FOSTER CITY — The City Council has dealt a serious blow to an effort by a local nonprofit group to build a public charter high school on four acres of a 15-acre property that the city has slated for development.

Shortly after midnight Tuesday, at the close of a three-hour public hearing, Councilman Rick Wykoff introduced a motion to prevent the city from placing a debt-financing measure on the ballot in February, quashing the Foster City High School Foundation's request for city funding.

Wykoff's measure, which passed

3-2, gave the foundation until June, 2008, to come up with $15 million, which is how much the organization estimates it would cost to construct a school building on the southeast portion of the site, which is adjacent to City Hall.

Since the foundation missed out on a chance earlier this year to apply for state financing through Proposition 1D, a $10.4 billion school funding measure passed by California voters in 2006, the group's financial options are now limited.

Phyllis Moore, president of the Foster City High School Foundation, said she was "very disappointed" by the council's decision. Moore said the foundation's board of directors will meet in the next few days to discuss how to proceed.

The council was asked by city staff whether it would consider placing a measure on the ballot asking property owners if they want to form a community facilities district. Property owners within these districts agree to tax themselves to pay for large-scale improvement projects.


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Wykoff argued that it is not the city's responsibility to pay for school construction. That burden properly rests with the San Mateo Union High School District, to which the charter high school would belong, he said.

The district has indicated it does notsupport the establishment of the charter school.

Councilwoman Linda Koelling, who joined Councilwoman Pam Frisella in voting for Wykoff's motion, agreed that Foster City residents should not finance the school, especially since it would be open to students from throughout the school district.

Under the agreement between the foundation and its partner, Envision Schools, Foster City students would not be guaranteed a place in the school, which would have a maximum enrollment of 500 students.

"I do not believe that the residents of Foster City should bear the whole cost for this when it's a districtwide school," Koelling said.

Councilman John Kiramis and Mayor Ron Cox voted against Wykoff's motion.

Huijun Ring, a supporter of the foundation and a candidate in this November's City Council election, urged the council and the foundation to exhaust their options in finding a home for the school.

"I would like the City Council to own the problem of financing the building," said Ring, who encouraged city officials Monday to see if Sares Regis Group of Northern California, the lead developer for the 15-acre site, would be willing to chip in.

Ring said the foundation needs to look into renting space in an existing building elsewhere in Foster City if financing for a "community education center" on the 15-acre site does not come through.

The issue of the charter high school is sure to be an issue in the council race, since both Koelling and Wykoff are up for re-election in November.

Bob Nelson, a founder of the foundation who left the group on amicable terms, said the organization will have to rethink its fundraising strategy following Monday's setback.

"That's what everyone is pondering now," Nelson said of the foundation's supporters. "What is the next step?"

Staff writer Aaron Kinney can be reached at 650-348-4302 or akinney@sanmateocountytimes.com.