Charter Square Owners May Be Forced to Sell to School District

The district has its eye on a building inside Charter Square at 1050-1064 Shell Blvd. in Foster City.

The owners of Charter Square Shopping Center aren't interested in selling the property to the local elementary school district, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

The district has its eye on a building inside Charter Square at 1050-1064 Shell Blvd., which would give the school restaurants, dry cleaners, a hair salon, insurance agency, mini-mart, bank and martial arts studio as immediate neighbors.

However, that would mean displacing more than a dozen businesses, whose owners and employees are waiting to learn their fate as the district takes its next step.

Due to overcrowding in Foster City's three elementary schools, San Mateo-Foster City School District officials want to change the retail plaza into Foster City's fourth K-5 school --- and they have the power of eminent domain on their side.

The property is managed by Westlake Realty Group. Asset manager Sunny Tong told the Mercury News that he hasn't heard from the district since late summer, when he made it clear in several conversations that Westlake wants to pursue its own plan to redevelop the site, keeping some of the commercial tenants and adding housing.

"Our position has always been the same. We're not interested in selling the center," said Tong, adding that he is nonetheless open to further discussion with the district.

The district had previously narrowed down the possible location of the new school to four, including properties at 1164 Triton Dr., 551 Foster City Blvd. and 400 Mariners Island Blvd. in San Mateo, before deciding on the Charter Square location.

The owners of Charter Square may have no choice but to give up the property.

"It's up to the school board to decide whether a school is necessary to construct, and whether the property is necessary for the school," Tim Fox, an attorney in the San Mateo County Counsel's Office who is consulting with the district on acquiring the site, told the Mercury News.

The use of eminent domain by schools is rare, said Fox, one of several deputy counsels who work with San Mateo County schools. Eminent domain is permitted under the Fifth Amendment, which allows the government to purchase private property for public use without the owner's consent.

The district must decide by March 9 whether to put a $130 million bond measure on the June 5 ballot to pay for the new school and other projects.


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