By Lynn and Russell MarrWe hope that members of the community will come to the Sept. 12 Encinitas Council Meeting to support saving Pacific View and to support Council’s again denying a Specific Plan Amendment to upzone the surplus school site.
A smaller community art center can be developed without EUSD needing to resort to a threatening lawsuit, attempting to leverage the City and to force privatization of donated land, to force for-profit development at the expense of the general public, in the name of “the arts.”
There was no real “hurdle” for Art Pulse to clear at last Tuesday’s Encinitas Union School District Meeting (Aug. 17 Coast News article, “Proposed art center clears hurdle.”) Because the Brown Act allows for (but doesn’t mandate) an exception to the open meeting rule for real property negotiations, all of the “finagling” with Superintendent Timothy Baird, Art Pulse Director April Game, and Pacific Station developer John DeWald, was done in closed session, with the public cut out of the process of seeing and approving the proposed design.
Another public speaker, Annie Leaf, who also opposes overly intrusive redevelopment, shared at the Aug.14 EUSD meeting that only 30 days were allowed for submission of proposals. Art Pulse was quickly chosen to submit a proposal over DEMA advocated Envision the View, and others, including those proposing to lease the property, making public improvements, without resorting to selling donated land, which many feel should remain in the public domain.
EUSD didn’t do its homework in vetting Art Pulse, chosen because April Game misrepresented her non-profit to be well backed, financially, with “deep pocket” sponsors. The Coast News reported Art Pulse has been running at a deficit. We’re informed that a significant grant awarded to Art Pulse by California Arts Council was RESCINDED last year because Game represented a loan as income. The public doesn’t deserve approximately 20 percent of the land be sold to a for-profit developer, for duplexes, residences that struggling artists won’t be able to afford.
EUSD also dropped the ball by failing to consider the applicability of the Naylor Act, part of California Education Code, which provides that 30 percent of the surplus school site, or .84 acre should have been offered to the public, for open space, at 25 percent of its appraised value when the land was initially leased to the City of Encinitas, which paved over the playing fields for a temporary public works yard. EUSD NEVER had an appraisal done!
While we support struggling artists and a smaller community art center, we don’t support the proposed monolithic structure, encompassing nearly the entire property, and an amphitheatre which could interfere with the peaceable dwelling of neighbors with nighttime performances and possibly hundreds of car trips, extra, per day, or evening. Encinitas has a large, $24 million library, where many artists display their work and perform. Taxpayers also spend over $100,000 per year for an Art Director.
Trustee Maureen Muir has it right. Donated land, which is “compatibly zoned” with surrounding properties as public/semi-public, shouldn’t be sold off for a developer’s profits. Artists could sell their work at a smaller scaled community art center, with a major or minor use permit, which would be issued through the City without our being forced to upzone to mixed use residential due to being “leveraged” by a bogus, threatening lawsuit initiated by EUSD against the City of Encinitas at taxpayer expense.
Superintendent Baird left Ojai Unified School District amidst controversy caused by his attempting to break promises made to establish a skate park on a surplus school site, instead favoring a so-called “art center,” which many Ojai residents described as a “strip mall.” The skate park was built after Baird left Ojai to come to EUSD at an additional $65,000 per year, so that his salary is now allegedly in excess of $200,000, while he claims Pacific View must be privatized and over-developed “for the children.” On the contrary, if the land is sold off, an historical gem, part of our community character, an irreplaceable pubic asset, would be forever lost.
We feel that Art Pulse packed the meeting with its supporters; many locals including art supporters, have been bamboozled. We can support struggling artists, and the arts, without giving up on our heritage.
Lynn and Russell Marr are Leucadia residents