The Sweetwater Union High School District's financial picture looked grim at the September 23 board meeting. During the budget report, it was established that the district continues to spend and holds the minimum that the state requires — 3 percent — in reserve.
Chief financial officer Albert Alt stated at the meeting that the 3 percent would allow the district to operate normally for only about two and a half weeks.
Several of the district’s real estate ventures are wending their way through the entitlement process. If successful, will the transactions change the district's financial situation?
The Reader reported in February that the district hired E2 ManageTech to get surplus district property on Third Avenue (in Chula Vista) “shovel ready” for a condo/apartment development. The district initially purchased the property to build new district headquarters, but now the land is slated for an apartment development. Named the Colony, the project will comprise 167 apartment units and possibly the Chula Vista Heritage Museum.
According to an email from Janet Kluth, the city’s senior project coordinator, the Colony development will go before the city council on November 5. “The item includes consideration of the Rezone, the Design Review Permit, and the Tentative Map.” The zone change has already received the stamp of approval from the Planning Commission.
Charles Diamond of C&D Consulting, principal at HTI Property Group, and Disposition Strategies Group, was contacted by the Reader to find out if the project has a developer. According to Diamond, he was obliged by the district to decline an interview.
In addition to the district’s Third Avenue project, Chula Vista’s city council will vote on October 15 to employ E2 ManageTech to do a “brown field assessment” on the site where Sweetwater’s district office and transportation center are headquartered. The agenda enclosure states that 435 Third Avenue, 1116 Fifth Avenue, and 610 L Street “have begun the entitlement process for development into residential uses.”
Sweetwater’s L Street property has been the subject of media scrutiny for over a year. In an article entitled “Sweetwater is underwater on land deal” the U-T reported “What began eight years ago as a deal to develop a new administration complex for Sweetwater schools has cost the district $40 million, with no new district headquarters.”
As the Reader reported in February, a nonprofit organization called California Trust for Public Schools/Plan Nine Partners holds the deed to the L Street property in a complicated deal that involves all of the district’s properties. Marc Litchman, of Plan Nine, proposed in February to put a soccer stadium, soccer fields, a conference center, and a charter academy on the land.
In a recent interview, Litchman said he is pleased that his project is gathering momentum. He also notes that if the property is developed with an educational/recreational use it will not have to go through the lengthy entitlement process entailed by a residential development.
Litchman said his proposal is supported by the Chula Vista Premier Football Club, AYSO, the California Soccer Association, Academia de Futbol, the Olympicos Soccer Club, and YALLA (an organization that uses soccer to help kids overcome the trauma of war).
But will these transactions make the district more financially sound?
The district’s surplus property is tied together in an exchange agreement, which means that — when and if — “shovel ready” projects are sold, the money will not go to the general fund to alleviate the deficit spending problem; rather, the money will be used to pay down the district’s debt on the L Street property.