Summer 2003 Newsletter
Glendale Unified & City Partner To Revitalize Neighborhoods
With Joint-Use Parks & Schools
much of Southern California, Glendale is trying to build infrastructure
to serve a growing population but has very little land for new
civic buildings. Joint-use facilities, particularly schools, offer
Glendale's administrators an opportunity to maximize the space
that is available for development. NSBN is pleased to reprent
this interview with James Brown, Superintendent of the
Glendale Unified School District, James Starbird,
City Manager of Glendale, and Nello Iacono, Director
of Parks, Recreation, and Community Services for the
city of Glendale in which they discuss the city's efforts to design
and build joint-use facitilies.
What is Glendale's need for school facilities? How many schools
do you have to build and/or modernize in the coming years?
Brown: The Glendale Unified School District serves approximately
30,000 students and operates 31 school sites, 9 of which are on
multi-track, year-round schedules. Our existing facilities were
not built to accomodate our present student population. If we
are to have a chance at minimizing the overcrowding at these locations,
we will have to build at least two additional high schools and
three more elementary schools. And that is in addition to the
serious issues we have to addresses regarding modernization.
You say you need two more high schools and three more elementary
schools. How do you find land in a dense urban area like Glendale?
Give us some sense of the challenge.
Brown: The School District has not generally
been very successful at finding land for new schools. Because
of that we have worked closely with the City to determine some
alternative sites that might become available in the near future.
They have been helpful but not much has happened.
The cost of reclaiming land for school use is extremely high.
Plus there is so little flexibility in the law about using alternative
sites for schools. There are a number of regulations on classroom
size, building construction and codes. And regardless of our relationship
with the City those still limit our ability to construct facilities.
Add to that the site acquisition and eminent domain procedures
necessary to build the kind of large-scale facilities necessary
to handle the forecasted growth, and we simply do not have the
Jim Starbird, you must sense the pressure on the school district
as well as on your own facilities needs as part of a growing metropolis.
How do you interface on this facilities issue with the school
district, and plan your own parks, libraries and recreational
projects in concert with their needs for land, space and facilities?
Are you in competition or is there a way to collaborate?
Starbird: As a City we are probably both collaborating
and competing with the School District.
We have one of the densest urban cores in California. And we
are faced with very large, dense neighborhoods that lack the park
and outdoor facilities we believe are necessary to create and
maintain viable and vibrant neighborhoods.
But, we've recognized that one of the greatest opportunities
we have to cure that problem is to partner with the school district
and create recreational and community facilities on school sites.
Regardless of the district's facility shortage, the sites that
the District does operate are well integrated into Glendale's
neighborhoods. That placement affords us some opportunities for
expansion, redesign or even joint-use of existing playground facilities
and community centers as a mechanism to increase open space and
have a greater presence in the neighborhood.
Schools tend to be open only 1/3 of the day, yet you have this
great demand for open space both before school and after school.
How do you overcome the barriers that do not enable the facility
to be open longer and make it possible to jointly manage and operate
these facilities for the benefit of these neighborhoods? What
rules have changed? What conditions have changed so you can do
Nello Iacono: Because of the growing demand for open
space it's become clear that partnerships between schools and
cities are at a premium. Because of that we are seeing an attempt
from all parties involved to look at these schoolyards and ask,
'Why aren't they open after three or four o'clock in the afternoon?'
'Why can't we open them on the weekends?' 'And why aren't these
facilities available to the community?'
Additionally, this isn't merely about schoolyards, it's about
adjoining properties that can be acquired and utilized for parks
after school and on weekends, yet made available to the school
during the day for its activity needs. Each of these partnerships
is really a win-win situation.
How have you dealt with the maintenance, operation and funding
issues? Are there joint powers authorities that operate and maintain
these collaborative operations?
Brown: We haven't tried to create a joint powers
authority to do this. We've merely created a management group
to oversee a series of separate operational agreements which basically
formalize which functions and responsibilities each party is required
to oversee and how the funding will flow. It doesn't involve a
major change of governance. We have worked through existing government
authorities. In this case, creating a mechanism that links already
existing departments and oversight seems to make more sense than
trying to create a new joint powers authority.
Starbird: The Edison Pacific Project really
represents a model for dealing with issues collaboratively. That
project was the impetus for a Master Agreement between the city
and the school district designed both specifically for the Edison
Pacific project as well for possible future joint-use projects.
That agreement is rather interesting from a modeling perspective
because we first worked on a core agreement of basic values and
principles. We just signed that preamble and from here forward,
each new project or facility becomes an addendum to that master
However, while this agreement can be used as a model in a variety
of municipalities, a necessary prerequisite to its effective implementation
is the attitudinal shift of our school districts and our cities.
That attitudinal shift cannot just happen among administrators,
it must happen at the Board and City Council levels in order for
the staff to step out of traditional roles and begin to look at
accomplishing these efforts based on community benefit rather
than on their particular constituency's desires. We need to look
at the City's constituents and the School District's constituents
as a single constituency with an around-the-clock need that neither
one of us can fulfill alone. Until a city gets that attitudinal
shift, it will be impossible to really affect this kind of change.
That sentiment makes eminent common sense, but the reality,
many assert, has never been that the rules, regulations and funding
mechanisms encourage the accomplishment of that common agenda.
What gets in the way? What do we need to change in order to realize
Brown: We've had to work through building code
issues, state versus local public works requirements, fire safety
issues on construction modernization, etc. all because the law
currently creates separate requirements for different funding
That's why we are hopeful that the next bond will provide a clear
incentive for parties to begin to engage in conversations about
projects and maybe create a simple, clear system for distributing
Legislators should make an effort to create a funding stream
specifically devoted to joint-use. If we can't overhaul the whole
system, we must create another mechanism to get funds to joint-use
projects so that agencies that are already working together can
continue to do so.
Starbird: We are always seeing inconsistency
in state policy-it's no wonder we have the patchwork quilt approach
that we have regarding these issues. For example, local school
districts are significantly impacted by housing development. Yet
despite that we still see a significant number of bills-particularly
in this last legislative session-providing fewer incentives and
establishing a number of penalties on communities for not jumping
at the chance to support their "fair share" of housing
development. There has been no thought about how that policy impacts
city facilities or school facilities. That is the kind of dysfunction
that we are dealing with.
If we hope to realize an agenda which encourages joint-use,
the Legislature must realize that there is a connection among
these issues. Unless and until those connections are made, I see
very little hope for any kind of connection in funding sources,
state policies or programs that are able to complement what we
are doing at the local level.
You've completed a couple years worth of collaborative planning
on schools, cities and parks and now we hear that because of the
budget deficit your funding stream may be in jeopardy. How is
capital or land use planning possible when the funding mechanisms
are so uncertain?
Nelle: It is clearly a problem. With regard to
parks and recreation we have Prop. 12 funding that's out there
right now and we've got Prop. 40 sitting on the March Ballot.
But if we have continued problems with the economy, are those
funds going to be jeopardized? Relying merely on bond funding-particularly
when the planning process is a long-term endeavor-makes it very
difficult for us to develop enough parks and recreational opportunities
for a city.
Are the problems of urban school district modernization
and construction common throughout California or is this just
a Southern California phenomenon? What are the rules and regulations?
Do they favor urban school districts or are they counter-intuitive
to urban school districts' agendas?
Brown: The majority of school facilities planning
in the state of California has been in response to growth in suburban
areas like Sacramento, the Central Valley and even Santa Clarita.
People move to those areas and create a demand for new schools.
What they don't realize is that while facilities planning in
the suburbs is focused on dealing with growth, urban districts
already have unhoused students. And because the money is flowing
to the suburban schools, urban districts like San Francisco, San
Jose, Los Angeles, Glendale and San Diego must handle enrollment
the only way they can-multi-track, year-round schools, class size
reduction and putting bungalows on already impacted sites. That's
what happens when there is no available land and there are major
funding problems. Any new state bond must address that historic
urban versus rural school funding problem.
Starbird: If a school person is asked, 'Would
you like some money to build a school?' By nature, they will say
yes. In the same way, if you ask a city, 'Would you like some
money for a library?' We say yes. If that piecemeal approach is
the one that this new state bond takes, we will miss out on an
enormous opportunity to incorporate a number of new facets into
the school construction framework and a real mechanism for diversifying
use and funding.
With the Edison Pacific school we initially began with the thought
that we would incorporate housing into the project. In the end
we decided not to, but the mere exercise of looking at a low-income
housing component allowed us to investigate the funding possibilities
that housing would bring to a school project. If the state approached
the bond with the same perspective, they might build incentives
and priorities into a bond fund and say, 'If you're just drawing
on our bond money for schools, you're going to have a lesser shot
than if you look at multiple uses and multiple sources of funding.
But, if you're a school district who has done schools and libraries
or housing and redevelopment and you've tapped housing money,
redevelopment money, general fund money, local bonds and state
bonds, we're going to give you a greater share and a higher priority
for funding.' That would be the ideal situation.
My fear is that the state, as it has done historically, will
look at an education bond with blinders on and be as tunnel-visioned
and silent in education as they are on streets. Local municipalities
have become very adept at leveraging state money because they
know that any single source won't do the trick. It's time for
the state to realize that that kind of multi-funding/multi-use
approach must be incorporated into state funding programs.
One last question. Cities, school districts and others have an
opportunity to express themselves up in the Capitol, to lobby
their district representatives as well as the Legislature. But
one might reasonably conclude that there's a disconnect between
the themes that you've just articulated and those driving policy
in the Capitol. Are your priorities adequately being advanced
in Sacramento? Because it doesn't appear so?
Brown: We have to deal with a longstanding reality
here. Most years funding has been tight and the thoughts of Superintendents
and City Managers are on self-preservation. It hasn't been until
fairly recently-within the last five or six years-that we've begun
to realize that our problems are not going to be solved without
thinking in a more systemic way. We've begun to realize that we
are not going to get better schools without better neighborhoods.
And we're not going to get better neighborhoods without better
We've communicated that message to our legislators. But maybe
we didn't make the case well enough. Maybe what we said was that
this project needs help or that project needs help. Maybe what
we should have said was that it was time to refocus the entire
discussion about funding and create a different funding mechanism
that integrates neighborhoods and schools together.
Starbird: Jack Scott, Dario Frommer and Carol
Liu are great representatives and have done very well for us.
But, they are also small cogs in a big wheel. There are dynamics
at the state level created by interest groups and competing lobbyists
that have a significant impact on what takes place up there. To
combat that will take a significant mind shift.