High-school site secured


A deal has been struck for the land where Canyon View High School should eventually sit.

Chico voters passed a $48 million bond in April 1998 that allotted $40 million for the city’s third comprehensive high school to be completed by fall 2002.

Instead, the land-buying process took six years, as the Chico Unified School District announced April 22 that it had agreed with the landowner, the Schmidbauer family of Eureka, to buy 50 acres on the west side of Bruce Road near Raley Boulevard for a cool $5,250,000.

Back in December 1997, the board-appointed School Site Selection Committee had estimated land costs at no more than $3 million.

But inflation and rising land values in Chico bumped up the price, a difference that is being made up by developer fees plus savings in other areas of the bond.

“The price has just been going up and up and up,” said Steve O’Bryan, president of the CUSD Board of Trustees. “Whether we build a school in a timely manner or not, it’s still a good investment.”

The district spent years focused on a Schmidbauer-owned site on the east side of Bruce Road, even though federal regulators made it clear they would never allow building on the environmentally sensitive land. For some time, the property owner had tried to lump the high-school land into a permit to build a large housing development. Eventually, the CUSD decided to go it alone, applying for and ultimately securing wetlands fill permits required due to the presence of vernal pools and endangered Butte County meadowfoam.

“The idea that we could build on the east side of Bruce Road set us back a couple of years,” O’Bryan said.

At one point, district officials feared they might have to pursue the politically unpopular process of eminent domain, forcing the landowner to sell in the public interest.

O’Bryan said that even though talks were going smoothly in recent months, “until we put the ink on the deal I was never sure it was going to happen.”

The district even considered trying to buy the entire 100-acre parcel from 20th Street to Raley Boulevard, O’Bryan said, hoping to lease part of the land to generate an income for the district.

As part of the sale agreement, which works out to $105,000 an acre, Schmidbauer agreed to forgo any legal claims against the school district. Escrow is expected to close sooner than the traditional 90 days.

Now the architectural design work can proceed, something that should take one and one-half to two years.