Renovation and relocation plans to proceed

The addition of Rancho Elementary School will allow more space for students, teachers and staff.


Katie Juranek

Biola recently bought the Rancho elementary school location in order to accommodate Biola staff. | Katie Juranek/THE CHIMES

Michelle Hong, Writer

Despite a nearly two month delay in acquiring Rancho Elementary School as the newest addition to the Biola campus, officials signed a 10-year lease on Sept. 1, allowing the ensuing steps of renovations and relocation of some staff to proceed by Oct. 1.

Biola has agreed to lease approximately 18,000 square feet of the available 30,000 square feet as well as 8.8 acres of open fields with exclusive rights that will be available for intramural purposes, practice grounds and other activities. The property, which is located less than a mile away from the main campus, will be housing divisions from the University Advancement Department, Biola Youth Theatre and Ministry Outreach and Biola Youth Academics.

Terms of the lease

The Norwalk-La Mirada School District was not able to give Biola the right to purchase the property because of California laws, which regulate the process by which school districts can sell property. In order for Biola to accept these terms, Michael Pierce, vice president for business and financial affairs, said that a future rent cap was agreed upon in the negotiation process due to all the improvements going to be made.

“The value of the property is going to rise,” Pierce said. “So what we were able to do was make a cap to future rent increases so that the value of our improvements isn’t included in any rent increase.”
Ken Bascom, senior director of facilities planning and construction, said that Biola will be paying $1 for every square foot per month, which would amount to approximately $18,000 per month. Though the price is based on the building’s square footage, the fields are also included. Biola has leased the property for 10 years, but has the possibility to back out of the lease in five years.
“The school district can’t kick us out after five years, but we have the right to end the lease if we wanted to,” Bascom said.

Although Biola does not currently have the option to purchase the property, Pierce said that it will be a part of Biola’s future for a very long time.

Impacting the student body

According to Bascom, the biggest and possibly the only direct impact acquiring Rancho Elementary will have on students is the availability of the fields. Bascom said that the first person he contacted after the lease was signed was Luke Hamagiwa, intramural board director, making him aware of the available space for future use. The fields will also be available for non-sporting related events.

“The fields are available for whatever we want and that was one of the really attractive things about that property,” Pierce said. “It just provides so much flexibility for our future, so we’re really excited to have it.”

Pierce elaborated that another huge benefit of exclusive rights to the fields is having the right of first refusal, which allows Biola to grant permission to the city or other organizations in order for them to use the fields. For outside parties to have access to the fields on the Rancho campus, they must ask for permission from Biola. Bascom said that although the university has the right of first refusal, youth sports programs sponsored by the city will still be using the grounds and the city will be maintaining and funding the upkeep of the fields.

While students will benefit directly from the field, they will not be directly impacted by the moving of personnel. The individuals who will be moving to the new location are those who do not come in contact with the student body on a regular basis, such as the universities’ fundraising group in upper Metzger and those in the Biola Professional Building. Pierce sees opportunities to use space more effectively as a result of making these changes.

“In fact, the students might be positively impacted because some of the things that we are doing as a result of freeing up this space is [allowing] more faculty [to] be able to get offices so students will be able to interact with them more in less cramped quarters,” Pierce said.

Delayed signing causes setbacks

In order to start moving staff to the new site, the facilities must first undergo a two-step renovation process, the first of which includes paint and carpet, expected to get done by Oct. 1. Category two requires more of the significant changes and improvements that must first be approved by the Division of the State Architect (DSA), at which Biola will have 90 days to work on the changes without paying for rent.

Some of these category two changes include modernizing electrical plans, air conditioning and heating systems and creating wheelchair compatible bathrooms. The restrooms will be renovated to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which has strict regulations on public restrooms specifically for wheelchair access.

The delayed signing of the lease has pushed back the completion dates of these renovations, creating a domino effect for everyone involved.

“Because we could not move some people down there, it has delayed the changes that were supposed to happen in upper Metzger, which has just created a big chain of events,” Pierce said.

Time-consuming negotiations

The negotiation process began last fall after Mike Crosby, manager of real estate assets in Biola’s financial department notified Biola officials of the available property in October 2010. After Biola demonstrated financial viability by submitting the necessary five to six key components the district was asking for – a number of financial documents – the school district approved the bid and then drafted a proposed lease for Biola, Pierce explained.

The negotiations were primarily handled by Jerry Mackey, university legal counsel, and Crosby, whom sifted through the details that included insurance policies, which proved to be the most time-consuming negotiating point, according to Pierce.

“We probably went back and forth about 10 or 12 times and unfortunately, each time it goes back and forth could take a week or two weeks to address a particular issue,” Pierce said.

Despite the delay, Bascom and Pierce said that the plans to move forward will take effect very soon.

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