SPUSD to Sell Headquarters for Over $12 Million to Developer

Photo by Mitch Lehman / The Review
The South Pasadena Unified School District approved an agreement this week for the long-awaited sale of its main office on 1020 El Centro St., paving the way for its move next door to 1100 El Centro St.

The arduous journey of selling its historic but outgrown central office may finally be arriving at an end for the South Pasadena Unified School District.
Per an agreement ratified by the Board of Education this week, the district is expected to turn over custody of the property at 1020 El Centro St. to a developer for more than $12.25 million. The developer is listed under the name FSM SOPAS LLC in public documents.
The tentative sale caps years of consideration and attempts by the district to move its main offices and sell the longtime location, which remains in strong need of renovations and is no longer considered appropriate to handle operations at the district’s current scale. Those attempts to sell have magnified in the past year, with multiple purchase agreements falling through and ultimately forcing the district to use a loan to pull the trigger on its new location.
“Let this be the last time that we vote on an agreement like this,” Superintendent Geoff Yantz quipped on Tuesday night.

Yantz explained that an agreement reached with this buyer that the board approved in April “unraveled” soon after, but district staff rallied to “patch up” the purchase and bring it back this week. The superintendent added that FSM SOPAS has made its first deposit for the purchase, which he added was irrevocable.
“It’s a substantial amount, so they are committed to the project,” Yantz added, saying that depending on future decisions the deal could close in mid-June. “In the end, the district is in a very good position with the deposits that have been made, whether the property actually goes through the full closing with this particular investor. If it does, we’re in good shape as well.”
The district agreed earlier this year to move forward with buying its new location — just across Fairview Avenue, at 1100 El Centro St. — after prior attempts to sell 1020 El Centro fell through. Previously, the school board had agreed in principle to buy 1100 El Centro, but conditioned the formal purchase on the sale of the current location.
Instead, the school board agreed in January to borrow $11 million, at 2.48% interest over 20 years, to move forward on 1100 El Centro. It also secured an option for early payment upon selling 1020 El Centro.
The historic main office, which is more than 100 years old, is considered by the city to be a key part of its Mission Street Specific Plan, as the building’s parking lot borders Mission Street and the property provides a bridge to El Centro Street and the South Pasadena Public Library. Prior prospective buyers had proposed adding mixed-use buildings, with condos and storefronts, to the lot in addition to a boutique hotel, while renovating the building and converting the board meeting room into a performance stage.
It wasn’t immediately clear what FSM SOPAS’ plans for the lot are as of the Review’s press deadline, as negotiations occurred behind closed sessions.
School board members breathed a sigh of relief on Tuesday, almost tripping over themselves to get the vote going after Yantz previewed the item. Board member Michele Kipke observed that consideration of the sale had occupied nearly her entire time with the school board.
“This is the right thing for our community and this is the right thing for our district,” she said Tuesday.