Cardiff School Construction Updates
Cardiff School District is pleased to announce that the new Cardiff School classrooms, lunch area, hardcourt, and the southern portion of the school play fields are complete and happily occupied by our Kindergarten through second grade students and staff. In addition, the beautiful, newly renovated Cardiff School playfields and hardcourt are open after school hours to the public.
The District looks forward to completing the final project element, the partially completed multipurpose building, now that the final grant agreement issues associated with it are resolved.
The District wishes to sincerely thank the Cardiff community for its support of Measure GG and all of our construction efforts to create a modern learning environment for our students.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do we need a new multipurpose room?
The District designed Cardiff School’s new site plan to create a safer and more secure campus for our students. Our old multipurpose room location was situated so that visitors had to walk through the entire campus to reach the multipurpose room for events. This led to our campus being unsafe and difficult to secure when visitors were on campus. Now, the multipurpose room is located at the front of the school where we can secure the campus while also allowing guests to visit. Guests will no longer have the option to linger throughout the campus while events are taking place. In today’s world, it is imperative that we ensure the safety of our students in all situations. This new location of the multipurpose room will help to protect both our students and teachers.
How did the multipurpose room get partially completed?
In November 2016, the community of Cardiff originally passed Measure GG, a $22 million bond for the improvement to Cardiff and Ada Harris School facilities including the Cardiff School Modernization and Reconstruction Project ("Project"). After extensive community input and numerous design changes that were responsive to community input while prioritizing student safety and educational programs, construction on the Project commenced in June of 2019.
Unfortunately, delays were experienced due to litigation commenced against the District in state court by a group of local neighbors primarily related to a 1993 Land and Water Conservation Fund (“LWCF”) grant agreement applicable to the Cardiff School property.
The District ultimately entered into a settlement agreement resolving the state court lawsuit that deferred the LWCF issues/approvals to the applicable agencies, the National Park Service (“NPS”) and the California Department of Parks and Recreation, Office of Grants and Local Services (OGALS).
In April 2020, after extensive collaboration with the agencies, the District received an unconditional conversion approval that resolved all past and current LWCF issues on the property and that allowed all remaining construction work on the Project to commence, including the multipurpose room. Unfortunately, a second lawsuit was commenced by the neighbors against the NPS in federal court in the summer of 2020. This litigation resulted in NPS, for what the District understands is the first time in the history of the LWCF program, rescinding an unconditional approval in September 2020. As a result, construction on the multipurpose room was halted and the portion of the building constructed to date was secured and protected. The multipurpose room and the remaining improvements subject to the LWCF agreement were then completed in subsequent phases as approvals were obtained by the NPS and/or OGALS.
How did the District resolve the outstanding LWCF issues with the agencies?
Since the time of NPS’ unprecedented rescission in the fall of 2020, the District has continued to work collaboratively with and through OGALS to resolve the remaining LWCF grant agreement issues. These efforts have resulted in numerous additional approvals for individual components of the Project consisting of almost all of the remaining improvements within the original grant agreement area, including, but not limited to, the hard courts, play apparatus, outdoor plaza, parking lot, stormwater biofiltration basins, walkways, and landscaping. Construction of these improvements was completed in 2021 and the winter of 2022, leaving only the multipurpose room and the adjacent northern playfield turf incomplete pending resolution of the final LWCF issues with the agencies.
Once the outstanding issues impacting the remaining Project improvements were narrowed, the District entered into settlement discussions with OGALS to mutually agree on a final resolution of the outstanding LWCF “conversion” areas on the property, which date back to 2002. Ultimately, the parties came to an agreement that the District would prepare an appraisal to determine the value of potential replacement property. The District will then contribute that dollar value to OGALS and in exchange OGALS will take responsibility for locating and acquiring replacement property pursuant to the LWCF program. The final Settlement and Supplemental Project Agreement can be found here.
Why was the District willing to commit to making the payment to OGALS?
Throughout the challenges and delays the Project faced, the Board was united in seeking to complete the Project as originally designed to serve Cardiff students and the larger Cardiff community. With this as the paramount priority, the Board constantly reviewed all potential options for attempting to resolve the LWCF issues. However, in working collaboratively with OGALS and taking into account the drastic impacts of construction cost escalation on the remaining work needed to complete the Project, making the financial commitments contemplated by the agreement with OGALS was the only way for construction of the multipurpose room building to be completed in the near term. In addition, the District was informed that construction cost escalation associated with another delay of even months could have resulted in cost escalation of 15% or more, which would roughly be equivalent to the final financial contribution contemplated by the agreement. Thus, further delays also risked making the potential completion of the multipurpose room financially infeasible.
Why was there urgency in the District borrowing additional funds to complete the multipurpose room?
When the District originally entered into negotiations with OGALS on the potential settlement of the outstanding issues, the District began exploring its options for securing the financing needed on the best possible terms. This was needed because the cost escalation to complete the building had increased dramatically over the six year period since Measure GG originally passed, making the building unaffordable without additional funding.
Once conceptual agreement was reached on the financial terms of the settlement with OGALS, District staff took action to tentatively lock an interest rate on the financing in anticipation of the finalization of the settlement agreement. However, this tentative rate lock was only good if the District closed the loan by July 7. In the intervening time period, interest rates increased and if the tentative rate lock were to have expired, the District would have had to borrow funds at a new higher rate resulting in additional borrowing costs of hundreds of thousands of additional dollars. Accordingly, as soon as the District received final written approval from OGALS to recommence construction on the multipurpose room on July 1st, the Board immediately took action to realize this savings, approve the financing and authorize closing the loan in time to capture the lower interest rate.
Why was the multipurpose room originally designed in its current location?
While the District evaluated multiple options for the design and location of the multipurpose room during the design phase of the Project, there was really only one viable location that met all of the safety and educational criteria. From a safety perspective multipurpose room buildings are currently situated at the front of school campuses to preserve the single point of entry to the school as well as ensure that any community use or other activity with large numbers of non-students accessing the school site can be held in a location preventing unsupervised access to the remainder of the campus. In addition to the safety issues, having the multipurpose room adjacent to the parking lot, playfields and outdoor seating area allow for the best possible mix of educational programming and community uses. Finally, the multipurpose room building is the tallest building on campus and situating it anywhere other than the lowest point on campus would have made less sense.
Why has the District incurred such substantial legal fees?
Unfortunately, the legal challenges, complicated multi-agency jurisdictional issues and lengthy construction delays have required the District to proceed extremely carefully and deliberately. This required the District to develop and prepare to respond to an opposing legal strategy that appeared designed to purposefully cause delay and additional cost simply for the sake of depleting the District’s resources to the point the Project could not be completed as originally planned.
Did the agencies with jurisdiction over the LWCF ever request the District to redesign or remove any Project improvements?
No, neither OGALS nor NPS ever suggested the District change the approved Project design and educational improvements. OGALS consistently stated its commitment to making the District’s Project successful based on the Board’s commitment since the beginning of the Project to bring the site back into compliance with the original LWCF grant agreement for the first time since 2002. In addition, the District obtained invaluable assistance from Congressman Mike Levin’s office who took the time to understand the District’s position and assisted with the federal agency's role in the final resolution.
When will the multipurpose room be completed?
The District anticipates that construction will be finished in spring 2023.