Harvest at Limoneira: SPUSD hears update on upcoming development
Published:  April 20, 2016

The Harvest at Limoneira is looking to plant some joint use agreements as well as start a new school the board of the Santa Paula Unified School District was told at a recent meeting.

Tim Jones of the Lewis Group addressed the board April 13 noting the company is partners with Limoneira Co. in the East Area 1 development located east of historic downtown Santa Paula. 

“We will be calling it Harvest at Limoneira,” said Jones as “One of the master plan themes we have in several cities is a harvest theme…”

He acknowledged that the project — 1,500 homes and amenities approved by voters in 2008 — “Took a long time for Limoneira to get through the entitlement process,” but the project is now moving forward.

The engineering stage is grappling with issues of water, the planned bridge from the Limoneira property over Santa Paula Creek to connect with Santa Paula Street, building a fire facility and others.

“We’re in that now,” and the demolition of existing structures and orchards for the first phase of the project — about 500 homes located closest to Highway 126 and Hallock Drive — will start in September.

He noted that property “grading hopefully” would begin in January 2017 with lots ready for the market by November 2017.

Spring 2018 is when “Hopefully we’ll be starting a K-8 school at that time,” a decision that will depend on the outcome of a state bond measure on the June ballot. 

If the bond fails the new school will educate only elementary school grade students.

Model homes are expected to open in summer 2018 with move-ins beginning that fall. 

The new school said Jones would open in the fall of 2019.

“In this business,” schedules change but that he added is the current plan. 

There are challenges in meeting the schedule with the grading permit requiring review and approval by numerous agencies from FEMA to the State Regional Water Quality Board among others. 

Plans should be submitted to the city next month and Jones said applications to regulatory agencies are pending.

There have been “some really good meetings with the city” regarding the possibility of a K-8 school as more land would be needed to meet state guidelines. 

The 37-acre active park has also been the subject of discussion and community input will be sought for what activities the recreational area will offer.

Lot adjustments have also been addressed to “make a better school site…”

Assistant Superintendent Donna Rose said the district’s school architect reviewed the change and “had no concerns on this. One of the steps here is we have to have the legal borders before we apply to the state.”

Although the district is meeting its planning milestones for the new campus they still must wait until November to see if the state bond will be approved by voters to allow for a K-8 school. 

If so, said Rose “We want to be in line,” as soon as possible to secure state funding.

The Santa Paula City Council and SPUSD Board Ad Hoc Committee, staff and Jones have been meeting to determine joint use of facilities and “Discussions now are what areas do we have that have potential interest. The fields on the city park side have joint use,” attractions and Rose said, “The city potentially has interest in using our park or field,” for recreation program needs.

If a K-8 school was constructed there would be a gymnasium, another candidate for joint use although Rose noted, “school functions come first in priority…”

Parking can also be shared by the district and city for special events and programs.

Rose said a priority is if a joint use agreement is forged it must be exact and documented.

Michelle Kolbeck, a SPUSD Board Member who serves on the ad hoc committee, said that during its recent meeting, “Once again it was reiterated there is only $6 million” to spend on the 37-acre public park, including restrooms, sidewalks, lighting and parking.

“The city also brought up they might not be able to keep up with the maintenance fees,” and Kolbeck encouraged the school district to “squeeze out as much as we can for our own” as new plans for the Limoneira development is “there will be no civic center, no amphitheater, not a public gathering spot except the park grounds…and the city is not going to take care of any of those needs. 

Added Kolbeck, “People thought there were going to be bigger accommodations…”  

Limoneira will give the city $5 million in lieu of building the civic center and amphitheater but there is no restriction on what the payment is used for.

Student Representative Mireille Vargas asked if the new school would be open to all district students.

Rose said if the school were a K-8 it will “primarily” serve children in the new development although it is possible students from other schools would also attend. 

“One thing I learned,” said Board President Chris Wilson, also an ad hoc committee member, was amenities involving recreation would be “devoted to the homeowners association…”

Jones said a recreation center, a 6,500 square foot clubhouse, pool and spa would be available for use only by development residents.

“There will be fees to live there,” said Kolbeck who noted lights and streets would be covered by a Home Owners Association.

“These people will pay a hefty amount to live there,” she noted.

Jones said the city did not want to maintain streets. 

The development, he noted, “Will be open to the public, there won’t be gated communities,” but the streets inside the neighborhoods will be privately maintained.

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