The Coast News Group
Residents gathered at the Encinitas Union School District’s meeting to weigh in on the sale of the Pacific View Elementary site. Photo by Jared Whitlock

Proposed art center clears key hurdle at school district meeting

ENCINITAS — At Wednesday night’s Encinitas Union School District meeting, school trustees voted 3-1 to approve the $7.5 million sale of the Pacific View Elementary site to Art Pulse, a San Diego-based nonprofit. 

Art Pulse plans to turn the 2.8-acre school site, which was closed in 2003 due to declining enrollment, into a community art center with artist studios, a sculpture garden, indoor and outdoor performance spaces, classrooms, offices, housing and other amenities.

A dozen speakers, most in favor of the project, spoke at the meeting.

David Chase, a Leucadia resident and choral director of the San Diego Symphony Chorus, said local artists lack a “home.”

“Lots of visual artists, lots of performing artists — most of us really can’t bring our art to our community, which is what I think this project offers,” Chase said.

But not everyone praised the project. Leucadia resident Lynn Marr said she’s worried about the property being rezoned to allow for housing.

“The community doesn’t want it to be rezoned,” Marr said. “We think a smaller art center can be built.”

A local developer agreed to finance $3 million to $4 million of the project in return for as many as seven housing units being built on a strip of the site.

School trustee Maureen Muir voted against the project because of concerns over the housing element.

Currently, the site is zoned as public or semi-public. In order for the deal to move forward, Art Pulse will ask the Encinitas City Council Sept. 12 to change the zoning to mixed-use arts center.

Last year, developers proposed building offices and housing on the property. Citing community character and the need for a local arts center, the Council declined the request to rezone the school site.

School officials and Art Pulse entered into negotiations about six months ago, with Art Pulse’s board of directors, green lighting the deal earlier this month. The $7.5 million sale calls for a $300,000 deposit from Art Pulse by the end of October.

After the meeting, April Game, executive director of Art Pulse, said construction would tentatively begin in two years and the community art center would debut to the public in five years.

“That’s not a definite timeline,” Game said. “Right now, we’re more worried about the immediate steps ahead of us.”

In addition to seeking zoning approval from Council, Game said Art Pulse would likely need to go before the state Coastal Commission.

One benefit of rezoning the property is artists will be able to sell their work onsite, she said.

If the $7.5 million sale goes through, the cost for building the community art center is $12 million, though that’s a loose estimate right now, Game said. The cost could vary depending on the final size of the community art center and the number of parking spaces, as well as what amenities the public decides to include during future public workshops.

$3 million to $4 million of the project will come from the sale of the property to residential development, while $10 million to $17 million of the funding will be provided by a capital fundraising campaign, according to Art Pulse’s website.