Neighbors, surplus land committee visit shuttered Adams Middle School

Neighbors, surplus land committee visit shuttered Adams Middle School
West Contra Costa Unified School surplus land committee visits shuttered Adams Middle School on Tuesday, March 26, 2024.

Neighbors concerned about the future of the Adams Middle School property joined the West Contra Costa Unified School District 7-11 Committee for a site tour Tuesday evening.

The school, which has been empty since 2009, is one of four unused properties the committee will evaluate for the district.

Over the years, different groups have floated plans for the nine-acre property at 5000 Patterson Circle in unincorporated Richmond. Plans to sell the property to a charter school fell through in 2016. More recent ideas for workforce housing for teachers or other developments have been proposed. 

James Sanders, chair of the district’s 7-11 Committee, taught at Adams Middle School before it closed.

The 7-11 Committee was formed to review and assess the properties owned by the West Contra Costa Unified School District. Their task is to identify the existing properties no longer required for educational purposes. After an evaluation, the committee will provide a report outlining their recommendations for the surplus property.

Committee member Don Gosney said that Adams Middle School was closed more than a decade ago largely because it is on the Hayward Fault.

“A lot of people have a lot of ideas about what Adams should be repurposed for: including soccer fields, dog parks, workforce housing, low-income housing, businesses, regular parks, charter schools, and a host of other uses,” Gosney said.

According to former teacher James Sanders, chair of the district’s 7-11 Committee, the committee must discuss Adams’ potential uses.

“The idea, generally, is that we would find a way of creating some revenue for the district for the long term,” Sanders said.

In the zone

The one purpose the district can’t utilize it for is a school—the property is located in an active fault zone and sits on the edge of the Alquist Priolo zone.

“We are prohibited from rebuilding a school on this site,” Sanders said.

Although eerily quiet, many windows have been boarded up, graffiti painted over, and the weedy playgrounds cleared so the 67-year-old school looks much as it did when it was filled with 7th and 8th graders. 

Sanders said high-achieving kids went to Adams when it was a magnet school in the early 90s.

“All the people in the hills were fighting to get their kids into this school. Once the bankruptcy hit it stopped being a magnet school and went back to just being a middle school,” Sanders said.

Luis Freese, associate superintendent of facilities, maintenance, and bond, said the committee is an advisory group that surveys the district’s properties.

“They will make a recommendation or findings, and the board will make a decision on how they will deal with the properties in the end,” Freese said.

In 2015, neighbors and charter school opponents challenged plans to turn over the property to Caliber Beta Academy.

Richmond charter school facing opposition over wanting to build new campus
A charter school in Richmond is facing opposition from some parents who don’t want them to build a new school at the former site of Adams Middle School.

The site is listed in the Contra Costa County 2045 General Plan sites inventory with a proposed housing unit density between zero and 30 units per acre. However, 50 lower-income units are listed as a realistic option.

“All five parcels are adjacent and are parking lots or underutilized. They are all owned by the West Contra Costa Unified School District. This site is a former middle school site, which has been closed for several years,” according to the site inventory. “These parcels don’t allow 100 percent residential development, so realistic units on the site assume 60 percent of development is residential. 

Adams Middle School Site

The general plan says the school district is interested in developing this site with residential units during the planning period.

The report states that the number of units projected on this site assumes redevelopment of the whole site. There are no existing leases or contracts in place for this site that would perpetuate the existing use or prevent additional residential development.

The school site’s large size has raised concerns among East Richmond and East Richmond Heights neighborhood residents, who fear increased traffic congestion in the area.

Jim Hanson, President of the East Richmond Neighborhood Council, said neighbors are concerned about the school site’s development's effect on traffic on Arlington Avenue.

“The planning decisions about what happens here are really important to the neighbors,” Hanson said. “We want to stay in touch with what the conversations are and have a say.”

Caroline Kingsley and Alan Nelson, who live above the school, thought it would be fun to walk around the normally locked campus. Kingsley said most people want reasonably sized housing options, not high-rise buildings that cause traffic jams.

“We don’t want to put 10-story buildings down here and apartment houses. It is a wonderful nature area, and if it gets built up, we are going to see fewer birds and things like that,” Kingsley said.

Nelson supported a proposal for housing for teachers in the school system. 

“It could still be school property, but I don’t know what the economics of that would be,” Nelson said. “That would be great for the school district.”

Nelson also suggested the district could make use of the property as a solar farm.

“They could put solar panels on the roofs and provide electricity for the whole school district,” Nelson said.

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