Update given on school district office space search

DEL MAR — Real estate agents working to find a location for the Del Mar Union School District administrative offices and maintenance facilities were given additional direction from the board of trustees at the Jan. 27 meeting.
It was the fifth time since contracting with Chuck Wasker of Colliers International and Mark Kagan of MarkJen Corporation a year ago that the board adjusted its specifications.
When they began working with the district last February, the agents were asked to find office space between 15,000 and 25,000 square feet to buy or lease or land on which to build.
“In subsequent meetings, it was determined that the purchase of an existing building or vacant land would be preferable to the lease option,” Wasker said.
In November, Wasker and Kagan began following “a parallel path” with an advisory committee formed to, among other things, review surplus space within the district that could potentially be used to house the offices.
At a Jan. 20 meeting, the lease option was put back on the table and the agents received legal clearance to look at sites outside of, but adjacent to, the district boundaries, Wasker said.
Meanwhile, the agents had been told to expand the parameters of their search to include properties with a minimum of 10,000 square feet. At the most recent meeting, the maximum building requirement was increased to 30,000 square feet.
Wasker said they began their search by sending e-mails listing the specifications to all office, industrial and land brokers in the county. They also contacted 36 owners, many with more than one property, by e-mail, postal mail or phone. Wasker said no buildings with the district’s requirements were found on CoStar, the commercial equivalent to the multiple listing service used by residential agents.
“Nor did any broker present a prospect to us,” he said. “I was very surprised.”
Wasker said he and his partner eventually identified 16 properties within the district boundaries that fit their criteria, however, none were for sale. Most recently, the search was narrowed to three properties in or adjacent to the district. One is on the market and the owners of the other two said they may be interested in selling.
In December, the board
of trustees, Superintendent Sharon McClain, community members and district staff toured the three properties, which are located at the corner of Jimmy Durante Boulevard and San Dieguito Road in Del Mar, 11250 El Camino Real in San Diego and 4106 Sorrento Valley Boulevard in San Diego.
Beth Westburg, the parent of a Del Mar Hills student, said she was “dumbfounded” to learn the district has so few options and questioned why trustees sold the Shores property, where the offices are currently located.
“You, the board, have created a huge mess,” she said.
In 2005 the district declared the Shores site, on Ninth Street and Camino del Mar, surplus. The city bought the property in 2008 for $8.5 million. The purchase agreement allows the administrative offices and employee child care to remain at the site until May 2011, however, the board directed McClain to meet with the city to discuss a lease extension.
Proceeds from the sale, now estimated at $8.3 million after expenses, can be used to buy or build new facilities, but the state education code prohibits them from being spent on lease payments. That money must come from the general fund, which pays teachers’ salaries.
Wasker said the district would have more alternatives if it chose to lease, but McClain is not recommending that as her primary option.
“I’m not willing to give up general funds that go to students,” McClain said.
Based on a conservative estimate of $2 per square foot, Wasker said leasing would cost the district at least $20,000 a month, which trustee Doug Perkins noted was nearly a quarter of a million dollars annually in teachers’ salaries.
Trustees are also considering co-locating the administrative offices at district campuses, but that option may be eliminated because of possible legal issues, zoning requirements and community opposition.
Wasker said he only recently began looking for available properties adjacent to the district. He and Kagan will have additional time to do that as the board voted unanimously to extend their contract for another six months.

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