Plans are in motion to replace the Sweetwater Union High School District office and corporate yard in western Chula Vista with 135 townhouse units called the Cove.
The district has three pieces of property they are looking to sell after the groundwork is laid for them to become condo apartment conversions. The properties were all ostensibly purchased to become district-office headquarters. The properties are located on Third Avenue, Fifth Avenue, and L Street.
Sweetwater is currently moving forward with obtaining the entitlements, which entails maps, rezoning, and general-plan amendments, in order to put the townhouses on Fifth Avenue.
According to Janice Kluth, Chula Vista senior project co-coordinator, the Cove project entitlements will be done in phases. “The first phase [submitted in December 2013] includes a rezone and environmental review. Phase 2 and 3 will include a General Plan Amendment, further rezones, a Precise Plan, a Tentative Map, and Design Review.”
Entitlements for the Cove will take upward of two years.
Sweetwater pays the City of Chula Vista entitlement fees. According to Kluth, “the cost to entitle the project will be based on staff time to review the plans. The city collects deposits for each action (rezone, map, plan amendment, etc.) and the developer/applicant is responsible for keeping a positive balance on each account.”
Sweetwater paid approximately $85,000 for Third Avenue (the Colony apartments) entitlements. Fifth Avenue includes general-plan changes, so the fees will be steeper.
Kluth says the Fifth Avenue townhouse project will also include “an open-space requirement, so the plans include open space, landscaped areas and sidewalks, a tot lot, a pool, and a clubhouse. Additionally, park fees (calculated on a per-unit basis) will be due at the time of building permit issuance.”
Part of the Cove project process is to get public input. David Danciu, secretary for the Southwest Chula Vista Civic Association, was contacted by Kluth for this purpose.
Danciu writes: “Since we are the organization most aligned with residents of Southwest Chula Vista it was logical that a meeting with the facilitator-in-chief, Mr. Chuck Diamond, was set up. He [Diamond, Sweetwater’s consultant] will present development plans to residents and gauge the response while moving plans through the labyrinth of city approvals. The issue for us [Southwest Association] is how to contact and inform as many of the project neighbors as possible.”
According to Danciu, a tentative meeting is scheduled for mid-July. The group is hoping the meeting can take place in the district office.
Many believe Sweetwater could use new headquarters. The current office is a maze of cubbyholes, dingy hallways, and ancient bathrooms. The corporate yard’s correspondent bus traffic has never been well situated in the Fifth Avenue residential setting.
However, the district’s real estate gambol is fraught with problems — not the least of which is that there is only one locally elected trustee on the board at this time — John McCann. County board of education trustees fill the other four seats, which have been vacated due to corruption charges against the elected, former trustees, until November elections.
This factor becomes more urgent because the June 30 Sweetwater agenda has two items on it that are tied to the district’s real estate deals.
During Monday’s closed session, trustees will be asked to take up the question of acquiring office space for a new district office at 860 Harold Place in Chula Vista. County board members have already heard from some residents and teachers why they think this is not an appropriate location for the district office. One point made was that it is not centrally located, as the district also encompasses Imperial Beach and National City.
The sale of the district’s Third Avenue property is also on the June 30 agenda and is linked to the district’s ability to acquire Harold Place. The Third Avenue property has been entitled for a 162 multi-family apartment complex called the Colony.
But there are questions about the process the district used to get Third Avenue declared excess property.
Before a piece of property can be sold, it has to be declared “excess” by a 7-11 committee (called “7-11” because no fewer than 7 and no more 11 need to be appointed).
Some people have expressed concern that trustees, removed from the board in connection with the pay-to-play corruption case in Sweetwater, were the ones who appointed the 7-11 committee members.
As the Reader has reported, none of the 7-11 committee members submitted their conflict-of-interest 700 forms until after the group had concluded their business and declared the Third Avenue property excess. Superintendent Ed Brand vetted their forms.
One of the members of the 7-11 committee owns property within a block of the proposed Colony development, so if the Third Avenue vacant lot becomes an apartment house, his property will likely increase in value.
One of the committee members never attended a meeting — he was a teacher and a Latino, so there were never seven members and never a committee reflective of the community.
And one of the 7-11 committee members was David Malcolm. Since pleading guilty to a felony conflict-of-interest charge in 2003 (which has since been expunged), the ex–port commissioner has found himself in the middle of at least one fishy real estate deal.
In 2010, Malcolm reportedly purchased a piece of Arizona property that the City of Glendale had been leasing and "repeatedly" had sought to buy from a third party. Malcolm managed to purchase the property from the owner for $5.5 million and sold it to Glendale the same day for $6.6 million.
Malcolm was appointed by trustee John McCann.