ENCINITAS — A plan to establish a cultural arts center at the former Pacific View Elementary school site was presented to trustees during the Encinitas Union School Board meeting Dec. 7.
Danny Salzhandler, president of the 101 Artists’ Colony, and Peder Norby, Highway 101 coordinator, joined Dody Crawford, Downtown Encinitas Mainstreet Association’s executive director at the meeting.
The trio was supported by numerous proponents interested in the idea of using the former Pacific View Elementary school site as a community arts center.
The possibility of developing a community cultural arts center was given new life after City Council voted to deny the Encinitas Union School District’s application to rezone the site Nov. 10.
Located on Third Street between E and F streets, the modest school is surrounded by commercial buildings and smaller homes, with a few exceptions. The property was gifted to the city in 1883 for a school site. The original schoolhouse is located to the west of the property and houses the Encinitas Historical Society.
While several proposals have been tossed around regarding the future of the site, none have been met with success. In 2005, an advisory committee was created consisting of various stakeholders. An initial proposal to build a medical complex with office space and condos was met with disapproval by the downtown community.
Crawford said the association’s financial success and long-standing reputation in the community as a driving force behind many of the popular programs and events in the city give it the credibility needed to enter into an agreement to lease the property.
The 23-year-old nonprofit wants to work with the leadership of the school district over the next 90 days in order to hammer out the details of a workable plan to benefit the citizens, merchants and children of the district.
The association’s board of directors identified the establishment of a cultural arts center as one of its top three goals to achieve.
Crawford said that the association projects an income of $390,000 from the cultural arts center, including a farmers market, art operations, and an annual art festival during the summer in addition to membership and sponsorship dues.
The proposal suggests a three-year lease, with lease payments to the district totaling $200,000 per year. At the expiration of the initial lease, the proposal suggests that a new nonprofit including the association, members of the district’s educational foundation and users of the arts center be created to manage the ongoing operations and development of the new center. This new group will enter into a long-term 20-year lease.
Sarah Garfield, an Encinitas resident, also addressed the trustees in support of the proposal. She reminded the five elected officials and the superintendant that the land was a gift. “Pacific View is not private property,” she said. “The gift is the site itself.” She termed it “social capital” because it provides “a sense of belonging, of community.” She said it was the school board’s responsibility to continue the link between the community’s past, present and future. “Our schools will always need money, that’s a given,” she said. “But you have a chance to build social capital so that in 100 years others will be able to enjoy this gift.”
Norby affirmed the association’s reputation as a successful partner. “DEMA is a quality partner,” he said. In addition to the trust and admiration garnered through creating successful events and partnerships, Norby pointed to specific transactions. “DEMA successfully helped to craft the $1.6 mil. acquisition of the boathouses.”
Salzhandler said the artists group is “the heart of the project.”
“We started in 1998 and the artists have always paid their rent,” he told the trustees.
Keith Shillington, a longtime Leucadia resident, told the trustees the proposal was not only financially beneficial to the district, but a boon to the students. “What is the lesson?” he asked. “This is a golden opportunity to embrace diversity, lifelong learning.” You can transform this site from a cash drain to a cash flow. “