Service Center auction looms; San Antonio likely replacement site

With the auction of the Claremont Unified School District’s current Service Center property approaching on Wednesday, May 29, the district is continuing its efforts to plan the perfect replacement for its center of operations. The auction will take place at 11 a.m. in the board room of the Richard S. Kirkendall Education Center, located at 170 W. San Jose Ave. in Claremont.

Several weeks ago, Service Center Director Rick Cota submitted a proposal to the school board and the CUSD community at large, suggesting that the San Antonio High School campus, the site of Claremont’s continuation and community day schools, would be a viable site for a new Service Center.

A few community members, plus CUSD board members Sam Mowbray and Hilary LaConte, expressed concern that such a placement would be detrimental to San Antonio students by impinging on beneficial open space. Mr. Cota, however, has emphasized that the new Service Center could be significantly streamlined.

The current Service Center, located at 700 Baseline Ave. in Claremont, is comprised of a 21,000-square-foot facility on a nearly 144,000-foot property. The center Mr. Cota has envisioned would be 6,000 feet of building space on 30,000 feet of land. The reason for the downsizing? As Bob Dylan once sang, “Times, they are a-changing.”

Once, the district employed its own fleet of buses and their associated mechanics. Now, the buses used for occasional field trips are rented. The district used to have its own landscapers with their own equipment. Upkeep of CUSD grounds is now outsourced. The district used to order school supplies in bulk and store them in a warehouse at the Service Center. Now, supplies are ordered as needed with the click of a button, and delivered directly to the appropriate school site.

An architectural firm hired to assess the best site for a new Service Center, and to weigh some of the district’s options with regards to its construction, has echoed Mr. Cota’s assessment with regards to location.

At the Thursday, May 17 school board meeting, Jim Moreto and David Mathison, representatives of Flewelling and Moody Architects, presented a PowerPoint overview of the Relocation Plan for the District Service Center Operations. They showed elevations depicting potential layouts for a Service Center located at San Antonio High School campus (125 W. San Jose Ave.), including a street view of the hypothetical facility.

 “They gave a real good idea so that any layman from the community could say, ‘Oh, yeah I know exactly what this will look like,’” Mr. Cota said. 

The proposed plan is estimated to cost approximately $1,405,161 including all site work, building, mechanical and plumbing costs. It is anticipated that funding would be provided from the proceeds of the sale of the existing Service Center property, for which the district is asking $7 million. The district, Mr. Cota noted, will have the right to accept or reject a conforming bid as it sees fit.

There was no comment from the public, but the board held extensive discussion and made recommendations to the Service Center plan. The board, which has emphasized that it wants to make sure any and all options for Service Center placement be considered, urged Mr. Cota and is team to aim for fiscal responsibility throughout the relocation and construction process. They also expressed their hope that, should a Service Center be built at SAH, its physical footprint should be as small as possible.

Mr. Cota said the district would aim to go beyond minimizing the impact.

“This has to be something that is seamless,” Mr. Cota said. “The district doesn’t just want to throw a building on the school. We will want it to look like it is part of the school.”

“We would want to provide an extra benefit to the kids at San Antonio, and perhaps even enhance existing facilities,” he continued. “There could also be a tie-in to locating with Service Center at San Antonio with regards to the career technical education (CTE) program. This could potentially be a learning experience [for students learning to be] plumbers, electricians and carpenters.”

Attempting to sell the district’s service center while it is still occupied may seem a bit risky. Because of the lengthy process intrinsic to any large real estate endeavor, however, it’s not quite the close shave it may appear, Mr. Cota said.

Construction of a new Service Center is expected to take 45 weeks, give or take, according to Mr. Cota. For a party who purchased the Service Center Property to go through escrow and then pass the various hurdles required to embark on construction—project approval by the city, environmental impact report, etc—would take significantly longer, anywhere from one to 2 years, Mr. Cota said.

The district, which adopted a Sustainability Policy a few years ago, will look at all possible ways that sustainable processes, building materials and landscaping can be used during the construction of the new Service Center. While they are not writing environmentally-friendly measures like the installation of solar planes into the construction budget, CUSD will look at grants and partnerships that may help fund such features. 

In recent years, the district has relied on Ralph Patterson, Energy Education Specialist for the District, to make such connections. Energy Education is a leading behavioral and people-focused energy conservation company which, in its first 9 months of cooperation with CUSD alone, saved the district $119,274 through energy conservation and management.

Mr. Patterson has just finished overseeing a project, completely funded by Southern California Edison, in which all the lights and ballasts in the district were retrofitted to reflect new, green technology. Sensors were also placed in rooms that will turn lights off automatically when they aren’t being used.  Along with lessening the district’s carbon footprint, the changes will save CUSD significantly in energy costs, Mr. Cota said.

The next step for the architects is to take the board’s recommendations and continue to refine their plan for the relocation of the Service Center.

A public meeting and bid on the Service Center Property is open to the public. It will be held on Wednesday, May 29 at 11 a.m. in the board room of the Richard S. Kirkendall Education Center, located at 170 W. San Jose Ave. in Claremont.

—Sarah Torribio


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