ENCINITAS — An online campaign to stop Pacific View from being sold to the highest bidder launched on Feb. 13.
Following a breakdown in negotiations with the city, EUSD (Encinitas Union School District) voted last month to auction the property, set for March 25.
“The train has left the station in terms of this auction,” said resident Scott Chatfield, who created SavePacificView.org. “What I want to do is stop the train, take a breath and then we can hopefully reach a compromise.”
The website enables residents to submit a ready-made email petition to the EUSD board and council members that reads, in part: “I’m writing to you because I believe the Pacific View parcel is a community treasure that our children should be able to enjoy for generations to come.”
Along with the boilerplate text, residents can add their own thoughts.
“Over 100 emails have been sent so far, and over half put in their own passionate comments,” Chatfield said.
Chatfield is no stranger to online advocacy. The California Public Utilities Commission wanted to change the 760 area code in 2008, and with Chatfield’s keep760.org contributing, the agency changed its mind.
“The website worked, but I recognize that this is a potentially more complex situation,” Chatfield said.
Chatfield said a “strong feeling to preserve Pacific View” struck him while laying in bed late one night, leading him to get up and create the website in a rush.
He noted the website is primarily his effort, and residents like Mark Patterson, the “Surfing Madonna” artist, and business owner Fred Caldwell have offered advice on how to spread word of its existence.
Recently, the city decided not to take part in EUSD’s auction, because council members stated the property isn’t worth the minimum bid of $9.5 million, under its current zoning. The EUSD board believes the property could be rezoned for housing or a mixed-use project, boosting its value.
“It seems like the animosity between the school board and the city has gotten to the point where all communication is frozen, Chatfield said. “I thought it would be a really good idea if the people of this area could weigh in and try and thaw things out.”
John S. Pitcher deeded the 2.8-acre property to the Encinitas School District in 1883. At that time, Encinitas’ original schoolhouse was built on the site, and after being moved, returned to the property about 30 years ago.
Pacific View Elementary was built in 1953, yet shuttered in 2003 following a decline in enrollment.
“Residents want to keep the land in the public’s hands,” Chatfield said, adding a community facility of some sort should go there.
A string of proposals over the years, like the nonprofit Art Pulse’s plan to build a community arts center and homes on the property, have failed to move forward.
EUSD trustee Carol Skiljan has responded to messages from the website with an email that states, in part: “The district has exhausted all avenues and will be moving forward with the sale of the property in accordance with applicable government and education codes.”
The email goes on to say: “Be assured that it is the district’s intent that the purchaser of the (Pacific View) property is subject to keeping the old schoolhouse on this site so that future students and residents can experience a view of Encinitas’ past.”
Skiljan also states it’s the board’s responsibility to be fiscally responsible with district assets to protect students’ quality of education.
The district has said money from the sale of Pacific View could go toward infrastructure improvements or the district’s general fund on a one-time basis.
Maureen Muir, the only trustee who voted against the auction, has encouraged those sending petition emails via SavePacificView.org to continue online correspondence with policymakers and show up at future school board meetings.
“I completely disagree with the policy platform my colleagues have taken,” Muir has written in email responses to the petitioners, adding that she wants the land to stay public.