CSUS Sweetens Deal to City: 'We Are Listening'

The school has come back to the City of Belmont with a revised development agreement, proposing an annual sum of $175,000 to be paid to the city. Tell us what you think in the poll below.


After hearing the concerns of , Crystal Springs Uplands School (CSUS) has amended its development agreement in hopes of getting the green light to construct a new middle school campus in an business park on Davis Drive.

The revised terms of the agreement call for a guaranteed revenue stream to the City of Belmont in the amount of $175,000 annually, with $40,000 of that amount earmarked for use by the city to fund programs for Belmont youth. This amount would come with a 2 percent CPI (Consumer Price Index) cap.  

In addition, the school would make a one-time payment of $100,000 for the city's general fund to be used at the discretion of the city.

"We are listening and we want to make it work," said Jill Grossman, a member of the CSUS board of trustees.

Tell us what you think in the poll and comment section below.

Following a lengthy discussion at the meeting, representatives of CSUS asked for a continuance so they could "sharpen their pencils" with respect to the project's fiscal neutrality, and return to the city with an revised plan that would address .

Public access to the school's synthetic turf soccer field, which was included in the was re-valued at $43,560 (up from $35,000) annually based on the current rental rate of $60 per hour for such a facility. The agreement allows for use of the field on weekends and for three weeks during summer months.

A development agreement is one of the entitlements contained in the school's application to build in Belmont. CSUS officials delivered the to the city on June 11. That document stated that the school would make annual cash payments of $75,000 too the city as an accommodation for the school's tax-exempt status as a non-profit.

The city currently collects $63,975 per year in tax revenues from the vacant property at 6-8 and 10 Davis Dr.  Among other things, property tax revenues flow to the city's police and fire districts. Non-profits, such as schools are exempt from paying property taxes.

Grossman and CSUS middle school principal Andrew Davis say the school is doing its best to make the project positive and mutually beneficial to members of the Belmont community.

"We are going to reach out to neighbors and continue the dialogue," said Grossman.

"There's an education process that needs to happen so Belmont understands what kind of school we are," added Grossman.

The would take over the site of a vacant office building and warehouse owned by Cengage, and would consist of three buildings and a synthetic turf soccer field.   The approximately 60,000 square-foot independent, co-educational middle school school would be accommodate up to 240 students. School officials say that the expected enrollment would be 216 students in the first year.

Among city officials, there is still concern about the long-term effects of selling off commercial property to a non-profit entity in a city with limited commercial property and business tax base.

The Belmont Planning Commission will consider the revised CSUS development agreement at its July 17 meeting.  The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the City Council Chambers of Belmont City Hall, One Twin Pines Way.

For more information, go to www.belmont.gov and click on "Hot Topics."

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George Burgess July 16, 2012 at 11:34 PM
Member, Amy Richards, during the first community outreach meeting, said they planned to purchase their food service and all other supplies in Belmont. So, if you don't want to consider the caterer that operates out of Notre Dame, then substitute other food operations such as Ola's or the Belly Deli. Substitute whatever number you think it would cost CSUS for 1000 lunches plus snacks each week, and select local establishments that could supply the ingredients, and then identify on .what they would spend money. I believe that is very practical. CSUS said they have a need , plan to have that need satisfied in Belmont, and Belmont has companies that can fill that need, as well as companies to fill the need of the second companies . Remember, the 3 or four responses above were written in response to Joe asking how CSUS could have a operating budget of $7.9m and then talk about revenue to the local community of $12.5. I don't know how they came up with the $12.5M figure, but it fits normal Multiplier Effect ratios. Although, I understand your suggestion that I should oppose the CSUS proposal , I respectfully decline as I believe CSUS is, without a doubt, the best use of this land at this point in time for many reasons. In addition, the Directors of the Chamber of Commerce voted to support the CSUS project so as their President I must support the project...Perhaps you should revisit your position.
Megan July 16, 2012 at 11:49 PM
Dear George, I'm planning on giving $1.000.000 to the city of Belmont. But then again, plans tend to change. Talk is cheap, maybe they should put in writing what they are planning to do??
Joe Brennan July 18, 2012 at 09:57 PM
If you don't believe the noise pollution concerns of Belmont Heights residents about the proposed CSUS campus proposal on Davis Drive, I recommend that you watch and listen to this YouTube video, especially during the segment from 5 minutes 20 seconds to 5 minutes 50 seconds. Regardless of the sound expert's testimony, judge for yourself. This is a HD video of the entire 10 Davis Drive campus - 14-min in length and filmed on a perfectly still and sunny day at noontime. The photographer did his best to remain objective while narrating. This is a 360 degree video walk-around of the site. http://youtu.be/ZPxj51gXhz0 Watch in FULL SCREEN view for best image.
Joe Brennan July 18, 2012 at 11:12 PM
Post in 2 sections My Comments to the Planning Commission meeting on July 17, 2022 Good evening members of the Planning Commission and the residents of Belmont. Much has been written and spoken about the Crystal Springs Upland campus proposal on Davis Drive. Some has been positive, but most has been negative from Belmont residents. The contentious issues are traffic congestion, noise and light pollution, a permanent loss of tax revenue, the destruction of mature trees, and the loss of tranquility in our precious Waterdog open space - mostly quality of life issues. But little has been said about the incredible loss of wealth to many Belmont residents. Some have said the presence of another elite middle school will enhance property values, but how many people would choose Belmont because of a private middle school that has an annual tuition approaching $35,000? Rather, I think the opposite: the loss of our present quality of Belmont life will lessen the attraction of living in Belmont and actually lower home values.
Joe Brennan July 18, 2012 at 11:13 PM
Continued: There is another huge loss of net worth to many residents. A well-known Belmont real estate expert with more than 30-years experience recently stood in my living room and looking across the canyon several hundred yards to the CSUS proposed site said, Joe, your house value and many other houses on the canyon rim will decline significantly if this proposal is approved. The loss of tens of thousands of dollars to the more than 150 homeowners living on the canyon rim would amount to millions of dollars of lost wealth both to the residents and the City as well. .With 242 students projected for the proposed school, the tuition could total more than $8 million. The $175,000 yearly fee that CSUS has offered to Belmont is approximately 2% of this amount. If you approve this proposal you are causing many Belmont residents to lose substantial wealth for a Hillsborough school project that will serve a minuscule percentage of Belmont children and lower Belmont's quality of life. This is a losing proposal for Belmont and its residents. Please reject it. Thank you
Joe Brennan July 18, 2012 at 11:16 PM
The Planning Commission voted last night till 1:00 AM on the following items relative to the CSUS proposal that are recommendations to the City Council: From today's Belmont Patch: "It may have been 1:00 a.m. when the final recommendations were made, but the message was loud and clear: the Belmont Planning Commission cannot recommend in favor four of the five items associated with Crystal Springs Uplands School’s proposal for a new middle school on Davis Drive to the Belmont City Council." The results of the voting: Recommend Council certification of the Project Initial Study/Mitigated Negative Declaration (Environmental Study) Yes - 6 - Frautschi, D'Souza, Horton, Mercer, Herbach, Reed No - 1 - Parsons Recommend Council Adoption of the General Plan Amendment No - 4 - Frautschi, Parsons, D'Souza, Horton Yes - 3 - Reed, Herbach, Mercer Recommend Council Approval of the Zone Change to Planned Development No - 4 - Frautschi, Parsons, D'Souza, Horton Yes - 3 - Reed, Herbach, Mercer Recommend Council Approval of the Project Conceptual Development Plan No - 5 - Frautschi, Parsons, D'Souza, Horton, Mercer Yes - 2 - Reed, Herbach Recommend Council Approval of the Proposed Development Agreement No - 6 - Frautschi, Parsons, D'Souza, Horton, Mercer, Herbach Yes - 1 - Reed
George Burgess July 20, 2012 at 04:23 PM
Thursday afternoon the Board of Directors of Belmont's Chamber of Commerce confirmed its continuing support for the CSUS Middle School project.
Bob July 20, 2012 at 04:34 PM
Glad to see greed still is near and dear to you George. The sales tax you keep mentioning does nothing to help the public schools that provide education to the majority of the children in Belmont. This CSUS deal will result in an immediate loss fo nearly $80K to public education. You can find the breakdown of sales tax here http://www.boe.ca.gov/news/sp111500att.htm and here http://www.boe.ca.gov/sutax/pdf/districtratelist.pdf
Joan S. Dentler (Editor) July 20, 2012 at 04:58 PM
Justin, we really value our users' input, but we hope that in the future your comments can be constructive and thought-provoking. There are widely varying views on this issue, and Patch asks that users respect the views of other users.
Justin July 20, 2012 at 05:06 PM
Ok, I'll delete my comment so you won't have to. There. Instead I'll say the chamber has no knowledge and expertise on educational issues. This project is more than just a business. All the money in the world will not assuage traffic and noise issues, not to mention the lack of parking for the numerous events that this will create.
George Burgess July 20, 2012 at 05:14 PM
The following comments are my personal opinions as a resident of Belmont. Kristin Mercer, Chair of Belmont’s Planning Commission, is my HERO. Quite often Kristin and I are on opposite sides of issues, but Tuesday night, in my opinion, she was magnificent in presenting her position on the CSUS project. One attribute she always exhibits is her ability to research an issue and based on new evidence make a decision. Tuesday night was a perfect example. By studying the history of Davis drive, how it became a part of Belmont and the General Plan/Zoning requirements specifically related to the Western Hills area of Belmont (Davis Dr. is in it.) she found that the CSUS project fits perfectly within the current requirements. In my opinion, this gives Council facts they need to ensure compliance with the General Plan/Zoning issues when considering the amazing opportunity CSUS brings to Belmont.
Bob July 20, 2012 at 05:28 PM
George can you please expand on this amazing opportunity you say we are being offered? I sat at that meeting until after midnight and didn't hear one that didn't end with Belmont subsidizing an elite school for the benefit of a population that for the most part lives elsewhere. From what I remember CSUS is over 60 years old and that is wonderful for those that benefit from that school. Yet removing the commercial property from the tax base that supports public education in Belmont for even a few years is bad but for 60 plus years is unacceptable. Furthermore the pay off to the city with it's promise of up to 2% max is less than the average rate of inflation. Even the city will come up short soon enough. Also I recently learned that Joe Brennan has made the city as lead approval agency aware of a dangerous condition which could end up with the city holding the bag if anything were to happen to children placed on that site
George Burgess July 20, 2012 at 06:10 PM
The following comments are my personal opinions as a resident of Belmont. Ken Parsons, Tuesday night, said home buyers only consider public schools when looking for a new home. I don’t believe that to be true. Every website that I checked with check list s for potential buyers contains consideration of public and private schools. With the 100’s of Belmont kids (may be a 1,000) attending private schools, I have to believe it is a factor. In today’s society, where a premium is placed on education, having a nationally ranked school in our midst should be a consideration for buyers. Joe Brennan was told by a real estate agent that a nationally ranked school in Belmont will decrease home values, specifically the homes above the proposed CSUS project. I know agents with 25 years experience in Belmont with just the opposite view. From a personal perspective, my home overlooks the Greek white domed Church, Carlmont Shopping Center, Carlmont High School, some of the building on the Notre Dame Campus, etc. When I refinanced my home the appraiser, not an agent, said the view was worth $140,000. I have to believe, therefore, the view of the 150+ homes has to add to their value and the CSUS project should not have a detrimental Impact on their view or on the value of their homes.
Bob July 20, 2012 at 06:17 PM
So George the amazing opportunity you speak of is? All I see in your response is based on an opinion.
Bob July 20, 2012 at 07:21 PM
One more thing to report back from the meeting this past week…. The buildings that are currently vacant on Davis Drive are not vacant due to a company leaving. The reason reported by a Cengage representative (owner of property) was that it was due to a consolidation of staff from those buildings to another Davis Drive building. The report that the buildings were unrentable comes into question. The significant financial impact to public education that would occur in Belmont is factual and reported to us at this same meeting. I can envision the rezoning and construction of this project resulting in the school district pursuing additional bond measures to cover the subsidizing of this exclusive school for the benefit of other localities
Steve Hayes July 20, 2012 at 07:31 PM
Bob Consider the consequences of turning down the project. Sure, it is always possible that a business might move in and pay higher taxes, but how likely is that? Currently the market value of the property is about 30% less than the assessed value so in the very near future the assessed value will be reduced and both the city and the schools will have to live with less. It is reasonable to assume the $183K of taxes will drop by about $50K. Go up and visit the Davis Street business park – I walked up there the other day (first time in 32 years). The business park is very old and is in serious need of a makeover, with the exception of the one remaining building occupied by Cengage. The business park is very isolated and it obvious that expansion would be very difficult (Belmont Politics) and would take far too long. The General Plan says we want balanced growth but we make it too difficult to develop properties – we are anti business so we will never have a balance; face it (Justin’s comment was a clear example of that). At least we can be proud we are the home to schools, grocery stores, phone stores, care centers and storage lockers. continued---
Steve Hayes July 20, 2012 at 07:52 PM
Just because CSUS has not offered to compensate the Belmont schools does not mean it won’t happen. Between the amount offered to the City (which might be shared with the schools) and perhaps a little more from CSUS the schools might not lose anything. They might be just as well off (or better off) as they would be if a business was there. The 2% inflation factor you complain about is the same 2% factor built into everyone’s property taxes and seems very reasonable. One other thing – there is plenty of parking up there in case of special events. Cengage has an overflow lot (less than half full), the building occupied by the County has a lot that is about 1/3 full, the Signet lot was almost empty and there is plenty of street parking – and that was at 3PM. If CSUS decided to have a parent’s night program all of those parking lots would be empty – at least 200 parking spots.
Bob July 20, 2012 at 08:10 PM
Steve we don't know if those buildings ever seriously hit the rental market. I am a landlord and have left buildings empty for extended periods while pondering sale or renovation. That might be the same thing that happened with Cengage only during a down cycle in the economy. The Bay Area is currently experiencing a building boom and importing construction labor from across the country. The reason the buildings are currently vacant is up for speculation. I believe Visa and Oracle both occupied those spaces in the past. The 2% you mention that is the same as what home owners pay is not that at all. The state raises those taxes every year, the deal I read said possibly raise with regard to CSUS with a 2% max. Also they will not be paying for bond measures even those that are attributale to them.
Joe Brennan July 20, 2012 at 08:11 PM
George: I hope the Chamber's support for the CSUS proposal isn't as lame as the original support in your earlier letter. My response to your earlier letter is: http://home.comcast.net/~joseph.a.brennan/ChofComm.pdf
Steve Hayes July 20, 2012 at 08:39 PM
Bob Under Prop 13 my property taxes can rise due to inflation but not by more than 2% per year - are you saying it is different for commercial property? The other night a rep from Cengage spoke and stated they had been unable to market the property for an extended period of time. Cengage's auditors would not have permited them to write down the book value of the property unless there was real evidence that the market value had declined.
Joe Brennan July 20, 2012 at 08:51 PM
George: Thank you for your personal comments. While I think Chair Kristin Mercer runs an orderly and tidy meeting of the Planning Commission, I would hesitate to designate her as a HERO. I realize that her opinions on Tuesday evening concurred with some of your biased opinions, but her dismissal of the traffic and noise concerns of local homeowners was somewhat flimsy and based in part on erroneous evidence. During the June meeting, she asked a resident if he had complained about Ralston Middle School (RMS) noise. She concluded that noise was not an issue because he said 'no.' We residents bought our houses AFTER RMS was built and accepted the noise intrusion and had no basis for a complaint. We are attempting to avoid compounding the noise pollution while we are able - NOW. During Tuesday's meeting, Chair Mercer dismissed the noise issue again by stating she used the PJCC outdoor pool (without sound mitigation) on Davis Drive in the past without complaints from Belmont Heights residents. This was an erroneous statement to reach her conclusion because the pool was actually located at the end of Carlmont Drive and is irrelevant to Davis Drive noise generation. Chair Mercer has a difficult job that she does well, but I hope she will re-examine her opinions on traffic, noise and financial problems associated with the CSUS proposal.
Joe Brennan July 20, 2012 at 08:56 PM
George: The operative words are "my personal opinion."Thank you for your opinion that is different from a majority of Belmont residents. My opinion.
Jeff Selman July 21, 2012 at 02:43 AM
The following comment is my personal opinion, and does not represent the views of any entity dealing with school finance issues notwithstanding any relationship which I may have with such entity. I only write as a parent of students in the Belmont schools desirous of increasing the amount of revenues flowing to those schools. I believe that approval of CSUS is the only way to improve the property tax base in the district, thus increasing the amount of funding to BRSSD, because it improves the likelihood of bringing development into better suited parts of the City. With regard to the $29k of current revenues, as I've previously stated, the City can agree to redirect to BRSSD.
Bob July 21, 2012 at 02:48 AM
Jeff are you going to cover the loss to the High School district and CSM?
Ltd July 21, 2012 at 04:03 AM
I believe tha a large percent of the current tax revenue goes to the County. How much will the County lose if the CSUS payments only go to the City? Is this one of the reasons that the County is just now proposing an increase to our already high sales taxes: http://www.bizjournals.com/sanjose/news/2012/07/20/san-mateo-to-increase-sales-tax-by-a.html?
Ltd July 21, 2012 at 04:12 AM
I don't understand. Didn't she recommend against the project?
Ltd July 21, 2012 at 04:17 AM
I don't buy this food service argument. Why would they purchase from another vendor when they can lower prices on the existing campus by contracting with a common vendor?
Ltd July 21, 2012 at 04:29 AM
I see a lot of people suggesting that the lost School District revenue should be paid by the City (I.e., taxpayers). I would instead rather see the Chamber and developers that will get rich off this development reimburse the School District for the lost revenue. If this project is so beneficial for the business community, surely they should be willing to share some of their windfall and make up for any incremental financial pain for BRSSD. Do you agree, Mr. Burgess?
Steve Hayes July 21, 2012 at 05:40 AM
LTD Would you please explain how the Chamber is making any money on this deal? - there is no windfall and I think you know that. How will they share a windfall that does not exit? We need honest discussion about this project.
George Burgess July 24, 2012 at 04:31 PM
LTD The Chamber will not receive any financial rewards if the CSUC project is accepted or rejected. They pay fee for membership just like all the other members and the dues are not tied to the project. No individual member will receive any rewards based on the project; they will enjoy increased business.for goods and services they provide to the school, parents and students. I don't believe a developer is involved with the project, only contractors, project consultants. and landscapers. None of whom will make a windfall.


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