Claremont Insider: CUSD Moves Forward on Base Line Rd. RV Lot

Thursday, March 6, 2008

CUSD Moves Forward on Base Line Rd. RV Lot

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The Claremont 400 really do not like people who live along Base Line Rd. At least, that's what you'd figure when you consider that it's only been a very short time since they failed to jam a faulty affordable housing project in at the northeast corner of Towne Ave. and Base Line Rd. Now comes Round II for Base Line Rd. residents and property owners.

The Claremont Unified School District (CUSD: A wholly-owned Claremont 400 subsidiary) last month approved going forward with turning the district's property at Mountain Ave. and Base Line into an RV and boat storage lot.

We came across this story last July when the CUSD board first approved a conceptual plan for the property. At that time, the district announced its intention to move the offices that are currently on the RV site to another property on San Jose Ave.

The matter came before the CUSD board again in February in the form of an actual plan. The Daily Bulletin's Will Bigham covered the CUSD RV yard proposal in a February 26th article.

People who have neighboring properties aren't too happy about the district's actions. Bigham quoted Saul Jaffe, who owns the property immediately to the east of the CUSD land and who wants to put in a 60-unit condo development there:

A group of nearby residents and property owners spoke out against the project at the board meeting, citing potential problems they said make the project incompatible with the surrounding area.

Saul Jaffe, owner of an adjacent property that has been approved for a 60 condominiums, said the district's plan would make it more difficult for him to sell units that overlook the storage facility.

Jaffe also said the district's plan conflicts with the zoning of the land, which calls for office/professional use.

"It's not the type of use you would expect right next to each other," Jaffe said. "It's not what you would consider good planning."

Jaffe said the district would likely need a conditional-use permit from the city's Planning Commission before moving forward.

According to the Bigham article, CUSD officials say that they will have to come up with $4 million to build the project. The district anticipates taking out loans for the financing and then using the money generated by the storage facility to pay back the loans.

District officials claim that the project will generate $615,000 a year. We wonder about their figures, though. After all, these are the same folks who managed to misspend over $48 million of Measure Y money from 2000. We wouldn't even be talking about the need for the RV park if they had acted more responsibly with our tax dollars.

And don't forget, the CUSD board is backed by a lot of the same people who stood by and allowed the city to invest over $5 million of the city's investment fund in the failed Orange County Investment Pool back in the early 1990's. They certainly seem attracted to the color red and to bankruptcy.

We know what you're thinking: A school district going into the RV storage business? That makes about as much sense as a city trying to become a housing developer.

But, hey, it could happen.

The project might pencil out, but it will likely have to be more intensively used than the district is letting on. Bigham reported that it will have at least 65 indoor storage spaces, with the potential for 55 more in a covered area and 98 outdoor spaces. The going rates for RV spaces at the Price Self-Storage facility in Solana Beach runs from $219 per month for an outdoor space to between $365-$449 a month for an indoor RV space.

Using the upper rate, CUSD's 65 indoor spaces would only net $350,220 a year (65 spaces times $449/month times 12 months). That would be far short CUSD's claimed $615,000 yearly net. They will certainly need to use as many of those extra covered and outdoor spaces as possible to reach their goal.

You have to wonder, too, what the effect of rising gasoline prices and the current economic downturn will have on the demand for RV's and boats, as well as places to store those things.

Another factor the CUSD board doesn't seem to have considered is the rising cost of bonded indebtedness. The mortgage crisis has spilled over into the municipal bond market, and it's getting more and more expensive for public agencies to get financing for projects, as the LA Times reported yesterday.

Still, with the Claremont 400, it's full speed ahead, as usual.