With a unanimous vote, the Redondo Beach Board of Education awarded a ground lease for the property at 320 Knob Hill Ave. in South Redondo Beach to Fountain Square Development West for $614,250 per year.
The 60-year lease will allow Fountain Square Development West to build an assisted senior living facility on the property, if zoning changes are approved.
The property at the corner of Knob Hill and Pacific Coast Highway was formerly the site of Patterson Elementary School. The city of Redondo Beach housed offices the property for several years but declined to renew its lease two years ago.
Negotiations with Ambassador High School to use the site fell through in 2010.
Several residents of the neighborhoods surrounding the property have voiced their opposition to building a senior living facility instead of a school; they want the parcel to remained zoned for a school in case the district needs to open one in the area in the future. Nevertheless, the school district is cash-strapped by budget cuts.
"We implore you not to accept the ground lease with Fountain Square," said Kelly Martin, who was speaking on behalf of a community group. "The 320 Knob Hill site is the last surplus property that is owned by the school board that is still zoned for a school in South Redondo … The concern is about the zoning change that will prevent a future school from ever returning to that site…
"Once Knob Hill is rezoned, the South Redondo properties owned by the school board will all be rezoned for other purposes."
School board vice president Laura Emdee said she didn't think a zoning change for the lease would prevent a school from ever opening on the property again.
"It's our property," she said. "We can make it a school any time we want to make it a school."
Former school board member Arlene Staich said she didn't think the Redondo Beach Unified School District would be adding additional schools any time soon, especially during this budget crisis.
"Since 1983 … there has been no need for a school to be built, and if a school were to be built, that means the money comes from the school district," she said. "At this time … I don't see that as as a viable thing that will happen, so we do need money, and hopefully this will be something that the community will be proud of."
Fountain Square's proposed development, called the Kensington of Redondo Beach, will house 130 residents in 92 assisted living suites. It will consist of a single, two-story, 74,000-square-foot building.
School board member Jane Diehl said she saw the facility as a positive for the community.
"Their footprint in that space is not large," she said. "They're able to buffer the rest of the neighborhood, and they're also hoping to save the little school. So they have been listening to people, and they would like to be a good neighbor."