Background & Mission
On September 10, 2020, the Poway Unified School District (PUSD) Board of Education (Board) approved entering into an option agreement and ground lease with Costco to lease a 27.22 acre parcel of land at the northeast corner of Camino Del Sur and Carmel Valley Road. The property was originally gifted to PUSD in 2002 by the developer of the surrounding Black Mountain Ranch and Torrey Highland communities with the intent of building a middle school. PUSD has held the deed to this land since 2002. Community members are only recently learning about this potential transaction.
In 2012, the land was declared “surplus” on the advice of a “7-11 Committee” as required by law and remained the property of PUSD. In 2019, the PUSD Board decided to explore opportunities to sell the property, with minimal attempts to provide notice to or involve the community. PUSD obtained a waiver from the California Department of Education allowing them to bypass the usual sales process in order to pursue alternative income opportunities.
Community members have expressed concern with this potential lease. Prior to the September 10, 2020, Board meeting, 67 community members submitted public comments, all against the proposal. Despite the community’s stated opposition, the Board voted 4-0 with 2 abstentions in favor of moving forward with the negotiations with Costco. At the end of a 60-day period, Costco will present the lease to the PUSD Board for approval.
We, the residents of all surrounding communities, ask for three things:
Who We Are & Why We're Opposed to the Plans
We are a group of concerned residents, families, and friends that OPPOSE the district’s plans to lease the land (known as “Black Mountain Ranch site”) on the corner of Carmel Valley Road and Camino Del Sur to Costco. We are urging the Poway Unified School District (PUSD) board of directors to STOP this project now and do the right thing for our children and community!
We oppose this plan for the following reasons:
A. PUSD’s Lack of Transparency
The district has been scrambling in the last few days to post information on their website regarding their activities in the past year to call the land surplus, the district boundary analysis to determine if a school is needed, the request for proposal (RFP) process, and the next steps for the Costco lease approval. They are scrambling. Why? Because PUSD board members and staff were bombarded with emails of concern from the community starting September 10th, 2020. Why? Because thousands of community members found out about the board’s plan to lease the land designated for a school to Costco on the day they voted to do so. Why? Because the board's actions lacked transparency. The district is now scrambling to provide the information on their website that should have been provided throughout the process, but instead they are doing it AFTER they voted to proceed with the lease. The lack of transparency is obvious. This information should have been provided to everyone prior to the vote, not after the vote.
B. PUSD Did Not Involve the Community
The district did not involve the community at every single step.
Fact 1: The SINGLE “announcement” in the Union-Tribune is not enough. District officials still believe that a single announcement in a newspaper is sufficient. It is not. Most of the board of education meetings regarding this topic were in closed sessions with titles like “Confidential Negotiations,” and it was not made obvious to the public.
Fact 2: PUSD is failing to recognize that the Costco lease is NOT in the best interest of the community.
Fact 3: PUSD kicking the can to Costco to deal with the blowback from the community shows bad faith on the part of the District and at a time when the District should be working to rebuild trust. Once the lease to Costco is signed, only those in the district who live in the City of San Diego will have a voice, which leaves approximately 40% of the district disenfranchised from the process. As for the remaining 60% who are eligible to vote when this gets onto a City ballot, their voices will be drowned out as they make up only 11% of the population of the City of San Diego. PUSD's lack of transparency prevented meaningful community involvement, and the concerned families' voices will be drowned out at each subsequent step in the future.
C. Leasing to Costco Eliminates the Option to Build a School on the Site
We recognize that there are experts in the district who work on this. We don’t dispute that. However, members of this community are concerned about the length of the lease. PUSD relied on a limited data set (a 5-6 year enrollment forecast) in making a decision to call the land surplus. However, a 5-6 year enrollment forecast is INSUFFICIENT because the district wants to lease the land to Costco for 40-60 years. An RPAC committee that is incomplete, not representative of the community’s demographics, and relies on an incomplete analysis is improper and not aligned with the district board’s core values of doing what is best for the children.
D. Negative Impact to the Various Neighborhoods
The proposed Costco and gas station is in the heart of a residential community with designated open-space for hiking, biking and nearby a nature preserve. This land is currently zoned AR-1-1 which is an agricultural zone. A big box store DOES NOT belong in this neighborhood. Most Costco warehouses and their gas stations are located near a freeway or an industrial center. The more appropriate location for Costco is near the commercial land currently in progress near the 56 Freeway (Camino Del Sur exit). Adding a Costco and gas station will further exacerbate the traffic on this intersection throughout the entire day. The roads could, of course, be expanded to accommodate tens of thousands of more cars and the many 18-wheeler Costco transfer trucks. However, do San Diego residents want to use their tax dollars so that Costco can accommodate the traffic their presence will bring?
PUSD failed to be transparent throughout this whole process – from review, discussion, decisions and votes regarding the RPAC, the RFP and the Costco negotiations. The manner in which PUSD handled this process was such that it prevented meaningful involvement from the community. As a community, it is our sincere hope that our coming together will encourage the PUSD Board of Directors to STOP this process and PARTNER with the community to determine the best use of that land and what is best for the children/students. Thousands of our neighbors have expressed their concern and outrage at the PUSD board’s decision; some believe we need a school on this site, while others believe it should be a retail center for small businesses that can serve the community, and some are unsure of the best use for the property, but all agree that a Costco is clearly the wrong choice for our community.