The matter involves El
Portal, an 870-dwelling project along East Cole Boulevard proposed by Imperial
Valley Builders Construction Co.
However, it doesn’t
appear likely the district would be willing to roll back the fees as the
Recently, it was unclear
whether the district would be willing–or even had the legal ability–to renegotiate
the higher fees its board set in October. The decision led the developer to end
talks with the district over those fees.
“The district is open to
accepting new proposals from the developer to present to the school board,” said
Cesar L. Vega, district assistant superintendent of business services. “The
proposal should take into consideration the duty that the district has in
identifying and mitigating the impacts that any new development will have on
the district’s school facilities.”
Those elements include
the costs for refurbishing older facilities or for constructing a new school
site, which may total at least $40 million for an elementary school, $65
million for a junior high and $150 million for a high school, Vega added.
There still seems to be
some lingering question whether the school could legally roll back its own fees
following further negotiations. Providing a simple yes or no answer to that
question is something neither district officials nor school board members have
been willing to do.
Gonzales would not speak to a reporter directly recently and school board
members Richard Romero and Michael Castillo deferred to Vega, who said it
wasn’t a simple “yes or no” answer.
“It is never in the best interest
of the district’s students, nor has it ever been legally recommended, to
authorize a lower fee rate than what was approved by the board during the
public proceedings just for the sake of discussions,” Vega stated Jan. 20 when
pressed about what kind of latitude the board had in negotiating the new impact
Still, it does appear
there is some progress being made between the developer and the school district
despite Vega’s comments.
Charlie Schreiber confirmed Jan. 22 that Vega reached out to the city the week of
Jan. 20 to request a meeting with the city, the developer and the district “to
It was the first time the
school district had been proactive in reaching out to his company, Schreiber
added, noting all sides hope to meet by Feb. 18.
The original plans were to
build 870 housing units north of East Cole Boulevard on 160 acres between
Meadows Road and G. Cleveland Ave., said Schreiber, of Imperial Valley Builders
Construction Co. He valued the project at $200 million.
A major investor in the
project pulled the plug on it the day after the school board voted to raise
fees in October, Schreiber said in a previous interview. Talks with the
district about the project fees had been on-going for about a year prior to the
Recently, a decision was
made to give the project one last try to move forward and, Schreiber said,
negotiate with school officials for relief on the higher fees.
High Fees Could Make Homes Unaffordable
El Portal officials are
concerned because the school board raised the previous developer fees from $4.79
per square foot to $7.41. That would raise the price on the proposed
single-family homes by $15,000 each, no longer making the project affordable
for entry-level buyers, Schreiber has said.
El Portal was being
planned as a mix of about 520 single-family houses and 350 apartment units,
Schreiber said. He added the developer was willing to gift 13 acres of land for
a new school, which Schreiber indicated would be considered a contribution to
mitigating any effect the development might have on the district’s student
School officials maintain
the issue is not the land on which to build a school, but the money needed to
develop the land and build a school. Officials provided an example of the
overcrowding conditions facing the district with the new homes planned for the area.
Based on information from
the planning departments of the city and the county, new housing units
projected within the district’s boundaries over the next five years are 621
single-family and 504 multi-family units, Vega stated. That could bring in an
estimated 406 kindergarten to sixth-grade students, 167 seventh- to eighth-grade
students and 261 high school students, he predicted.
“Based on current
capacity available district-wide, the district is only able to house 250 K-6
students from any future development — with no existing capacity at all other
grade levels,” Vegas said.
“This means 156 K-6
students, 167 7-8 grade students and 261 high school students (total of 584
students) will be unhoused from the proposed future development,” he added.
Later, Vega defended the
district’s reasoning behind raising the fees and where any further negotiations
with the developer might go.
“The developer has a
legal obligation to mitigate the impacts that the anticipated development will
have on the district,” he said. “The district and the developer can
certainly have discussions as to how the obligations of the developer will be
met. Any subsequent agreement can be considered by the board for approval after
the public has had a chance to review the board item.”