Eureka City School board votes to sell defunct Jacobs campus

Superintendent: District in talks with CHP as a potential buyer for a North Coast headquarters

The Eureka City Schools board voted unanimously Thursday night to sell the former Jacobs Junior High School site, which has been vacant for about a decade. (Ruth Schneider — The Times-Standard)
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The Eureka City School board voted unanimously Thursday night to sell the former Jacobs Junior High School site that has been a blight in the south Eureka neighborhood for many years.

The junior high was shuttered in 1982 but was used until the end of the 2008-09 school year for various other district needs including a stint at the Zoe Barnum campus.

“They are going to sell the campus and that doesn’t include the soccer fields,” district superintendent Fred Van Vleck said today. “The whole site is 14 acres and the soccer fields are 5 acres. That leaves 9 acres (to sell). There was no decision on who or how to sell that property. That will be coming in future meetings.”

The plan, Van Vleck said, is to aim for the “most profitable path forward.”

“We want to get as much money out of the property as possible so we can put that back into our capital facilities fund,” he said.

He said one of the community’s priorities is the speedy demolition of the buildings remaining on the campus. Whether that happens is something the district has to weigh as part of the “profitable path.” He estimated the cost of demolition could be as high as $2 million.

“We still believe it will be closer to the $2 million range,” he said. “Being a public agency, we have to go out to bid. Until we get a bid, we don’t know what it will be. What we are going to do, at this point, is figure out what will make the property the most valuable.”

The South Eureka Neighborhood Alliance, a group of residents who live in close proximity to the school, have been active in discussions about the future of the campus. As many as 10 members of the group attended the packed meeting Thursday night, with several speaking about neighborhood concerns.

Micha DeNizio, a member of the group who said she lives about four blocks from the school, said she was one of those who spoke to the board about the issue.

“We just told them we would like to have a seat at the table in what happens with their next decision, whether they keep it or sell it,” she told the Times-Standard this afternoon.

She reiterated that the stance of the group overall is to see the blight demolished as quickly as possible.

One of the options the school district is looking at is selling the site to the California Highway Patrol. Van Vleck said talks with the agency have been ongoing and it could be a future site for North Coast headquarters.

DeNizio said members of the neighborhood group are interested in the idea.

“There are some questions about CHP coming in just in terms of what (it means),” she said, “because it is residential and it is a school zone.”

She said there are concerns about sirens at all hours or speeding CHP vehicles. Efforts by this reporter to reach CHP to find out what would be in office if it was acquired were unsuccessful today.

Eureka City Councilwoman Kim Bergel also attended Thursday night’s school board meeting and has been active in ongoing discussions about the site’s future.

“I feel torn,” she said this afternoon. “After 10 years, it’s important we address the issue. The neighbors have been living with those (issues) for too long. This seems like the quickest solution.”

In recent months changes have been implemented at the site, including a $200,000 allocation that Van Vleck said cleared out lead paint and asbestos.

A fire at the site a few months ago left a portable destroyed.

“It was a big enough fire that it was an issue,” said Van Vleck, “but it wasn’t a big enough fire that it was a (cost) savings (in terms of demolition).”

One other idea recently implemented has been well-received by the neighborhood group — a contract between the district and New Directions that allows two formerly homeless individuals to live on site patrolling and monitoring the area.

“They are focusing on cleanup activities,” said Van Vleck. “Making sure there are no needles; making sure it is safe and monitoring the campus there. It’s a short term fix. It’s been a nice bridge in the short-term process.”

John Shelter, who runs New Directions, said what the organization is providing is a service they have done previously at residences. It helps people who are “work ready” transition from being homeless, he said.

“We’ve done it on a small level as far a houses go, taking them over so no damages get done to them,” Shelter said. “Versus being homeless, they provide a service and have a roof over their head. It’s done just until they can repurpose the property and get some control over it.”

DeNizio said there has been a noticeable difference since New Directions started helping out.

“So many other people are appreciative of New Directions for work that they’ve done,” she said. “They prevented some further damage. They have started cleaning up. Having it look better has helped the neighborhood spirit.”

The district will discuss the site again at its May 2 meeting, Van Vleck said.

Ruth Schneider can be reached at 707-441-0520.

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