The Los Banos Unified School District met with consultants last week to determine how it can get the city to cooperate and hold home builders accountable on developer fees.
A closed session was being planned for this week so the district has a game plan in place before Wednesday’s City Council meeting.
The aim of the May 22 meeting with Orange County-based consultant Marshall Krupp and Sacramento-based Megan Macy of Lozano Smith Attorneys at Law was to assess existing school facilities agreements with developers and problems the district may encounter based on what happened during the last housing boom a decade ago.
“As a board, it is going to be critical you’re all on the same page and you’re all willing to stand behind a single line, whatever that line, is you draw,” Superintendent Steve Tietjen told school board members last week. “Because if we’re not, there’s going to be a hole developers can drive a truck through.
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“The big concern for me is the risk factor. This one development of 57 lots is annoying, but how big of a risk is it?”
The district’s concern stems from a May 14 Planning Commission decision to allow a 57-house subdivision on 11.4 acres at the northeast corner of Willmott Road and North Street. Santa Clarita-based AMG & Associates agreed to pay the school district $8,000 per house to build schools, however school district officials said even with state matching funds they would need $19,900 per unit. The commission refused to deny the project in consideration of additional school fees. City Attorney William Vaughn advised commissioners that Senate Bill 50 prohibits cities from getting involved in school facilities fee negotiations.
The school district is concerned that the city’s actions may embolden other developers to build houses and refuse to pay what is needed to construct additional schools.
Krupp worked with the district in 2004 when the city took the same stance on housing growth. He said back then the school board chose an aggressive approach.
“SB 50 was thrown out as ‘We’re limited by SB 50, there’s nothing more we can do,’ ” Krupp recalled. “We believed the limitations of SB 50 were legitimate, but we also believed there needed to be a full disclosure to the community that there are consequences of this rapid growth.
“I remember (former Superintendent) Paul Alderete and I talking about a strategy of going out in the neighborhood and walking the streets with signs saying the impact of this development will be ‘X’ number of students on schools and we are the school board.”
Krupp said the district has a number of options, including litigation and political pressure.
School board members and Krupp agree that they prefer to collaborate with the city.
School board member and former Los Banos Mayor Tommy Jones said in his tenure there was an unspoken agreement.
“I remember clearly as a city we completely agreed that we were not going to allow housing, nothing to go forward unless the school district received the fees. We could not say it out in public, but that was the understanding,” Jones said.
He said even when school fees are not a factor, council members vote based on the merit of a project. Jones cited apartment complex projects that were rejected because council members decided they weren’t good for Los Banos
“Anytime you have a one-on-one discussion with a developer, that understanding is there,” Jones said.
Krupp declined to elaborate on his advise to the school district, and said the school board should decide how far it wants to push the issue.
“There’s a cost to do what you’re going to be doing, both financially (and) in terms of relationships,” Krupp said.