City Council, School Board members meet to address shared facilities, parks

March 09, 2016
Santa Paula News

The devil is in the details and the City Council and the Santa Paula Unified School District learned that the heat is on for determining details on joint use of new facilities in East Area 1 although actual home building won’t begin until 2018.

The council and school district met in the rare joint session held February 29 at the Community Center. 

There was a sparse crowd at the meeting where school board members, council members and the developer addressed the 37-acre park, 23 acres of which will be devoted to sports.

The park, referred to in planning documents as the Santa Paula Creek Sports Park, will be part of the 500-acre master-planned community with 1,500 homes and other amenities. Developers Limoneira and the Lewis Group of Companies have forged a partnership in the development located east of Hallock Drive on the north side of Highway 126.

The new park will provide 23 acres for active sports facilities such as a baseball field, softball fields, tennis courts, restrooms and parking. The present soccer fields will be moved slightly above where it is located now to provide a retention basin, parking and restrooms.

The city has about $11 million in Limoneira funding, $6 million for park improvements — early plans had addressed an amphitheater — as well as an additional $5 million in lieu of a previously planned civic center to be built by the developer.

School Board President Chris Wilson and Mayor Martin Hernandez both said they look forward to the collaboration, but it was one that had several elected officials saying it remains vague as to the development agreement, funding and locations.

School  Board President Chris Wilson said some future amenities could depend on an upcoming statewide schools ballot measure that could change SPUSD and Limoneira’s plans for a K-5 school to a larger K-8 campus.

Planning Director Janna Minsk noted that last year there were council approved changes to the East Area 1 specific plan and development agreement.

The SPUSD and city could share the active sports park facilities but the developer costs cannot exceed $6 million.

Minsk said there is an 8.3-acre parcel for a high school, which prompted Councilwoman Ginger Gherardi to ask about the number of campuses that are planned and their specific locations and Mayor Martin Hernandez to question the new civic center.

Project Manager Mike Penrod said the civic building was actually planned for joint use by the city and a community college that would also offer classes to high school students.

Now, “The junior college is not coming,” and Penrod said there would be room for several higher education entities to hold classes across Highway 126 in East Area 2.

SPUSD Board Member Christina Urias asked, “When was the decision made not to have the civic center” included in the development.

“November,” said Minsk. 

“Who did that?” asked Urias.

When she learned the council and planning commission had approved the changes Urias questioned why the school district was not involved in such a decision.

Minsk noted there were no funds to maintain the civic center, which was not slated to be a part of the city school district partnership to begin with.

SPUSD Trustee Michele Kolbeck asked about restrictions on funding and Tim Jones of the Lewis Group said the developer would be presenting conceptual designs to the city and “if they want additional facilities they can decide if they want to spend,” for such additions.

That’s too far in advance to address said Penrod who noted, “What the plan is you guys get together with the community,” which will guide the conceptual plan to ensure it can be built and maintained. 

“We’re looking to you guys to come up with the plan,” which will be designed and presented at a later date.

Councilman Jim Tovias questioned the impact of the statewide school facilities bond on the November ballot. 

“We don’t know how much money we have to spend so how can we tell you,” what should be included in the plan. “We have to build these facilities in timeline with the developer so they can market their homes.

“There are ten strong people here,” said Tovias, and “what needs to happen,” is to “narrow down the decision makers. My opinion is we have too many hands in the pot.”

He suggested to have the city manager and school district superintendent to “figure out exactly how much money we have and then bring in,” the developer.

Tovias asked when the first homes would be built and Jones said 2018.

Gherardi said she agreed with Tovias’ remarks on “how much we have to spend” but she noted “we’ve not had a dialogue with the community, it’s what the community wants to see there,” that should guide future plans.

November, said Tovias, is a way off.

“I’m going to be a politician and agree with both of you,” said Kolbeck who noted new information had been presented.

In addition, “Many people still do not know we’re not going to have a high school out there…it’s not a bad thing to have an entire list,” of needs, “and put the money to them.

Wilson asked how far $11 million would go and Jones said for “more intense uses” of active sports creating a park could be as much as $1 million an acre, even more.

“If you said build us a $6 million park you’re going to have a lot of grass…”

“In my mind it’s a great conversation but way premature,” said Hernandez. “The agenda says possible shared use of facilities so to me we have to start at ground zero.” it’s a good starting point” but basics of joint use must still be established and formalized.

The park itself, said Jones, “is a little behind,” as school design must start now to be reviewed by the state, which also would want to review the joint use agreement.

Jones noted he has the “framework” for such an agreement that is commonly used.

Councilman John Procter said that in spite of unknowns the two panels must move forward with great expectations as “We owe it to the community…we’re creating something not out of whole cloth, but we have a canvas here. I say dream big, go big, and then we will find out as we go along if the bond passes. 

“If it doesn’t,” Procter added, “then we can look at constraints.”

Urias said School Board Members have a “scarcity of information…it’s like operating in a vacuum,” and rather than such discussions being premature, “now we see it’s almost too late…I feel I have no information and the information I had tonight was news to me. I can imagine how the community feels about this.”

Kolbeck, who serves on the City Council – School Board Ad Hoc Committee with Wilson, Gherardi and Councilwoman Jenny Crosswhite, agreed.

“I think we’re all caught off guard…”

The Ad Hoc Committee and staff will discuss how to gather community input on what the new park should offer, and Jones said the developers would work with them on the process.

Site Search



Call 805 525 1890 to receive the entire paper early. $50.00 for one year.