Pacific View school site auction goes on despite protests

The Pacific View Elementary School site in Encinitas, closed in 2003, is set to be auctioned by the Encinitas Union School District on March 25. (Photo by Scott Allison)

The Pacific View Elementary School site in Encinitas, closed in 2003, is set to be auctioned by the Encinitas Union School District on March 25. (Photo by Scott Allison)

Ellen Wright

Residents gathered at the Encinitas Union School District Board of Trustees meeting March 11 to express their concern over the sale of the long-closed Pacific View Elementary School.

The bluff-top property was closed in 2003 due to aging facilities and low enrollment, district Superintendent Tim Baird said. After going back and forth with the Encinitas City Council, the district has decided to auction the site.

The discussion of the property was added to the March 11 meeting after the board received more than 500 emails in protest of the auction. The movement was spearheaded by Leucadia resident Scott Chatfield, founder of SavePacificView.org.

“Since Pacific View closed, we trusted that common sense would prevail and this treasured property would always be there for the public. But a few weeks ago its virtual death sentence was issued and we knew it was time to speak up,” Chatfield told the board.

Residents reminded the board that the valuable piece of land was gifted to the school district for the children. The piece of land was originally gifted to the district by J.P. Pitcher in 1883.

“Pacific View represents 130 years of methodical, soulful, generous giving,” said Encinitas resident Sarah Garfield.

Baird gave a brief history of the attempts the district made to sell the property to the city of Encinitas in order for it to be developed for public use. The talks eventually went sour and the district never responded to the bid the city made for $4.3 million. Baird said the district didn’t respond because the offer was too low and the city didn’t have the ability to pay more.

“The offer wasn’t anywhere near the range we were talking about with the City Council in negotiations,” Baird said.

He also said that during negotiations the city wouldn’t agree to guarantee the property be used for an art center or public space.

“They could turn around and sell it to someone else for a profit on the school district’s dime,” Baird told the crowd.

After the heated public opinion portion of the meeting, Trustee Maureen “Mo” Muir agreed with the crowd. “It shouldn’t be going to the highest bidder. It should be going to the community,” Muir said.

She then made a motion to schedule a special board meeting about the property, and the crowd rejoiced.

Board President Marla Strich denied Muir’s request, reminding her that this was just a discussion and no action could take place.

Strich told the crowd that the auction doesn’t necessarily mean the property would go to a big developer.

“We do not know who the bidders will be. Perhaps it will be someone willing to build an art center,” Strich said.

She also said they would give priority to the bidder willing to build something under current zoning.

The auction is scheduled for March 25 with a minimum bid of $9.5 million.

Ellen Wright is a North County freelance writer