CUSD site committee: Cunha is half the price, and twice as fast

Why wait till Wednesday?

Posted by on Thu, October 6, 2005

Barry Parr
Wavecrest's last supper? Dr. Bayless and his panel of experts.
Chart by Barry Parr
The committee determined that it would cost nearly twice as much to build the school anywhere other than Cunha.
Cheri Parr
When this boy's sister was his age, the CUSD decided that it would be a good idea to build the new middle school at Wavecrest. She's now a student at Cunha. When he's in sixth grade, the school at Wavecrest might just be ready to open, according to the expert committee.

A middle school can be built in half the time and at half the cost at the current location of Cunha Middle School, compared to using either alternative site.  That’s the finding of the Cabrillo Unified School District’s Site Professional Advice Committee.

The committee considered three greenfield scenarios in addition to building at the current site of Cunha Middle School: building at Wavecrest in cooperation with Wavecrest Village LLC, building independently at Wavecrest, and the so-called Podesta site located between Half Moon Bay High School and Highway 1.

The committee consisted of a dozen construction, legal, architecture, and real estate professionals.

The board will vote on the alternatives at its regular monthly meeting next Thursday, October 13. According to Superintendent John Bayless, the committee didn’t make any recommendations because that decision was the responsibility of the CUSD board. It should be an easy decision.

Cunha could be completed before construction on the other sites could even begin.

The committee concluded that all three greenfield sites would take more than six years, until 2012, to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act before the project could even be put out to bid.  CEQA processes for Cunha would take a little more than one year, and the project could be put out to bid at the beginning of 2007.  Cunha could be completed in time for the beginning of the 2009-10 school year. The greenfield sites would be completed for the beginning of the 2014-15 school year.

The committee found four reasons why the greenfield sites would cost a lot more than Cunha.  Acquisition of the new sites would cost $2.3 to $4.8 million. Environmental costs at the new sites would exceed those at Cunha by $0.3 to $1.0 million. Construction would cost an additional $8 to $9 million. And inflation would add $13 to $15 million to the construction cost over the cost of building a school at the Cunha site.

The logistics could be handled by building the new facilities first and then moving the students into the new buildings while the original Cunha building is renovated.

The committee also addressed the claim that Wavecrest is a better site because it provides students with more space for activities. According to Thang Do of AEDIS Architecture & Planning, the usable acreage at Wavecrest is 18 acres, versus a little over 17 acres at Cunha. Dr. Bayless and the attorneys on the committee also told the board that the language of Measure K, the middle school bond measure, didn’t require that the school be built on a new site.

The executive summary of the committee’s report can be downloaded from Coastsider. Superintendent Bayless promised that two copies of the full report would be made available at the Half Moon Bay Public Library. You can buy the report from the District office for about $30.

I was at last night’s hearing. Barry Parr is to be congratulated for his outstanding news report—this one filed less than two hours after the hearing ended. continues to prove its value to our community.

There are many, many people who have been urging the school board to go with the Cunha site for years. The clear advantages of the Cunha site in both time and cost which were cited by the Professional Advice Committee have been known for years (see link below).

It is important that some people be held accountable for serving as cheerleaders for the Wavecrest middle school site over the years. These include former CUSD board members Ken Jones, Ken Wilson, Marina Stariha, Ruth Palmer, current CUSD board member Jolanda Schreurs, current CCWD director James Larimer, and last but certainly not least, HMB Review publisher Debra Godshall.

These people have been telling us for years that the Wavecrest middle school site is a “good deal” for our community. We were also told that the 1996 Measure K bond language prevented the school district from going with Cunha because it was not a “new site”.

Well, we found out last night that the proposed Wavecrest middle school is about $30 million underfunded (cost = $56-62 million versus about $27 million of remaining Measure K money in bank). This is a huge funding shortfall that cannot simply be blamed on last year’s discovery of protected species habitat on the Wavecrest site. How is it possible that we are just finding out about this? How would we have paid for the school if the community had followed the advice of the Wavecrest cheerleaders? 

Many of us will recall that attorney Ken Wilson’s legal opinion on the Measure K bond language back in June 2002 was a crucial factor in persuading 4 out the 5 CUSD board members to reject the Cunha site and stick with Wavecrest (CUSD Board member Dwight Wilson was the sole dissenting vote back then). Here is a link to the 2002 HMB Review article describing the event:

At the time, Jolanda Schreurs (who was not yet a member of the CUSD board) was part of a group who actually threatened to sue the school district if the board tried to use the Measure K bond money to build at Cunha.

Last night, two reputable attorneys on the Professional Advice Committee stated that the Measure K bond language was very general and presented no problems whatsoever for building at Cunha.

Ken Wilson’s faulty legal opinion and Joland Schreurs’ litigation threats have helped to delay the Cunha project by at least 3 years—which translates directly to nearly $10 million in escalated construction costs (according to the Committee’s escalation estimates). Thus, it would appear that Mr. K. Wilson and Ms. Schreurs owe our community a very big apology—at the very least. 

Kevin J. Lansing
Half Moon Bay

IT is as though a weight has been lifted…Cunha was and is the only choice. It will secure downtown HMB’s future. Now let’s get this job done, because it is ‘for the kids’, of course not mine anymore as my 6th grader will be out of middle school before ‘09. Please keep Wavecrest open and natural.  Pat Chimienti