommendation to declare the La Puerta property surplus, and to sell the property pursuant to California law at the property’s highest and best use value.

The board held a public hearing on February 21, 2013, and subsequently adopted a resolution ratifying the Surplus Property Advisory Committee’s recommendation. The board then declared the La Puerta property surplus, and authorized sale of that property.

In November 2013, a public auction for the sale of the property was conducted, and the highest bidder was Brandywine Homes. Its plans for the property were not approved by the city of Claremont’s Planning Commission; therefore, they withdrew the offer.

In June 2015, a second public auction for the sale of the property was conducted. This time the highest bidder was Claremont Lincoln University. After conducting several meetings throughout the community, Claremont Lincoln University withdrew their offer.

After two separate unsuccessful bid auctions, CUSD explored a waiver of competitive bidding requirements. Ed Code section 33050, et. seq. allows a district to waive competitive bidding requirements from the State Board of Education, including sections establishing procedures for the disposal of property via bid auction.

By waiving these procedures, the district can solicit request for proposals and then negotiate terms of a property sale with prospective buyers that are more likely to bring a sales transaction to successful close, rather than being required to accept the highest conforming bid. In order to file the waiver, the district was required to certify that we had met with an advisory committee, sought input from employee associations, and conducted a public hearing.

A meeting with the Facility Advisory Committee was held on October 5, 2017, and the committee recommended CUSD apply for the waiver. On October 19, 2017, the board of education conducted a public hearing and subsequently approved a resolution authorizing the submittal of a waiver to the State Board of Education. CUSD has adhered to all requirements of Ed Code in all steps of this process.

It should be noted that all public auctions and public hearings require public notice, and each notice was published in the Claremont COURIER. The claim in the letter to the editor that information regarding this process was “not widely disseminated” is false. Not only are minutes and agendas posted in locations accessible to the public, they are also available on our district website, cusd.claremont.edu/boardmeetings.

CUSD assesses all district facilities on a regular basis. In evaluating the vacant building on the La Puerta property, there was concern that the dilapidated structures could pose a threat to anyone who may try to access the buildings. Rather than allow a dangerous structure in the neighborhood, removal was seen as the safest option.

The district also regularly works with two arborists to assess the condition of all district trees. Recently, many of the trees on the La Puerta property were determined to be infected by a eucalyptus longhorn borer and the trees were either dead or no longer thriving; therefore, in order to ensure the safety of anyone who accesses the property, the district is in the process of having those trees removed.

We always appreciate the public’s questions, interest, and support of Claremont Unified School District.  Please feel free to contact the superintendent’s office at jelsasser@cusd.claremont.edu with any further questions or concerns.