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Site rezoning denied again

ENCINITAS — An expected outcome was nevertheless contentious as City Council voted unanimously not to reconsider the Encinitas Union School District’s request to rezone the Pacific View site. Councilwoman Kristin Gaspar recused herself, reasoning that she was not a member of the council when the initial denial occurred.
City Council voted to deny the Encinitas Union School District’s application to rezone the site on Nov. 10.
Located on Third Street between E and F streets, the modest school is surrounded by commercial buildings and smaller homes, with a few exceptions. The property was gifted to the city in 1883 for a school site. The original schoolhouse is located to the west of the property and houses the Encinitas Historical Society.
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.
School officials and one parent urged the council to reconsider its earlier decision. Brett Long, who has two children at Olivenhain Pioneer Elementary, said the city would benefit from a change to residential zoning because the current public/semi-public zoning is not as advantageous.
She said the passage of Proposition P, a $44 million bond measure, showed that the community was supportive of public education. “The children of Encinitas deserve your reconsideration,” Long told the council.
Two other parents with children at Paul Ecke Central elementary disagreed. Anne Ellis, who lives across the street from Pacific View, questioned the long-term impact of granting a rezoning application to the school district for property it deems unnecessary. “I oppose the forfeit of public assets,” she said. “A gift of land gives the feeling of permanence.”
Christine De’ak, also a parent of a child in the district, said the plan to build more residences on the site was flawed. “It goes against the spirit and text of the general plan,” she said.
Superintendent Dr. Tim Baird urged the council to reconsider. He said the district has spent approximately $400,000 trying to get an acceptable project through the city. “This is a sobering figure when you consider where we are tonight,” he said. “We can’t leave it like it is.”
A plan to establish a cultural arts center at the former school site was presented to trustees during the Encinitas Union School Board meeting on Dec. 7 by Dody Crawford, executive director of
the Downtown Encinitas MainStreet Association.
Crawford said that the association projects an income of $390,000 from the cultural arts center, including a farmers market, art operations, an annual art festival during the summer in addition to membership and sponsorship dues.
The proposal suggests a three-year lease, with lease payments to the district totaling $200,000 per year. At the expiration of the initial lease, the proposal suggests that a new nonprofit including the association, members of the educational foundation and users of the arts center be created to manage the ongoing operations and development of the new center. This new group will enter into a long-term 20-year lease.
Baird said after the council meeting that the vote was disappointing but not unexpected. “The next step is to talk to my board,” he said. He referred to a Jan. 11 letter to the city that stated in part that the district is “statutorily entitled to a rezoning” based on a state law that allows public agencies to use major asset sites to be developed in the same manner as the surrounding properties.
Although he would not confirm the district’s intention to file a lawsuit over the denial of its rezoning application, he indicated, “we could have someone else interpret the (code’s) language.”