by Joanne Faryon | inewsource

The Poway School District is getting close to selling 11 acres of prime real estate in Rancho Bernardo to a San Diego health care company.

The fate of the land has been debated for years.  Developers had shown interest in building homes on the property, but community members said they need more park and recreation space. It appears neither group will get its way.

In a special closed session meeting last week, the Poway School Board voted in favor of entering into negotiations with AmeriCare Health and Retirement Inc.

The company proposes building a senior living community, Matt Petree, AmeriCare’s director of property development, said. It plans to work with residents in a “highly collaborative effort.”

A developer gave the land to the school district in 1984 so it could build a school. It’s nestled between tract homes, not far from Rancho Bernardo High School.

The district considers the land surplus, because it’s not needed for a school. A recent  state law allows school districts to put the profits from surplus property sales into their operational budget, until 2016.

The land is valued at $6 million.

AmeriCare’s bid came as a surprise because the district didn’t receive a single offer during the public bidding process, which ended last month.

Petree said his company had discussions about the property in 2011 with Joe Taylor, a consultant hired by the school district.

They haven’t talked since, and Taylor never informed AmeriCare the land was being offered up this year for public bidding, Petree said.

“We just recently discovered the school board had an open bid call for this site,” Petree said.

Invoice shows Taylor billed the Poway school district to review "Americare Offer" in 2011.
Invoice shows Taylor billed the Poway school district to review “Americare Offer” in 2011.

An inewsource investigation in September showed the school district paid Taylor  $150 an hour to evaluate the land in Rancho Bernardo, meet with potential buyers and “review offers.”

The district used special taxes called Mello-Roos to pay Taylor. Officials said they would refund the Mello-Roos accounts once the land was sold.

 The school district would not provide more information about the winning bid or two others that were submitted at the closed meeting.

“With regard to the LOI’s (Letter of Intent) currently under negotiation per Board direction, the District will make those available as soon as the negotiations are completed,” Jessica Wakefield, director of communications for the school district, wrote in an email.

“If negotiations are completed this week and a potential purchase is agendized for Board consideration, then the LOI’s will be made available at that time,” Wakefield added.

That could happen as soon as the Dec. 16 school board meeting.

Petree also did not want to comment on the bid amount.

The City of San Diego has expressed interest in buying the land and converting it into a park. Councilman for the area, Mark Kersey, had promoted the idea in previous public meetings. Kersey’s office was not available for comment on AmeriCare’s bid as of late Tuesday.

Joanne Faryon is a freelance reporter and former inewsource and KPBS reporter.