Tag Archives: real estate

What’s happening – January 2014

Apparently feeling guilty about not posting does not actually result in an actual blog post. So now I am trying another tactic: actually sitting down to post. Here we go:

  • First – January Board meeting recaps. Our first meeting of the new year occurred on January 14. The Board elected new officers, voting Sandra Lee Fewer as President and Emily Murase as Vice President. I enjoyed being President — it is a very interesting and information-packed position — but it is also very time-consuming, so I was also not sorry to hand over the mantle of responsibility to others. The Board voted unanimously to support the Superintendent’s proposal to create a district-wide and world-class arts education hub at 135 Van Ness Ave (which would also involve moving the Ruth Asaway High School of the Arts to the Civic Center arts hub). Finally, the Board also voted to endorse, 5-2 (Mendoza-McDonnell and Maufas voting no), the sugary beverage tax that Supervisors Wiener, Mar, Avalos and Cohen will introduce at the Board of Supervisors on Feb. 4.*  On January 28 (full disclosure: I did not attend the meeting due to a bad cold), the Board voted to accept the Superintendent’s spending plan for $50 million in Public Education Enrichment (Prop. H) Funds for 2014-15 — not much else of note was on the agenda and the meeting was over within 90 minutes (nice going President Fewer!).
  • Surplus property presentation at Board of Supervisors Select Committee, Jan 30: Conventional wisdom says that SFUSD has lots of property that it is “hoarding” to the detriment of the City and kids everywhere. No offense, but WRONG. This presentation, delivered by SFUSD Facilities Director David Goldin at the request of Supervisor Jane Kim and members of the City-School District Select Committee, shows that most of the properties previously-declared surplus by the school district are very much in use today. A few, like the lots at 7th Ave. and Lawton St., 200 Middlepoint Road in Bayview-Hunters Point, or the Principal’s Center on 42nd Ave., have development potential. Most, however, are either serving an educational use or generating revenue — $7 million anticipated for the 2014 calendar year.
  • Stanford Longitudinal Study on efficacy of SFUSD programs for English Learners:  I haven’t heard the commentary on this data so I am simply posting the summaries I’ve been given by staff; the Board will receive a briefing sometime soon on this study and after that I will have more observations. My initial sense, in reviewing these summaries, is one of relief. I have been quite worried that we have invested too much in programs with  limited efficacy for English Learners. This data — at least as summarized here — indicates that those concerns might be misplaced. I want to see more and hear from the researchers before I can say for sure. Until then, you know what I know:

That’s about it for now. An outstanding issue concerns the district’s plans for spending funds allocated by the Governor’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), and our work to implement our Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP).  Districts are required to hold public meetings as part of the LCAP implementation, and I’ll update the blog as soon as I know what those plans are.
In the meantime, the Budget & Business Services Committee meets the first Wednesday of every month (next meeting scheduled — not confirmed — for Feb. 5).  Attending the monthly committee meetings is the best way to keep up with what is happening with the LCAP and the school district’s budget planning.




Recap: District budget takes center stage

Tonight’s meeting was the first meeting in June, which means the Board is now embarking on one of the most important things we do:  approving the district’s budget.

In some ways, getting the big fat budget book (caution, big PDF) is an anti-climax; we’ve been hearing for months that the budget is bad, really bad, but when the book finally drops, there aren’t lots of angry people at the meetings because it’s already summer. School sites got their preliminary 2012-13 budgets in February, and so parents, teachers and principals have already made the tough decisions — layoff notices have been issued and programs have been cut.**  Really, the most revealing thing about the budget that was released tonight is what cuts central office will sustain, but that is very hard to figure out with just the 2012-13 budget book — you need the book for the budget approved for 2011-12 (caution, another big PDF. If you are a glutton for punishment, adopted SFUSD budgets going back to 2009-10 are downloadable here). Tonight, for this post, I’m at a disadvantage, since I left my 2011-12 budget book in the Board office and only have my 2012-13 book.


SFUSD is now projecting a beginning unrestricted general fund (UGF) balance of $46.1 million in 2012-13 — comprising about $16.1 million in 2011-12 required reserves (not spendable in any circumstance other than state takeover) and about $30 million in cash. The district projects it will take in $331.1 million in revenues to the UGF, and spend about $361.5 million (assuming forced closure days and other concessions from teachers, paraprofessionals and other UESF-represented employees — it’s not clear which concessions are included in the budget figures and which are not).  After the 2012-13 required reserve of $15.5 million is accounted for, the district is left with a scant ending balance of $230,000 going in to 2013-14.


In addition to maintaining the required  (and unspendable under any imaginable circumstance other than state takeover)  reserve funds,  school districts in California must also file a budget that shows positive cash flow over three years. If a district cannot show that it will meet its obligations for three years in the future, its financial status is certified as “qualified” or “negative.” Currently in California, almost 20 percent of all districts are in qualified or negative certification — an all time high. And that’s before the 2012-13 revenue projections–including the “nuclear winter” scenario that results if Governor Brown’s tax measures or the Munger initiative don’t pass in November –are completely figured in.  My friends on the Oakland and West Contra Costa Boards have impressed upon me numerous times that state takeover — even though it might seem tempting to let someone else make the tough decisions — is the worst thing a community can experience.  My objective, in evaluating the Superintendent’s budget proposal, will be to make sure we do not risk San Francisco’s ability to determine for itself how best to meet an uncertain future for school funding.

What comes next

The Board will discuss the 2012-13 budget at a Special Meeting on June 19 (the meeting will start sometime around 6:30 p.m. — I don’t have a precise time because there is a budget committee meeting that starts at 5:30 p.m. that evening, and as soon as the committee meeting ends, the Special Meeting begins — there’s a long, technical story behind this).   There will also be community meetings for the public to hear more about the budget:

  • June 18, 6-7 p.m., Thurgood Marshall Academic HS, 45 Conkling Street,  SF 94124;
  • June 21, 6-7 p.m., Everett MS,  450 Church St, SF 94114

The district’s budget team has also set aside “office hours,” on June 18 from 2-5 p.m. Community members or small groups can request an appointment by sending an email to budget “at” sfusd.edu.

The Board will vote on the 2012-13 budget at the June 26 Board meeting — also the meeting where our new Superintendent, Richard Carranza, will be sworn in by departing Superintendent Carlos Garcia. 

**Layoff notices to most elementary school teachers were rescinded on the last week of school, in a calculated risk and show of goodwill to UESF –which is locked in bitter contract renegotiations with the district.

Other items on tonight’s agenda:

  • Scholarships!  UESF, United Administrators of SF, The Association of Chinese Teachers (TACT),  Alliance of Black School Educators and other groups announced their scholarship winners this evening. It’s always a day-brightener to see deserving students who are heading off to college with a little bit  (or sometimes a lot) of tuition money as a reward for exemplary work in SFUSD high schools. One of those honored was Joyce Zhang, a 2012 graduate of Ruth Asawa School of the Arts and one of this year’s student delegates to the Board — Ms. Zhang received the prestigious Incentive Award scholarship to U.C. Berkeley!
  • Non-discrimination policy:  To align district policy with a new non-discrimination law (AB 9) at the state level, the Superintendent has proposed a revision to the district’s existing non-discrimination policy. The proposal was already vetted in the Rules, Policy and Legislation committee and forwarded with a positive recommendation. It will return for a final vote on June 26.
  • Real estate: Also on tonight’s agenda was a renewal of the district’s $65,000 annual contract with CBRE, a real estate brokerage that provides professional expertise and advice on the district’s real estate transactions. Board members had a brief discussion on whether we should bring this function back in house (where it resided until 2009-10).  The contract will be paid with the proceeds of the sale of 700 Font Street to SF State, but there are other questions about whether the district is realizing enough income from its properties — 1950 Mission chief among them.  Ultimately, the CBRE contract was approved by a majority of the Board (with Commissioner Fewer voting no) but with the direction to consider other alternatives for next year.

Recap: April 10, 2012 — a little good news!

Update: Oops and a big thank you to Bernal Dad who pointed out that I neglected to mention that Daniel Webster parents came by during public comment to again let us know that they are unhappy with the choice of ISA as a feeder middle school for Daniel Webster. The parents propose a split campus K-8 with the ISA site.

A mostly routine agenda tonight, with a lot of public comment on various topics (see below). I’m leading with the good news, which is that the district has finally reached a deal to sell 700 Font St., a long-abandoned school site that is pretty much smack in the middle of the SF State campus.

As soon the property was formally declared surplus (not sure when that happened but it was probably almost a decade ago), it made sense for SF State to purchase it, but the sticking point over many years has been price. At one point, probably 2007, the district had a buyer and a deposit, but the $13 million deal eventually fell through.

I visited the site back in February and it is an eyesore — it’s boarded up, full of graffiti and a haven for homeless people and those who are troubled or otherwise up to no good.  Because of its condition, age and general layout, it is no longer usable as a school site. SF State has  also had numerous security issues with the site (the property line — on the left — is just feet away from student dorms).

So it’s truly win-win for both parties that we have finally come to an agreement to sell the property for $11.1 million. By law, that income can’t benefit our general fund, as proceeds from real estate assets can only be spent on capital improvements or purchasing other property. However, here’s what it can do: the district will use the $11.1 million to pay down long-term debt on another property, which will realize $875,000 annually in interest savings — interest payments that would have come out of the general fund. In other words, $875,000 we would have had to pay each year for the next 16 years will now be saved and can go to the classroom.

Other highlights from tonight’s meeting:

  • A presentation from the Bay Area Urban Debate League, which provides afterschool debate classes in a number of SFUSD high schools. Debate is such a great way to learn critical thinking, public speaking and general literacy, so I remain a huge fan of this program. Program participants urged us to find ways to make the course a regular part of the academic day at the high schools, and it currently qualifies as a “G” elective under the district’s (and UC’s) requirements.
  • The Board unanimously passed a resolution authored by President Yee which clarifies the support and assistance the district will give to current employees who are non-citizens but working under an H-1B or other visa. Commissioner Yee’s resolution was born from a case where an employee’s work visa expired, and advocates were critical of what they saw as the district’s lack of support for the employee’s application to renew that visa.
  •  Public comment from parents and teachers at Paul Revere, Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy, and Visitacion Valley Elementary, regarding personnel decisions. We have heard a great deal from different factions of Paul Revere parents this year, some of whom dislike the current principal and others who like her. Tonight’s group spoke in the principal’s favor and urged the Board to renew her contract (spring is the time we make most of our staffing decisions for the next school year). A group of Harvey Milk parents and teachers, by contrast, urged us to overturn a site council decision to forgo an interview process and offer the current principal another year at the school. Parents and teachers from Visitacion Valley Elementary spoke against the principal’s decision not to “re-elect” (rehire) a probationary teacher at the school.  These are all touchy issues with strong feelings on all sides — because they involve past or future personnel votes by the Board, I’m not going to comment on the merits of each of these positions and no particular opinion should be inferred by what I’ve written above.
  • Finally, three parents of  children who qualify for transitional kindergarten came to protest the district’s handling of the state’s Kindergarten Readiness Act (passed in 2010), which gradually moves the eligibility date  for Kindergarten back over three years, so that eventually children must be age five by September 1 of the year they enter Kindergarten (from the original December 1 eligibility date).  Some believe their current four-year-olds would do just fine in Kindergarten and so are urging the district to issue age waivers to their children. Others are fine with waiting another year for their children to enter Kindergarten, but take issue with the fact that there is not a broader choice of Transitional Kindergarten programs to choose from (the law requires districts to offer Transitional Kindergarten to four-year-olds who otherwise would have been eligible to enter Kindergarten).  I’ve talked to Sen. Simitian, who wrote the legislation to move the eligibility date and create Transitional Kindergarten, and I believe he did a good thing by drawing a new line for Kindergarten readiness. Kindergarten is much more academic than previously, and children who (for whatever reason) are not academically ready really suffer. At the same time, I believe an unintended consequence of the legislation was to create another complex and possibly unfunded mandate for schools. SFUSD’s handling of this issue has been far from perfect but I believe it is compliant with the law and minimizes the district’s financial risk in a time of great fiscal peril (did anyone see the news that state revenues, yet again, fell short of predictions? That’s fiscal peril for schools).  But no, the district’s plan does not meet the needs of all stakeholders and I’m sorry for that.