First school in downtown railyard would serve 21,000 new residents

The Sacramento City Unified School District has reached a deal with developers of Sacramento’s historic downtown railyard to build a school for up to 600 students, anticipating that hundreds of families will become urban dwellers.

The agreement calls for the school to be built with bond funds, if available, or residential development fees and developer funds, said district trustee Jay Hansen and Denton Kelley, a partner in the railroad venture. Both said the district would not have to draw from its current budget funds to build the campus.

On Thursday night, Sacramento City Unified trustees voted 6-1, with Trustee Diana Rodriguez opposed, to ratify a deal reached Wednesday between Hansen and the developers, Downtown Railyard Venture LLC.

Kelley said the vote set in motion a year of design work and financing arrangements. The infrastructure, such as roads, storm drains and sewer and water systems, would begin in about 2018. That work, in turn, will clear the way for mixed-use residential construction.

School construction remains years off.

The project site calls for 6,000 to 10,000 residential units, bringing the area’s population to about 21,000.

As people move into the railyard, students initially will attend schools elsewhere in Sacramento City Unified. Hansen said all proceeds received from commercial development fees would go directly to the district for improvements at existing school sites most affected by students living in the railyards. He estimated the fees would generate between $3 million to $4 million over time.

District officials report that they have negotiated a development fee for residential construction starting at $4.50 a square foot.

Hansen said when the number of new students reaches about 250, development will start on school construction near the proposed Kaiser Permanente medical campus. That school would be ready to open about a year later, he said, when the number of neighborhood students could reach 300. School capacity would be 500 to 600 students.

Grades served by the new campus would depend on need. The school would be constructed on approximately 2.5 to 3 acres and would serve kindergarten through sixth or eighth grades, he said. Both Kelley and Hansen said a second school will be built later, once the area nears a projected 950 total students from the area.

Rodriguez said Friday she opposed the pact because it did not address building a high school.

“I know there is a vision for two schools, but I saw more of a vision for a K-6 environment or a K-8 environment,” she said. “I thought it would behoove the district to have more leeway for the upper grades. I wanted that flexibility.”

Sacramento City Unified officials have expressed concern the district does not have adequate capacity in its central city schools to serve students living in the development area.

Cathy Allen, the district’s chief operations officer, said last month that the district projects the development could add up to 1,900 elementary students, 300 middle school students and 400 high school students. There is space for only about a sixth of those elementary students, and the number of middle and high school students also would exceed the district’s current capacity, she said.

The developer has assumed that most of the people living in the planned residences would not have children, but the district has said it can’t rely on that assumption.

Hansen said the agreement before the board Thursday night used the same student-per-household ratio typically used in development areas.

Kelley said he was pleased at the progress made with the district.

“Typically these school mitigation agreements can take a lot of time, sometimes years,” he said. “We’ve compressed that into a few months.”

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