OUSD Agrees to $7.5 Million Education Complex

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Friday December 14, 2007

With little fanfare and no dissent, the Oakland Unified School District agreed this week to move forward with the building of a $75.5 million, four-school education complex on 6.5 acres of the district’s East Lake properties. 

“I believe this project is long overdue,” interim state administrator Vince Matthews said Wednesday night in approving the proposed operating budget for the complex.  

Matthews’ decision came shortly after a unanimous advisory vote by the OUSD Board of Education. The one board member who had earlier expressed reservations about the complex—Kerry Hamill—did not speak on the matter at Wednesday night’s joint administrator-board meeting and voted in favor with the rest of her colleagues. 

Under the state takeover of the OUSD, the state administrator has sole authority to approve the project, but Matthews had said earlier that he would not do so until he had heard from the board on the matter. 

Under the proposal, four of the five schools currently housed adjacent to the district’s Paul Robeson administrative headquarters—La Escuelita Elementary, MetWest High School, and Centro Infantíl and Yuk Yau child development centers—will be completely rebuilt. A fifth school on the East Lake property, Dewey, was recently rebuilt and will be considered as part of the 2nd Avenue Education Complex. 

The district’s next step will be to develop a more detailed proposal to be sent out to developers for bids. 

Money for the complex is expected to come from a variety of sources, including $30 million from district facilities bond measures A and C, $33 million from facilities bond measure B, $8 million from the county school facilities fund (Fund 35), and $4 million in developers’ fees. 

OUSD Facilities Director Tim White said Wednesday night that $260 million of the $439 million Measure B bond money has not been appropriated, so taking money for the 2nd Avenue Complex will not delay any currently approved Measure B construction projects. Inclusion of the 2nd Avenue Complex in Measure B expenditures was unanimously approved by the Measure B Oversight Committee earlier this week. 

The developers’ fees are projected to come from the proposed Oak-to-Ninth housing and commercial development along the estuary waterfront south of Jack London Square, whose students will be in the La Escuelita attendance area. The Oak-to-Ninth development must go back through the Oakland Planning Commission and Oakland City Council approval process after a Superior Court judge threw out portions of the project’s environmental impact report. OUSD failed to request developer fees from the project when it first went through the city approval process, but OUSD Facilities Director Tim White says that the district will request those fees during this round of approvals. 

The proposal for the complex does not deal with the fate of the district’s aging administrative headquarters, which has been ruled seismically unsafe, nor with the remaining three acres of land on the district’s East Lake properties. 

Following the making of his motion for approval of the complex, board member Noel Gallo said that he was “requesting that the staff take a look at the property in its entirety. This is probably one of the most valuable pieces of property owned by the district. I want the administration to develop a master plan for the entire property, to include a site for teacher housing.”  

Gallo said following the board vote that he wanted a master plan for the East Lake property to include a replacement plan for the administrative headquarters as well.