Turning Encinitas Primary School into city’s art center will be expensive, consultant says

The aging old elementary school that city officials have been talking about for years turning into a center of art, culture and ecology will require a multimillion-dollar renovation before it can be used, a hired consultant has found by the city.

And, there is no immediately available money to fund even the cheapest of the four renovation options suggested by the consultant, the city manager told Encinitas city council at a special meeting last week.

“At present, we do not have a funding path for this project,” said city manager Pamela Antil.

Council members then asked Antil about the city’s chances of receiving federal money through the new infrastructure bill President Biden enacted last month. Antil said council members might consider revisiting the issue of school renovations early next spring when city employees work on the new fiscal year budget, but said she was not optimistic about it. to the new federal law solving the funding problem.

“I don’t want to give you false hopes in February that I will have a magical bucket of money,” Antil said, adding that Encinitas may well receive funding from new federal legislation for improving roads and roads. water supply systems, but an arts center is not likely to qualify for this program.

However, she said, the council has the option of putting an arts center fundraising measure on the ballot or even using the revenue from a planned cannabis trade tax. His comment led City Councilor Tony Kranz to joke that he would soon read a newspaper headline that said, “Encinitas funds arts center with weed tax.”

Kranz was one of the driving forces behind the city’s purchase of the former Pacific View Elementary School property in 2014, after the school district considered and then abandoned several other proposals for the 2.8-acre property. located on top of a hill on the third street of downtown. Initially, the city’s stated goal was to create a completely self-sustaining and independently funded facility. A group known as the Encinitas Arts, Culture and Ecology Alliance – a coalition of the city’s art lovers and nonprofit groups – has tried for years to achieve this.

Alliance members raised funds, designed landscaping plans, repaired the roof, repainted buildings and estimated that they had added around $ 1 million in value to the property, mostly through volunteer work. But, after failing to get approval from the city’s Planning Commission for permits that would have allowed them to host many special events at the site as well as give classes, the group members ultimately applied. aid to the city in early 2020.

Jeff Katz, the architect the city has since hired to conduct the latest Pacific View building assessment, told council last week that the buildings had deteriorated in recent years, but he believed the city could fail. get out of it by rehabilitating existing structures rather than building new ones.

“We think the bones of the buildings are fine,” he said in response to questions from council members.

However, he said, the repair work will not be cheap, given the recent surge in building material costs. Its assessment report (https://encinitas.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=7&clip_id=2604&meta_id=132424), lists many electrical, mechanical and structural issues that need to be repaired or replaced, including leaky skylights. , damaged and degraded soils. electrical, heating and plumbing installations.

The report suggests four options for the board. They are:

Option A – Renovate only the smaller of the two main buildings on the site, including bringing the toilets into compliance with disability accessibility laws, carrying out structural repairs and improving the electrical system. Estimated cost of $ 3.8 million.

Option B – Renovate the two main buildings on the site, including structural, electrical and accessibility changes for people with disabilities. Estimated cost of $ 7.3 million.

Option C – Perform all of the aforementioned repairs on both buildings, rework the interior of the smaller building, and relocate the washroom to a new structure of less than 500 square feet. Estimated cost of $ 7.8 million.

Option D – Complete all repair work and build a larger toilet structure that can accommodate larger groups of people, but would require a Coastal Development Permit from the State. Estimated cost of $ 8.3 million.

Council members said they would like more information on what uses are currently permitted on the site, saying that while they explore ways to fund renovations, they do not want to approve future uses, such as organizing special events at the site, which require them to obtain state permit approval. The site is in the state’s Coastal Review Region and uses that are currently not permitted would trigger a lengthy review process, they noted. They asked city workers to review the various proposals previously suggested by alliance members and create a table indicating which ones would not require new permits.

Once they have that information in hand, they said, they will revisit the issue of funding the renovation early next year and determine how much the city should spend on repairing the buildings.

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