*This post is part of a series, “HBT On The Issues,” that lets visitors know where HB Tomorrow has stood on specific issues in Huntington Beach. If you would like to know where HB stands on an issue of interest to you, please contact us at email@example.com.
In late 2018, the Huntington Beach City School District announced the potential sale of several of its school sites, including Sowers Middle School, Gisler Middle School, and Perry Elementary. As our city ages and young “house poor” families struggle to afford housing and services, enrollment in our schools continues to decline. But city residents risk the loss of park and open space when school sites close. Our city will also be less able to attract families in the future once it loses its school facilities – we are, in other words, selling our seed corn.
Under state law, cities are allowed to purchase a certain amount of a closed school site at a discount when the site is up for sale; cities can then retain the property as open space. However, school districts have been using a technique to negate this option, by swapping the site for an income-producing property. As a result, HB is at risk of losing the park space it maintains on school district properties (11 such parks are listed on the city’s 2016 Park and Recreation Master Plan).
HBT believes the city must prepare for this scenario, including purchasing surplus land as it has in the past, as well as work with developers and school districts to ensure existing park space is preserved or enhanced when sites are closed and developed.