After more than ten years sitting vacant, the abandoned Pacific View school near downtown Encinitas is one step closer to housing our communities’ artists, based on this week’s unanimous City Council vote.
The City Council worked together, compromised and demonstrated admirable flexibility. With grace and hard work, we crafted a motion that drew unanimous support from all Council Members to move forward with an “activation plan” for the 2.8 acre Pacific View campus that the city recently purchased from the Encinitas Union School District.
I toured the school site this week, and admired the subcommittee (Council Members Tony Kranz and Lisa Shaffer) for their vision and innovation in suggesting that we re-purpose the existing 1950s buildings for immediate use by the artists in our community. Council Member Kranz said he learned a lesson from watching the Encinitas Community Park (formerly known as the Hall Property) sit vacant and fenced for 13 years while the city struggled with what to build and how to fund it.
Instead of letting Pacific View remain dilapidated while the city does outreach, visioning and fundraising for this piece of property, the idea is to quickly get the buildings and campus code-compliant and safe. Within a few months, we’ll find local artists creating art, offering classes, holding small-scale performances inside and outside, and the outdoor grounds may be open to the public to enjoy a picnic. The site may also host a small café or museum store on site. The city will be accepting proposal from possible tenants for any of these types of activities, and the tenant would be responsible for making the required tenant improvements to the space.
The Pacific View buildings themselves have lots of light and tall ceilings, and with a bit of polish will gain a mid-century modern appeal that I predict will be a community hit. I am excited by the prospects!
The purchase of Pacific View last year was a contentious issue. Some applauded the City Council for having the wisdom to invest in bluff-top property that will forever be a treasured community asset (like our other highly valued public properties — for example our two libraries, community center, Encinitas Community Park, etc.), and that the $10 million price tag was fair, given what coastal property costs. If the city hadn’t bought the property, undoubtedly a developer would have purchased it to construct homes after a long, contentious legal and zoning battle. Others felt $10 million was too much to spend on the property and the city should have put that money into other priority projects such as road repairs and infrastructure improvements.
This debate is now behind us, because the city did buy the property. The question is what to do with it.
The decision last Wednesday night involved compromises and approving the subcommittee’s first steps. The Council decided to move forward with accepting bids from local architects to produce plans to rehabilitate the existing classrooms. At the same time, the Council will be accepting proposals from groups who want to use the space.
The approved compromises involved the structuring of the finances, basically deciding to allot $75,000 for the initial architecture drawings, and holding off on dedicating other funds to get Pacific View operational until we hear proposals.
Another compromise was how to define the interim use of the site. Council Members Kranz and Shaffer’s proposal described the use as a “living museum or cultural center focusing on the local Encinitas arts community.” Mayor Kristin Gaspar and Council Member Mark Muir objected to the word “museum” which they thought made the project seem unappealing. Recognizing that there was no need to get stymied by semantics, Council Members Kranz and Shaffer agreed to use the language directly from the zoning code, which is a bit broader but also more cumbersome: the use of the site should be within the framework of “arts, education and community gathering place with an emphasis on theaters, museums, education, outdoor sales/swap meets and park/recreation space.”
All around I couldn’t be happier that the Council was able to move forward with a Pacific View plan that had unanimous support. There were past differences but that didn’t stop the forward progress. I know that we will not be able to find our way to unanimity on every issue, but I’m feeling very encouraged by the recent candor and level of communication that is happening at Council meetings.
City Manager Search
In other news, Encinitas is looking for a new City Manager because our previous manager accepted a job with a different city closer to his family in Northern California. If you would like to offer your thoughts on the qualities you’d like to see in the new manager, please send them to Bill Avery at Avery & Associates, who can be reached at Encinitascitymanager@averyassoc.net. He will also be available in person at City Hall (505 Vulcan Avenue, Encinitas), on February 24 from 4 to 6 p.m. to hear comments. Avery & Associates will be providing us with qualified candidates, who Council will be interviewing in coming weeks.