School board drops lawsuit

ENCINITAS — The Encinitas Union school board voted on Oct. 4, to drop a lawsuit against the city stemming from the council’s rejection of the board’s rezoning application last year. 

The suit was put on hold while the board negotiated with Art Pulse, a nonprofit group to purchase the former Pacific View elementary school site. However, when the council refused to entertain the nonprofit group’s request to rezone the property, citing a pending lawsuit by the school board, Enicinitas Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Tim Baird said there was little choice but to drop the suit.

City Council voted 4-0, with Deputy Mayor Kristin Gaspar recusing herself, not to accept the request for a general plan amendment to create a new arts center, mixed use zone at the site.

The council agreed that the request could return after the pending lawsuit was resolved.

Gaspar removed herself from the proceedings because she felt she could not participate “unless and until the lawsuit with the district is resolved.”

“I’m surprised the council used the lawsuit as a reason for denying the Art Pulse a chance at rezoning,” Baird said before the school board vote. “We sent the council a letter promising to drop the suit if it approved the group’s plan to at least begin the rezoning process.

“If we decide to re-file (the suit) at a later time, of course, we can,” Baird added.

John DeWald, a developer working with Art Pulse submitted a letter of intent for a formal general plan amendment. The request sought to change the current public/ semi-public zoning to a new, undefined category called arts center, mixed use.

Formal action on the request would require a public meeting with the applicant and the neighbors and would only come to the council for a vote after a recommendation from Planning Commission, according to Diane Langager of the city’s planning and building department.

Located on Third Street between E and F Streets, the modest school is surrounded by commercial buildings and smaller homes, with a few exceptions. It closed due to declining enrollment in the area in 2003.

While several proposals have been tossed around regarding the future of the site, none have been met with success.

In 2005, an advisory committee was created consisting of various stakeholders.An initial proposal to build a medical complex with office space and condos was met with disapproval by the downtown community.

San Diego-based nonprofit Art Pulse was chosen out of three proposals by the school board in part because the group plans to purchase the site for $7.5 million and has some funds on hand.

The group partnered with DeWald who agreed to pay the $300,000 escrow deposit and an additional $3 million of the total purchase price. In return, DeWald would own part of the land in order to develop up to seven single-family homes.



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