Encinitas moves forward on Pacific View site plans

With right-of-entry cleared for local arts group, cleanup of former school can begin


Although the former Pacific View Elementary School campus in Encinitas, pictured in August 2015, remains empty for now, the city is moving forward with plans for its renewal. (NCC file photo by Susan Whaley)

Michele Leivas

The ongoing Pacific View project in Encinitas took a major step forward Feb. 24 when City Council members approved a right-of-entry agreement granting volunteer access to the property to allow for minor repairs and cleanup.

NCC-bug-status-2015Deputy Mayor Lisa Shaffer says the agreement is a win-win for both Encinitas and the Encinitas Arts, Culture and Ecological Alliance (EACEA), the group of Encinitas residents who are overseeing the project.

“(The Alliance) is eager to get on site,” she said, “because it’s going to help them figure out what their longer-term plans are and how much it’s going to cost. And it’s better for the city because the site’s not being well cared for now.”

The right-of-entry agreement signals progress for the arts alliance. In addition to the specified site cleanup and repairs, the group will now be able to begin laying out its plans for the property — including the historic Encinitas schoolhouse, which dates back to 1873. The plans will be presented to the City Council as part of the final lease agreement, which Shaffer hopes will be finalized within the next six months.

The agreement includes strict specifications for the EACEA, Shaffer points out.

Lisa Shaffer
Lisa Shaffer

“The Right to Entry just allows them to do repairs and cleanup on the site, but not to conduct any programs,” she said. “It does not specify a use and, in fact, it was very clear that it’s separate from and it does not require that they ever sign a lease. So even if they don’t end up successfully concluding a long-term agreement with the city, this agreement stands on its own. They’re providing a service to the community by cleaning up the site.”

Encinitas resident Scott Chatfield has been involved in the Pacific View project from the beginning, initially raising community support to stop an auction of the former school property in 2014 and chronicling its subsequent progress on the website www.savepacificview.org.

“We don’t need more developments; we don’t need more condos,” Chatfield said. “Encinitas is pretty built out. I just thought it was a tremendous leap of faith on the part of the three members of the City Council who voted yes and to me it was just inspiring because they risked a lot to do that.”

Chatfield says the next major step for the arts alliance is to raise the funds for the project itself, although he does not foresee that to be a problem.

“There’s so much goodwill pent up in the community that I don’t think it’s going to be a huge issue once the gates open — once the gates to the fundraising open,” he said.

Nearby property owner Don McPherson has also been working closely with the EACEA and City Council to ensure all the proper procedures are followed throughout the process. McPherson’s property is directly adjacent to Pacific View, sitting across the alley from the old schoolhouse. He first became involved in the project eight years ago after experiencing increased concerns regarding how the vacant property would be used.

“Naturally I was really concerned back in 2008 because the school district was trying to put in a large development like office buildings,” he explained. “So we, (my attorney) Felix (Tinkov) and I, identified all of the permitting processes they would have to go through — both the city and the Coastal Commission.”

In what he called an “unprecedented” move, McPherson and Tinkov were invited to join the discussion regarding the right-of-entry agreement at the last City Council meeting. The original proposed agreement “had some uncertainties in it,” McPherson said, which were all clarified by the city attorney in his testimony.

“Essentially that agreement is the written document plus the testimony of the city attorney and Felix, and I feel very comfortable with that,” McPherson said. “I feel very comfortable that EACEA is not going to proceed with any use until they get the permits.”

Discussions will continue between the EACEA and Encinitas City Council as both groups work toward a final lease agreement.

Representatives of the EACEA did not respond to interview requests before this article’s deadline.

Michele Leivas is a San Diego freelance writer