ENCINITAS — An almost unanimous Encinitas City Council signaled its support for a proposal that would allow the group working on a long-term project at the Pacific View Elementary School site to get on the grounds in advance of the lease to clean up the property.
The City Council voted 4-1, with Mayor Kristin Gaspar opposed, to have the City Attorney and staff draft a “right of entry agreement, which would allow the nonprofit that calls itself the Encinitas Arts, Culture and Ecology Alliance to access the property to maintain it.
The alliance and city have been negotiating a long-term agreement for the property since September, when the council selected the group over a second proponent as their choice to steward the property, which the group wants to transform into an arts, culture and ecology center.
But those negotiations have gone on longer than originally anticipated, and city and alliance officials are expecting they could drag on for at least another six months. Meanwhile, the property, which has been shuttered since 2003, sits in dilapidated condition and is an eyesore, officials said.
The alliance, in exchange for permission to clean up the property, has offered to pay for the maintenance, as well as provide the city with liability insurance and indemnity.
“To me, I can’t imagine them making it any worse than it is,” said Deputy Mayor Lisa Shaffer, who is on the council subcommittee spearheading the Pacific View process. “The upside is enormous.”
Gaspar, however, raised concerns about allowing the group on the property before both sides had agreed on the lease.
“I just feel like it’s backward,” Gaspar said. “I just don’t think a future tenant should have access to the property before the lease is executed.”
An attorney representing a property owner who shares a common border with the property also raised concerns that the agreement would run afoul of state environmental quality laws by potentially starting work on the project before it goes through the process.
But City Attorney Glenn Sabine, who will vet the agreement, said the group will be limited in what they can do on the site, and said the agreement would not violate any laws.
“I wouldn’t propose anything that would violate CEQA,” Sabine said, referring to the California Environmental Quality Act.
A number of members of the alliance showed up to Wednesday’s council meeting to voice support for the right of entry agreement, including the group’s leader, Garth Murphy, who said the group’s end game with the interim agreement was simply maintenance.
“We would go there just to flush the toilets,” he said.