District Office to Make Big Move — Across the Street

Photo by Mitch Lehman / The Review
The South Pasadena Unified School District plans to sell its longtime main office, which is a historic landmark.

If everything works out, the South Pasadena Unified School District office will at this time next year be moving all the way across the street, ceding its current historic site to a new owner who will preserve its integrity for a more appropriate use.
The board of education unanimously approved the conditional purchase of the building at 1100 El Centro St., which sits on the corner opposite to the current office along Fairview Avenue, for $10,750,000 at its meeting Tuesday night. The purchase is conditional upon the sale of the district’s current office, which is at 1020 El Centro St.
The district is soliciting bids for the current building through June 25, through the website spusdrfp.com.
“It’s a win-win all around,” board President Michele Kipke said Tuesday night. “Our current building wasn’t designed for offices. The city needs that space as part of its development plan, and there’s no question that it could be better used than how it’s currently used.”
The current office, built more than 100 years ago, likely requires around $6 million to bring it up to current building codes and standards. Its 16,000 square feet of space has been insufficient for the district especially in recent years, as storage has been migrated to portable containers and technology more-or-less shoehorned in place.
“As you know, there are significant workspace and systemic and structural issues with the current district office,” Superintendent Geoff Yantz explained Tuesday. “That’s a significant investment that the district would have to make in order to recondition the property. There are workspace issues. It’s inadequate. It’s a poor design for us and what our needs are.”
By comparison, the new location, built in the 1970s, boasts a more recently renovated 20,000 square feet of space. It is currently occupied by the Collins Collins Muir and Stewart law firm, the founding trust for which owns the property; the firm is slated to vacate the building after March.

Photo by Mitch Lehman / The Review
After selling its current location, the South Pasadena Unified School District will move across the street to this location, which this week it agreed to conditionally purchase.

Yantz mentioned that the district had considered how it might extract itself from the location for nearly a dozen years while the city concurrently discussed how to better implement the property into its Mission Street Specific Plan.
“As you know, the city has been advocating for us to utilize that land in order to help create economic, social and cultural activity in the Mission Street corridor,” the superintendent said.
The school board was enthusiastic about the good news following months of the coronavirus pandemic completely upending the school year and after facing down what could be a budgetary disaster as the state reels from the resultant economic fallout.
“I think that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, that we have found a building that meets our needs and is centrally located,” Suzie Abajian said.
“This property, it’s kind of outlived its useful life as an office,” Jon Primuth opined. “We’re long past that, actually. I’m just delighted that the timing has come up and we had this property available.”
Yantz, in an interview Wednesday morning, reiterated his excitement at moving the district forward in a way to expand its service offerings to students and more appropriately accommodate all of the district’s functions.
“It’s the absolutely perfect building for our district operations,” he said. “It’s a big milestone. We still have a lot of work ahead of us to make sure it happens. It’s certainly an excellent opportunity.”