Old Asylum Could be Converted into New High School

Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) wants to turn an old insane asylum into a north San Jose high school serving up to 2,800 students.

Existing law requires the state to sell surplus properties to local agencies—or private citizens and organizations—for fair market value. Wieckowski introduced a bill a couple months ago that specifically requires the California Department of General Services to sell the shuttered Agnews Developmental Center to the Santa Clara Unified School District. The Rules Committee could ask the city to draft a resolution to support the bill since a new high school campus would benefit kids in the Alviso and north San Jose neighborhoods.

Agnews has a pretty interesting history, at turns eerie and scandalous. The state closed it in 2009, after the center spent 120 years caring for developmentally disabled patients. Just last year, the state Attorney General’s Office filed charges against security officers from the Office of Protective Services for collecting ridiculous overtime pay for two years after the facility shut down.

One of the oldest psychiatric care facilities in California, Agnews used to be an insane asylum, treating mental disorders as far back as the Gold Rush. Some people believe it is haunted; maybe that’s why it needed overtime security guards even after its doors closed.

More from the Rules and Open Government Committee agenda for April 3, 2013:

• Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2010 move to eliminate redevelopment agencies (RDA) allowed local governments to hang on to the affordable housing element. That meant San Jose, with its $600 million in housing assets, would continue to reap revenue from residential properties under its purview to feed into its low- and moderate-income housing fund.

The committee will decide if the City Council should consider drafting a resolution in support of a SB 341, which would give San Jose more flexibility in how to use that housing revenue. Right now, the money can only be spent in redevelopment areas. The legislation proposed by Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) would let the city spend funds on affordable housing projects anywhere in its jurisdiction. It would also allow more money to be used on senior housing and shelters for the homeless.

• The John XXIII Senior Center needs better freight loading zones so the Second Harvest Food Bank can better drop off its weekly deliveries for needy seniors, says the city’s Director of Transportation Hans Larsen in a letter to the public record.

• The Department of Transportation has allocated $900,000 in the coming year to pay for pedestrian street improvements, like crosswalks on major roadways, Larsen adds.

• Councilman Sam Liccardo’s memo that calls for the city to restrict sidewalk-bicycling in downtown is headed to the Transportation and Environment Committee next week, Larsen says in an update.

A grant from the Centers for Disease Control allowed the city to pay for a bunch of anti-obesity efforts, like research and making sure kids have access to healthy food during afterschool programs. The committee will hear an update about those efforts and start discussing ways to continue the outreach after the grant expires next year.

WHAT: San Jose Rules and Open Government Committee meets
WHEN: 2pm Wednesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: 408.565.1260

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

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