Sweetwater land deals — the beef goes on

“Who decided to build town homes on this property and why?”

Tom Calhoun and consultants present to the crowd
  • Tom Calhoun and consultants present to the crowd

Remember Sweetwater Union High School District’s dalliance with the Christian University -- Grand Canyon, in January 2013? Remember when the district made a bid to take over part of the National City Adult Education Center for Alliant University in May 2013? Or when a district-hired detective knocked on the door of a woman who spoke out at board meetings in September 2013?

Many people thought that contentious relations between the district and the community were a thing of the past — gone along with former superintendent Ed Brand who was put on administrative leave July 3. But when Southwest Civic Association hosted a public meeting on the topic of Sweetwater’s latest real estate gambit – converting the school district’s headquarters into townhouses — a roomful of people realized the district was sticking to the same plans.

Most of the people who came to the July 21 meeting reside near the district’s proposed project. At the meeting, a consultant group called E2Manage Tech — hired by the district to entitle and design the project — gave the neighbors their first peek at the three-story townhouse proposal.

The project is in the first of three phases of enactment. Variations on floor plans were presented to the audience, but the basic concept is 135 units with landscaping, sidewalks, a tot lot, a pool, and a clubhouse. 

People who live in the area of the proposed project expressed dismay about the density of the project and attendant problems: parking, traffic, noise, water consumption, and soil contamination from the district’s bus yard.

Chuck Diamond, one of the E2Tech consultants, was asked why the proposed development was so dense. “I was hired to increase the revenue [of the district],” he responded.

One meeting attendee said, “There will be 400 bedrooms and 270 parking spaces.” He argued that with that many bedrooms there would be a need for many more parking spaces within the complex and noted that the neighborhood was already saturated with cars parked on the street.

Diamond told the man that homeowners’ association rules would control parking. The audience quickly clarified that those restrictions would only control the parking inside the complex, not on the street.

Another attendee asked why, in the design, the pool was positioned on the outer edge of the units where the neighborhood would be affected by the noise.

Diamond’s response was that the project would lose density — and therefore revenue — if the pool were moved to the middle of the complex.

David Danciu, secretary of the Southwest Civic Association,

said that during his years in construction he had built similar projects.

Like those projects, he said, “this one lacks imagination and looks homogenized…. No matter what the profit level is the project should be revised to have less density and a lot more open space.”

Tom Calhoun, Sweetwater’s executive facilities director, said the district is trying to maximize profit in order to retire the debt on the L Street property, which is upside down in its mortgage. The district also wishes to generate money to buy a new district office on the east side of Chula Vista.

Calhoun said he expects the Fifth Avenue deal to net $6 million, but when the district entitles the L Street property for 369 mid-rise apartment units on the L Street property, he expects to generate $40 million.

To entitle the three district parcels, E2Manage Tech has had an $82,500 contract for three years. The entitlements for the Fifth Avenue project are complex and entail zone changes and a general plan amendment through the City of Chula Vista. The process — and the consultant fees — are likely to continue for several more years.

Many people at the meeting questioned whether E2ManageTech was also going to receive one-third of the profit as indicated in a 2011 “program participation agreement” signed by a district administrator. The consultants refused to answer the question. When Calhoun was asked the same question, he said, “I can’t read Chuck Diamond’s mind.” Calhoun also stated that it is the district’s position that the agreement is not in effect.

One of the neighborhood attendees asked, “Who decided to build town homes on this property and why?”

Why did the district hire pricey consultants to ready these properties for high-density housing when the community had not yet been consulted about their preferences?

California Ed Code 17390 says when a district has excess property there must first be a committee that is tasked with developing “a priority list of use of surplus space and real property that will be acceptable to the community.”

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It is time for Superintendent Glover to BRING DOWN THE WALLS OF SECRECY regarding ALL of the property negotiations. The new Board asks that we trust them, then turns around and ignores our pleas for transparency.

Last time I checked this was OUR community and these are OUR tax dollars they are spending. To act as though we are 'bothering them' (the Board) is most disrespectful to those who have invested so much to bring about change.

By December, all those carpet baggers from the County Office will have returned to their comfy positions at the Ed Center. They do not care a hoot about the south bay.

We should ban together and file an injunction to stop all of these real estate deals. With all of these land deals taking 2-3 years where are they getting the money to build out the property we are renting in Eastlake for the District people. No wonder they raised the Mello taxes they need more money to pay for Harold Place and the bus depot off of Main Street. These county people are no different than the last bunch we had running this show. I was told they get mad if you try to speak on more than one issue. Looking to me like all of this show was to make it look like things have changed well they haven't. So now how do we get rid of the new guy and the county bunch we can't wait until January they are bleeding us dry. This is a bunch of bull led by a bunch of rustlers.

Why go along with criminal activity of the last school board? They know they replaced corruption but let shady nonsense deals continue to drain school dollars.

I believe that everything should be in a holding pattern until the new board takes office. There is no need to move forward with anything long-term, controversial, or that is not a complete necessity for students.

I was at the meeting and there were constant references to directives, plans, and strategies. The people who approved those directives, plans, and strategies are now gone. The new board and superintendent will decide how we move forward in the future.

I am not sure if the current plan is the best use of the district properties. I see many other options that can and should be explored. The district mentioned that mistakes and miscalculations were made that led us to this point. It is easy to make mistakes with other people's money. We cannot allow this to continue in the future.

I do not know if the process to this point was lawful, but it does not appear that it was appropriate. As a board member I will use my position on the board to strongly advocate for a complete review of the current property plans and the start of a new process to determine the best use of each property the district owns. That is why I believe it is crucial the district does not move forward with the Eastlake lease. The community has shared some great ideas and we should listen. The school district belongs to all of us, and we live and work in the communities that these dealings affect.

When elected I will also immediately ensure that Mr. Diamond is issued a directive that he is no longer restricted from talking to the public about what he refers to as the "economics" of his contract/deal. These are deals with public money and should be public. He will not be able to use the district as a shield from answering the valid questions about his intentions.

I am the only candidate coming out and taking public positions on these complicated and extremely important issues. It is essential that we vote for candidates who have made their positions and intentions crystal clear and have a track record of strong values and transparency. I encourage anyone to reach out and contact me. I believe in open communication and I am happy to talk with anyone. That is the way I have always been, and that is what you can expect after I am elected to the school board.

Mr. Shilling: I would like to thank you for sharing your opinions with the many members of the community that follow The READER and Ms. Luzzaro. Unfortunately, historically speaking, the voting community has rarely had the opportunity to hear/read candidates opinions on the issues.

"I believe that everything should be in a holding pattern until the new board takes office. There is no need to move forward with anything long-term, controversial, or that is not a complete necessity for students."

Quoted for truth.

Could the Reader do a story on the overcrowding at our schools on the east side. Today was pure mayhem. Kids everywhere and not enough classrooms to put them in. Bonita Middle was in chaos. Eastlake High its usual mess. Nothing in this district is working not even our new board. Employees are happy that Ed is gone but unhappy with the promotions and transfers. Glover is here trying to make nice as though all is well but it is not. Hard to stay positive when everything around you is broken or breaking.

These are ongoing issues that need to be addressed now. I would really like to speak with you and get your ideas and perspective.

Some west side schools are also in a similar position. Waiting for the district to approve opening new sections of classes while students sit in huge classes and their teachers know that there will soon be huge movement so why start teaching. Spoke with someone today as we talked about how the first ten days are just a complete wash because every year is mass chaos. Open enrollment needs to end and realistic enrollment numbers needed to be given to schools for staffing purposes.

Wasn't that because of someone's bright idea that parents can now send the students to any school they please without District permission? Of course, they all want to go to the newer schools.

Missionaccomplished -- I the open enrollment plan was Fast Eddy's way out of criticism of having so many schools on improvement needed status. Of course, there was flight away from those schools to those not so designated. Newest schools really had nothing to do with those choices, parents were seeking to get away from schools that had been deemed poor performing. So, what has been, or is now being done, to improve those schools???? that is what the focus should be instead of selling and buying properties.

Every community deserves access to a quality public school. This is what happens when the focus is on personal agendas and superficial fixes instead of real long-term solutions to difficult problems.

theyknowmeascoach, You're off topic :-) What a surprise for this blog. For now, just a note to say, I hear you--in fact, I heard from people on both sides of the district about the chaos. Kids were everywhere, but mostly in common areas waiting on their schedules.

Susan Luzzaro yes I was off topic but it was a rough day and it was only day one. Parents are very angry and all Glover has to offer are letters asking for time to work on the over crowded classes. As usual the students suffer.

Shilling ... You must have taken Economics 101....

For any casual reader, not an inside joke, I am referring to a comment made at the meeting Monday night by one of the presenters...

That was painful to listen to.

I should also add that when I am a board member it will never be OK for a district employee to tell a member of the public to "shut up."

Ms Luzzarro - The comment about Economics 101 - a bit condescending to the audience that evening.

no surprise there Susan, as almost everyone who 'addresses' the public as from the vantage of staff or paid consultant (include the lawyers who lecture on 'civility') treats the general public (that would be the taxpayers who foot the bill for their pay) with an exceedingly and pervasive cavalier attitude. "Let them eat cake" seems to be their motto.

There are questions raised here that simply SHOULD be answered by Superintendent Glover and the County people.

*. Why is Mr. Diamond REFUSING to answer the questions: is this agreement in effect and/or - are you, Mr. Diamond intending on FORCING the District to honor the agreement signed by Ms. Russo? (Legal recourse). These are questions we deserve an answer to. There is a large majority who is looking to seek legal representation and hold. Ed Brand, Dianne Russo, and any/all Board members who had knowledge of this deal that was hidden from the taxpaying public.

*. Why, after ridding this community of its previous Board members and Supers is Superintendent Glover and the County Board folk allowing Tom Calhoun to circumvent Ed Code (noted in the article)?

These are legitimate questions that are being ignored. We are hearing that there will be meetings that will allow the community the opportunity to be advised of what THEY HAVE ALREADY DONE - UNACCEPTABLE, we have waited long enough and to NO avail. We are past dog and pony shows, we are sick of 'be patient and trust we will do the right thing.' NO YOU HAVEN'T - within their first two meetings they signed a 10 year lease with an additional 10 year option for a new District office on the east side. When the issue of transportation was raised the response 'there is a bus stop right down the street'. Are you kidding me, a little arrogant wouldn't you say? Last week they raised Mello, even after clearly stating that perhaps, since they did not reside here or pay taxes here, that perhaps it was not the right thing to do. Concerns are raised regarding change orders on construction and they are ignored.

Now this is a 'personal' opinion - I believe that the new County folk are scared to death that the true financials would expose just how bad things are. I believe they have been sold a bill of goods that if 'you just vote for all of these expenditures and increases' no one will ever know - perhaps they believe in their heart of hearts they are protecting us. Well, with all due respect we do not need protection we need THE FREAKIN' TRUTH.

It is clear, it is preferred that we not bother the Board with major issues. We are reading the message loud and clear; WE HAVE BEEN THRU THIS DRILL BEFORE. Antagonists gotta do what they gotta do - and we are going to do just that - are you reading between the lines?

"Tom Calhoun, Sweetwater’s executive facilities director, said the district is trying to maximize profit in order to retire the debt on the L Street property, which is upside down in its mortgage."

Here Tom, let me fix it for you... "the district is more than willing to screw the public and the local community, so we can make a buck."

By my way of thinking, once this piece of crap is completed, Sweetwater will have beat a hasty retreat out to the east side and "to hell with the problems" they have created back on Fifth Avenue.

I would like to encourage all to read the posted document and to read the Ed Code about surplus property. Thanks

Isn't it amazing that apparently Sweetwater is continuing on this path of destruction, despite what the public wants, despite what the Ed Code says, despite that the county Board of Education appointees are supposed to supply much needed leadership to this district?

Why does the money get spent in ways the public does not want it spent, and why are things like bus routes for students cut? Tom Calhoun defended the decision to cut bus routes, because he said that the board had voted that about a year ago. Yes, but haven't we established that four out of five members of that board have been convicted of crimes.

Doesn't that indicate that it might be time to revisit a few of the decisions of that board, as they might very well have been exceedingly poor decisions?

So--Calhoun and friends have opted to continue with the Ed Brand Memorial Empire...when really, truly, it is time to demolish that corrupt agglomeration.

It was a very bad idea for those bus routes to be cancelled/cut. It is a very bad idea to continue with all the Ed Brand schemes.

Listen, my friends, new board members, Dr. Glover--we need a clear demarcation that shows one and all that Ed Brand's influence is completely gone from this district.

Read the Ed Code (not the same thing as Ed's personal sidestepping of all rules and regulations). Abide by the Ed Code, listen to the public, pay attention to the needs of the students.

This district does not exist for the sole purpose of completing Ed Brand's fantasies. Time for McCann to get that through his skull. Time for that to register in everyone's mind.

We get to move forward in positive, honest ways now. We do not have to stick to the Ed Brand version of corruption. Let's get with the new, improved program.

A simple question that begs an answer


The EdCode is NOT being followed, looking for a modern version of 'Ironside' (boy am I dating myself).

  • often my comments are akin to a course in old folk trivia

Why? Because they have been getting away with it for about 25 years now, and must feel very confident that they are immune...after all, it isn't as if the DA will open up more cases now, is it?

There apparently being some sort of internal judicial damper on really cross-examining the collective Sweetwater mess, all those who have created the real estate and financial train wrecks that comprise Sweetwater's current situation must feel very confident that they will swan off into the sunset, with all deals intact.

Unfortunately we know what we are going to get right now. It is not what we want or deserve but it is the reality. Our best hope is to get the right people elected so that in December the type of district you describe in your posts can be realized.

oldchulares has the right idea, an injunction to stop this project is in order. Where is the list of possible uses acceptable to the community for this surplus property as mandated by the ed code?  The public was presented with what appears to be a done deal, except for maybe where to put the pool. 

[ From the ed code link] 17390.  The school district advisory committee shall do all of the following:    (b) Establish a priority list of use of surplus space and real property that will be acceptable to the community.    (c) Cause to have circulated throughout the attendance area a priority list of surplus space and real property and provide for hearings of community input to the committee on acceptable uses of space and real property…...

thank you joepublic for providing the link to the specifics of the law regarding surplus property. As I have stated before, it seems to me that if the process was not followed (looks like it was not) that any and all agreements for disposing of ANY district property would be null and void. I also think that the idea floated by another commenter about seeking a court injunction against proceeding on ANY of the so-called agreements that deal with district property is a good one.

Boggles the normal mind nobody wants to get involved to act on illegal businesses. Complacent are guilty too if they won't stop waisting time and money with condominiums for Ed and friends who will profit, long history of intentional manipulation of money. SOoooo illegal. Where's Cory Briggs or Donna Frye or ANYBODY SEEING THIS? When can these families expect a fair shake?!! THE FUNDS/MONEY DOES NOT BELONG WHERE IT IS!!! STOP THE CRIMINALS and get money out of criminal hands, you know who they are, the FACTS ARE OUT! WHAT IS WRONG WITH SCHOOL BOARD PEOPLE?!!! ARE YOU SLEEPING? MILLIONS ARE IN THE WRONG HANDS NOW!!!!!! ILLEGALLY!!!!!!!! DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

There was a report on 10News about Cartmill running for office after admitting criminal behavior. If they had the connected dots records, maybe they might take interest in crime-stopping?

Err,Shirley, that was reported here a couple of weeks ago when he submitted his paperwork. Where have you been?

I am hoping that if regular public input will not cause these read estate deals to go into hiatus, then injunctions can be brought forward.

There is no reason to continue with the schemes of the departed Brand--unless someone is getting a payoff somewhere down the line. But even that is hardly a good reason.

Let us please have that forensic accounting report before we continue with any of this; there are far too many questions regarding the decision-making of Ed Brand, and the lock-step voting of Cartmill, Ricasa and McCann that allowed all sorts of nonsense.

McCann can try and change the public record, but his votes are all recorded. Brand's bosom buddy, every time.

Perhaps a petition to have a moratorium on the real estate deals (due to the lack of legal and required process for sale of public surplus property) would be sufficient for a judge to issue an injunction to stop further activity.

Perhaps one (or more) of the candidates who have announced intention to run for the board in the November election might take the lead in seeking such an inunction to stop the 'pending' real estate deals.

Legal, judicial scrutiny is needed - any/all persons found to be part of any alleged or believed conspiracy to keep the truth from the taxpaying public MUST be held accountable. Claiming the excuse 'I was just doing my job' - we are over that one, we have had enough - WHEN YOU KNOW BETTER YOU DO BETTER - well,,,,, any/all employees are fully aware of the recent past conspiracies and where it got those involved - ah, that would be pleading out and convicted - so,,, we will be expecting - NO, DEMANDING ACCOUNTABILITY - termination, resignation or judicial accountability.

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH - what is it going to take to restore trust?

  • just my opinion

A complete forensic audit needs to be completed and it will be one of my first priorities.

Missionaccomplished - craving reports on actions against acceptance of the Cartmill shuffle but more importanly trying to inspire all to never let SuperintendentEd keep ill-begotten gains/school kids milk money.

Didn't try to flag myself. You're right, I wasn't clear. Will do better.

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