January 28, 2016
Thanks to the South Pasadena community for the dynamic dialogue around the Mission Place project and the Draft Environmental Impact Report related to it. Your comments and this conversation are an essential and welcome step in this process. This letter is intended to provide some context and background as well as an update on where things currently stand.
By way of background, the idea for the Mission Place Project began in 2008. At the time, the school district was facing critical budget shortfalls and began exploring additional local revenue possibilities consistent with the School District’s strategic plan. With prime real estate in a significant part of the city, commercial development options were explored. After early community input and committee recommendations, a project was proposed that complied with the City’s Mission Street Specific Plan (South Pasadena’s intentions for development of this area) and involved a 99-year land lease that would lead to a long-term, sustainable source of local revenue for our schools.
Since that time, the economy has improved and the entire approach to funding education in California has been revamped. Many wonder why or if additional local funds are really necessary.
While the current Local Control Funding Formula serves some districts well, it’s important to understand that:
- When fully funded in 2021, we’ll be returned to the purchasing power of funding we received in 2007-2008.
- The way funds are calculated and distributed results in South Pasadena being one of the lowest funded public school districts in California.
- As an example, we currently received $1561.00 less than our neighbor Alhambra on a per student basis. Multiplied by our student population, that difference would mean an extra $7.2 million for our district.
- Educational funding continues to be volatile and affected by the highs and lows of regular economic cycles. And Governor Brown has warned that what goes up must come down.
This is the backdrop for South Pasadena’s current dialogue around the draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the Mission Place Project. In the weeks to come, please know that:
- Your elected School Board officials and District administration are invested in the success of our local schools and the community that generously supports them.
- Community member comments are actively welcomed as an essential and valuable step in any development project.
- All of the comments shared during this process are being carefully considered and explored.
- The School Board has been meeting (and will continue to meet) in closed session to review public comments and consider the delicate balance of addressing long term student needs, the City’s development plans for Mission Street related to the proposed project, and public viewpoints.
- We are working under an exclusive negotiating agreement with the developer; but neither the Disposition and Development Agreement (DDA) nor ground lease agreement has been approved. These conversations and negotiations continue and, given their nature, must be kept in confidence – which severely limits what School Board members can share at this point.
- In addition to continuing to accept written comments, we are meeting with community groups including the PTA, WISPPA and the Chamber of Commerce.
- A second public hearing will be scheduled in the weeks to come during which community members are invited to again share thoughts and concerns.
School Board members and District officials are committed to maintaining a climate of open communication, transparency, and accountability. We genuinely welcome and take seriously all comments from the community. Thank you for your contributions to this process.
Geoff Yantz, Superintendent, South Pasadena Unified School District
Julie Giulioni, President, South Pasadena Unified School District Governing Board