Board of Education OKs Land-Swapping Plan for Longtime School District Headquarters

Published : Monday, July 30, 2018 | 5:04 AM

The leaders of the Pasadena Unified School District have given the green light to a proposal to swap the District’s headquarters building for another property in an effort to help balance the budget.

There’s no immediate deal in the works, but the unanimous move by the five members in attendance at the Pasadena Unified’s Board of Education last Thursday clears the way for a land swap, should the right opportunity come along.

Known as the Education Center, the beige building at 351 South Hudson Avenue with its rows of window air conditioners has been a longtime fixture directly west of the Macy’s and Trader Joe’s parking lot.

“It’s just the beginning,” Board Member Scott Phelps said prior to the vote. “I don’t know how much our property is worth. I don’t know what’s being offered. It’s just … a format.”

He added that the idea has been catching on around the state lately.

“Other school districts have started to do this in recent years. There [have been] good outcomes,” he said.

Due to the complicated laws governing school finances, trading the District’s headquarters at Hudson Avenue and Del Mar Boulevard simply makes more financial sense the selling it, according to Phelps.

The sale of a district property required the formation of a special committee, Phelps said.

“In California law, you have to use that money on buildings. You can’t use it for general expenses, general program expenses,” he said.

But the Education Code is far less restrictive when it comes to swapping property, rather than selling it outright. While the property traded must be of a similar value, the district is allowed to take a cash payment for the difference if it swaps for a property of slightly lesser worth.

The district also has the option of investing in an income-producing property, Phelps said. An apartment building is one example.

“So let’s say the school district property is worth a few million dollars more than the apartment building,” he said. “You swap it. The school district gets a few million dollars that they can use however they want. Not just on buildings.”

“And then you have an income-producing property. And the income from that income-producing property can be used for general expenses, too.”

District Interim Chief Business Officer Eva Lueck said staff is in the process of having the headquarters property appraised.

The next step will be to open up a bidding process for property owners interested in the land swap, according to Sam Manoukian of Re/Max Optima in Glendale, who is serving as the district’s realtor.

“Within four weeks, we will be able to actually open up the [Request for Proposal], which is handled through a dedicated website, which will be advertised in multiple places,” he said. “We will have it open for about 30 days.”

Then, he said he and his team will report back to the district on what offers have emerged, and offer recommendations.

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