Sweetwater school district's real estate deals gain momentum

But will sales of surplus property help the financial situation?

Sweetwater Union High School District's L Street property
  • Sweetwater Union High School District's L Street property

The Sweetwater Union High School District's financial picture looked grim at the September 23 board meeting. During the budget report, it was established that the district continues to spend and holds the minimum that the state requires — 3 percent — in reserve.

Chief financial officer Albert Alt stated at the meeting that the 3 percent would allow the district to operate normally for only about two and a half weeks.

Several of the district’s real estate ventures are wending their way through the entitlement process. If successful, will the transactions change the district's financial situation?

The Reader reported in February that the district hired E2 ManageTech to get surplus district property on Third Avenue (in Chula Vista) “shovel ready” for a condo/apartment development. The district initially purchased the property to build new district headquarters, but now the land is slated for an apartment development. Named the Colony, the project will comprise 167 apartment units and possibly the Chula Vista Heritage Museum.

According to an email from Janet Kluth, the city’s senior project coordinator, the Colony development will go before the city council on November 5. “The item includes consideration of the Rezone, the Design Review Permit, and the Tentative Map.” The zone change has already received the stamp of approval from the Planning Commission.

Charles Diamond of C&D Consulting, principal at HTI Property Group, and Disposition Strategies Group, was contacted by the Reader to find out if the project has a developer. According to Diamond, he was obliged by the district to decline an interview.

In addition to the district’s Third Avenue project, Chula Vista’s city council will vote on October 15 to employ E2 ManageTech to do a “brown field assessment” on the site where Sweetwater’s district office and transportation center are headquartered. The agenda enclosure states that 435 Third Avenue, 1116 Fifth Avenue, and 610 L Street “have begun the entitlement process for development into residential uses.”

Sweetwater’s L Street property has been the subject of media scrutiny for over a year. In an article entitled “Sweetwater is underwater on land deal” the U-T reported “What began eight years ago as a deal to develop a new administration complex for Sweetwater schools has cost the district $40 million, with no new district headquarters.”

As the Reader reported in February, a nonprofit organization called California Trust for Public Schools/Plan Nine Partners holds the deed to the L Street property in a complicated deal that involves all of the district’s properties. Marc Litchman, of Plan Nine, proposed in February to put a soccer stadium, soccer fields, a conference center, and a charter academy on the land.

In a recent interview, Litchman said he is pleased that his project is gathering momentum. He also notes that if the property is developed with an educational/recreational use it will not have to go through the lengthy entitlement process entailed by a residential development.

Litchman said his proposal is supported by the Chula Vista Premier Football Club, AYSO, the California Soccer Association, Academia de Futbol, the Olympicos Soccer Club, and YALLA (an organization that uses soccer to help kids overcome the trauma of war).

But will these transactions make the district more financially sound?

The district’s surplus property is tied together in an exchange agreement, which means that — when and if — “shovel ready” projects are sold, the money will not go to the general fund to alleviate the deficit spending problem; rather, the money will be used to pay down the district’s debt on the L Street property.

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It appears Ed Brand sees himself as somewhat of a real estate mogul. Too bad his past history has left property either growing weeds or upside down, to the tune of millions. With so many schools needing work, with parents being expected to pay more and more, with teachers being asked to go three years without a raise, with employees out of pocket benefit costs soaring hopefully any and all real estate profits will be put back into our District.

3% reserves, have any of you bothered to research what districts our size SHOULD have? What reserves do other Districts in our area have, like Chula to name one?

Surely Ed Brand and Jim Cartmill will not be brasin enough to return to the ploy of purchasing more property like they attempted to do a few months back. Brand does NOT need a cushy new office on the east side, the board members can trouble themselves to drive ALL the way over to the west side for our board meetings, and transportation is fine where it is.

Beware of Ed Brand, Jim Cartmill and Arlie Ricasa when it comes to real estate deals - these three brainiacs are the ones we can thank for being SOOOOOO upside down on the L Street property! - we are talking millions!!!!!!

Annie, you often make mention of a new board and a new superintendent. You need to add HR manager to the list.

I just happened to fall into this article. What a way to cheer me up before I go to work tomorrow!! Hey rumor has it that Ed has an on line course in Condo flipping for Trump University and will include this fine Insitution as an adjunct to Alliant University!!!


So is Sweetwater Union High School District and Real Estate Shell Game open for business?

The (dis)honorable Superintendent "Fast Eddy" Brand, presiding.

"Friendship has its perks," beamed Eddy, as he handed out the benjamins to all his private investigator pals. "Thanks, guys, when you said you wouldn't mind digging through the muck for me, I knew we had a future together.

"What's next you ask? Why, once we take all those agreed-upon health benefits away from the teachers, we'll really be able to start pricing properties!!!"

Students facebook pages are on fire. Many are wanting to help the teachers! Students are wanting their parents to go to the board meeting and speak up.

It was my understanding that the district had to sell the property to the city. I also think THird Ave could use development, but that's a small area surrounded by small streets. It will become a traffic nightmare unless there's 2 parking spaces per unit. How many are there?

I drove by that lot on Third Avenue the other day and found the traffic to be extremely congested due to the street narrowing the city had recently done. To consider building condos there seems crazy. Take a drive by there someday around 4 o'clock, and then imagine if you can, cars trying to enter and/or leave the proposed condo/apartment development.

I am just laughing my a-- off. Can this district even screw in a light bulb without getting electrocuted? They have no money and all they do is steal from those people living on the eastside. Hey folks on the east you should come to our schools on the west they are really nice and updated.

3% reserves doesnt even exist in a normal household what makes them think they can get away with that. Use your heads people you are doing everything a-- backwards. OMG get rid of these people already.

Did anyone really read this last sentence: "The district’s surplus property is tied together in an exchange agreement, which means that — when and if — “shovel ready” projects are sold, the money will not go to the general fund to alleviate the deficit spending problem; rather, the money will be used to pay down the district’s debt on the L Street property."

Hmm inquiring minds want to know where does the mulah go? Not to the kids or the teachers maybe Fast Eddy's pocket.

anniej - Ed has grown up being a real estate overlord. Our mother had him and his pals tear down a small house and put up a tri-plex rental in early 70's. He took to collecting rents so well he bought more apartment buildings, I imagine he still owns. That would be fine if he hadn't used mom's (and my) money as if it was his own. He controlled the family, tyrannically, easily. Now it's you guys.

shirleyberan - to have lived as long as your brother has and with Gods good grace longer, isn't it a shame - the legacy he will leave?

Any of those apartment buildings have new solar on them? Hmmmmm

2014 is just around the corner - he can drive off into the sunset to spend his days with Hassey continuing to allegedly hang out overlooking Blacks Beach.

L street underwater/lambs bleat --led to slaughter/district-wide confusion/shell-game collusion/ wasting all our time/ with circuses & trustees sans spines--while he splits with our BREAD!

There has to be more to this than meets the eye. If the monies go strictly to pay down the Lst.debt something has to be missing here. I'm not savy about real estate and all the deliberate miss direction that Brand puts forth has me wondering what the real situation may be??

My health insurance is suddenly going up by $500 a month. What do you bet it goes to buy a lovely new district office and not to shore up reserves....?

gobigal A few months ago Arlie Ricasa voted NO on buying that building in Eastlake and turning it into a district office. I believe she will stand her ground and vote no on any property purchases. Based on everything I am reading we can not afford it. Besides Ed Brand does not seem to have good business sense look at what he got us into with the property off of the 5 on L and Third avenue. We are paying on the property on L but don't own it how the hell did that happen

oldchulares you ask how the hell this could happen. Well let me tell you a story, once upon a time there was a superintendent that actually thought he was bigger than life and spent money like there was no tomorrow. He purchased property without giving the consequences for the future a second chance. Then came in the board (his merry men) riding their white horses approving all of his misdeeds and covering some of them up for him. Then puff a grand jury investigation makes King Brand leave and he gets a job in San Marcos. Now that school board would not have any of his misgivings and treachery so they let him go and seal the reason why. We then get another individual to take the reigns and low and behold he is as bad as the prior king. The public is outraged and the kings men had no choice but to get rid of him. The pressure from the public was to much to handle. Now the king and his merry men are being tried for their misgivings and the 1st king is back. He is spending money, borrowing from the poor and his merry men are going along with everything. They do not ask questions, they only care for themselves forget the people they serve. This story however, is not over yet. The king and his merry men really need to ride off into the sunset and leave us alone. They need to be tried and convicted and king brand needs to ride off into the sunset as he once did. To be continued.......

Parents, community members, teachers and students need to attend the board meeting on Monday, October 21 at 6PM, 1130 Fifth Avenue. Come early to get a seat!!!

Many retired old salts like myself are far too mad to come and listen to this bunch sit around and watch this group play games. Jim is an embarrassment to anyone who ever cast a vote in his favor. I will let my vote do my talking none of them are getting it. No wonder our country is a mess with folks like Filner and this bunch in charge of our money.

gobigal The problem is the weak union leadership at the top. The union officials at the state level should be providing resources that would end this sooner than later. This is not a battle that can afford to be lost.

The teacher association is only as strong as it's members. I paid dues for 38 yrs and am stymied as to why the SEA doesn't ask for the legal beagles to get involved in this situation. I guess I will be paying excessive fees for the next thirteen months until I turn 65. Mismanagement is everywhere. I understand that Russo was in a mtg.last week at the district office. Why?

This plot of land is an eyesore! It makes sense that it be sold and developed. It will get the district out of the land ownership/management/development business, and it will provide a boost to an area sorely in need of it.

Do you know what, if any, purpose this land (pictured above, the property on 3rd avenue)was meant for? As in, has it been used for something in the past if it is not being used now?

How many of these properties can the district clear away so we can begin to work on the clean-up. This district does not need to be in the real estate business. It should not be in the real estate business. It is delusional for a superintendent to think they should be in the real estate business using the funds meant for schools!

At one time this property was a produce store (similar to Sprouts), prior to that it was a Safeway grocery store. Seems like the focus is on everything except education with this Board and Trustees. Very sad.

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