Planning Commission pushes forward PV High auditorium

This grassy lot is a proposed site for a new campus auditorium at Pajaro Valley High. — Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian

WATSONVILLE — The Watsonville Planning Commission on Tuesday unanimously recommended the City Council approve the construction of Pajaro Valley High School’s proposed auditorium.

According to Principal Planner Justin Meek, an approval of the 15,000-square-foot, 450-seat state-of-the-art building requires an amendment to the Coastal Development Permit currently in place at the school located at 500 Harkins Slough Road.

The auditorium would be constructed adjacent to the cafeteria just to the right of the school’s front entrance.

If approved by the council, the Pajaro Valley Unified School District (PVUSD) could at last complete the school’s campus. 

The school was OK’d by the council in 2001, and opened its doors in 2004. The 2001 approval, however, did not include plans for a sports stadium or an auditorium. 

It wasn’t until the passing of Measure L, a $150 million bond approved by voters in 2012, that the PVUSD made a push to finish the school. But that proposal was met with heavy pushback from several agencies, including the Watsonville Pilots Association (WPA), which threatened litigation if plans were approved.

However, a settlement between the WPA and PVUSD in 2017 allowed the construction of the school’s athletic fields, a $12.9 million project slated to be completed before the start of the 2020-21 school year, so long as the district continued to build on the school’s existing footprint.

Tuesday’s decision was another positive, long-awaited step toward completing the school.

“It sure took us a long time to get here,” said commissioner Jenny Sarmiento, “but I’d like to say congrats to the school district.”

Commissioner Phillip F. Tavarez, known as “The Voice of the Grizzlies” for volunteering as the announcer for the school’s football games over the years, shared the same sentiments. 

“I know it really does bring joy to the students, the idea of having their own place to be high school kids,” Tavarez said. “It’s nice to see it finally coming to fruition.”

Pajaro Valley Principal Matt Levy said the school already has over 70 kids enrolled in band and another 70 signed up for the drama club. The addition, he said, would give them a place to practice and showcase their creativity — something they have not had in the past. 

“We have freshman excited about this project and we hope they’ll be performing there before they’re out of school,” Levy said.

According to PVUSD Chief Business Officer Joe Dominguez, a review of the proposed plans and the public bidding process would start soon, pending the council’s approval.

Dominguez said the construction of the auditorium would be positive for both the PVUSD and the City, which could host events at the center. 

“Not only is this a resource for our high school, it’s a resource for our community,” Dominguez said.

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