Closed Daly City school sold to developer

While students enjoyed their vacations this summer, administrators for a Daly City elementary school district were busy finalizing the sale of a former school site to a housing developer.

The deal to sell the former Columbus Elementary School campus in Daly City to Signature Properties for $20 million already has some wondering what will replace the school, which closed in 2004 due to declining enrollment.

Trustees for the Jefferson Elementary School District approved the deal with the Pleasanton-based developer in late June, though it won’t go through unless Signature gets the required approvals to build housing on the 12.7-acre site.

“The developer has not gone out and talked to the community yet, so we’re a ways away from anything being finalized,” school district Superintendent Matteo Rizzo said.

So far, Signature hasn’t revealed what the company has in mind. The developer asked city staff about the application process, “and that’s as far as we’ve gotten,” said Rich Berger, Daly City’s director of economic and community development. Signature officials could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile, the city has already fielded plenty of calls from neighbors wondering what’s happening with the property, which currently houses the district’s central kitchen and has space leased to a church and a special-education school.

“If you live next to the school and [the developer is] doing something different, obviously people are wanting to know what’s being proposed,” Berger said.

Rizzo said the Columbus campus could hold 100 housing units, though he doesn’t think it will be in tall buildings.

“High rise is simply out of the question,” Rizzo said. “It probably wouldn’t fit into the community. That’s not a place that anyone is willing to go.”

The sale made the 6,000-student district one of several on the Peninsula — including San Bruno Park Elementary and South San Francisco Unified — that have shopped old school sites on the real estate market in recent years.

Jefferson’s enrollment declined for about a decade and recently leveled off, so it doesn’t need additional school sites, Rizzo said. The district closed Colma Elementary School the same year as Columbus and has also been trying to sell that campus and some land near the district’s warehouse.

Rizzo said the district has a healthy reserve fund, though the sale will bolster its cash reserves while the state budget crisis continues. Officials believe some of the proceeds from the $20 million sale could be used for general-fund expenses.

“Long-term, if there’s no additional state funding but cuts continue, then everyone’s in serious trouble within three years,” Rizzo said.

School money

The Jefferson Elementary School District sold the former Columbus Elementary School site in Daly City for $20 million. Here are some facts about the district:

– Established in 1918
– K-8 district serving Daly City, Colma, Broadmoor and Pacifica
– 6,000 students
– 11 elementary schools, three intermediate schools, a preschool (Columbus and Colma schools closed in 2004)
– 350 teachers
– 300 staff members
– Approximately $45 million budget

Source: Jefferson Elementary School District

sbishop@sfexaminer.com

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