Art Pulse deal may fall through

ENCINITAS – A possible deal that would sell the Pacific View Elementary site to the nonprofit organization Art Pulse may be on the verge of collapse if the decision is not put on a City Council agenda before a deadline of Oct. 30 when the organization is slated to give the Encinitas Unified School District a non-refundable deposit worth $300,000. 

Encinitas Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Timothy Baird addressed the Council Wednesday night during the oral communications session following official City business.

Baird had asked the Council last month to consider placing the issue on the agenda to discuss amending the city plan to allow for the building of a proposed art center. The district went so far as to drop its lawsuit against the city to have the property rezoned, in order to move the project forward.

Art Pulse, Baird said, wanted to get the city’s approval before putting up the deposit and expected the item to be placed on the agenda in order to go before the Council.

Including Wednesday’s meeting the Art Pulse item had been left off of the agenda twice; the previous meeting scheduled to take place Oct. 17 was canceled. The city’s reason for cancelling the meeting was that there weren’t enough items to be placed on the agenda.

“They (Council) knew about the deadline,” Baird said after the meeting. “And so Art Pulse has told me today, they’re not going to be able to give us the non-refundable deposit because they’ve not been able to get in front of the City Council,” he added. “When that happens, they breach the contract, the contract falls apart and we have no deal.”

Baird said he’s asked for Art Pulse to honor the deal and go on faith with the City Council, but at this point, they aren’t going to do that.

“And so we’re not going to say, ‘Oh, it doesn’t matter we don’t want your non-refundable deposit, and it’s OK if you breach the contract,’ because that’s not business either,” said Baird. “It could very easily be resolved if the Mayor said, ‘Hey, we’re going to have a special meeting on Friday or Monday.’ Well within their rights; that agenda could’ve been amended. Well within their rights. We do it frequently,” he said.

“Under the Brown Act, the Mayor or majority of the council can call for a special meeting,” said City Attorney Glen Sabine, when Councilwoman Teresa Barth asked on how to arrange such a meeting.

City Manager Gus Vina said that for an item to go on an agenda report it needs to be submitted two Wednesdays out. For an item to be placed on the Oct. 24 agenda, it would have needed to be submitted Oct. 15, he explained.

Vina did say they received court documents on Oct. 16 notifying them that the district’s lawsuit against the city had been dropped. He directed staff that the next available date with Council would be Nov. 14, which was their plan.

Vina said he was not aware of the Oct. 30 deadline, saying that that deadline was between the district and the project applicant.

The district stems to lose the $300,000 in guaranteed money next week and a total of $7.5 million overall should the deal not go through.

Baird said he didn’t know what the city had to gain over not putting this on an agenda. “I frankly think that the meeting that was canceled (Oct. 17) was so that they wouldn’t have to hear the Art Pulse deal. That’s my take on it because they have continuously stonewalled me; they’ve not answered me; they’ve not returned the calls.”

According to Baird, he made phone calls to Vina and Mayor Jerome Stocks to find out why the matter wasn’t being placed on an agenda. Baird said he and Vina did have a phone conversation, which he described as “interesting,” in which Vina told him it was “in the Mayor’s hands.”

Vina confirmed during the meeting that the two had spoken on Oct. 18.

Baird called the Mayor last week, left a message with the secretary and hasn’t heard since, he said. “I’ve sent letters; I’ve sent emails, no response from any of the council members.”

Following the meeting Stocks declined to comment.

“James Bond’s comments at the end (of the meeting) were for me, that, ‘We can’t do anything about this tonight so we’re leaving,’” Baird said.

Council member Bond did leave the meeting following the conclusion of official city business, and before the oral communications took place.

Bond said because of open government, “I can go home and watch the rest of the meeting, which I can’t participate anyway, via the Internet and I shall do so now.” He added that he was retiring in a couple of weeks anyway, “You don’t care what I think.”

Should the deal fall through, and the district already having dropped their lawsuit, the city and the district will have to start the process all over again.

“We will request the zoning change,” Baird said. “And if that gets denied as it has been done every time we’ve attempted to do it before, it will go back through the legal process. So the city spends more money, the district spends more money and we’re back right where we were.”



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