Progress continues on arts group’s vision for old Encinitas school site

Renovations at former Pacific View campus ongoing


In this photo from an Encinitas Arts, Culture and Ecology Alliance impact report, a volunteer works on the former Pacific View school site’s year stamp on an entrance wall at the Encinitas campus. (Encinitas Arts, Culture and Ecology Alliance photo)

Antonio Pequeño IV

2018 has been a quiet yet productive year for the former Pacific View school site and the Encinitas Arts, Culture and Ecology Alliance.

“The alliance has been putting together the application for the conditional use permit that is required to operate the (site),” according to Encinitas City Councilman Tony Kranz. “They’ve been doing studies about parking and traffic; it’s fairly complex. It’s essentially a CEQA analysis and a standard application that everybody has to go through.”

The California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, is a statute that requires state and local agencies to identify significant environmental impacts of their projects and work to avoid or mitigate them, according to the state’s Natural Resources Agency.

Permit process continues

In addition to the CEQA analysis, the alliance is also working on other requirements as it renovates the former elementary school site for community use.

“The major thrust for 2018 has been completing and paying for the entitlements studies for our Coastal Development Permit now with city planning staff,” alliance Vice President Garth Murphy said.

According to the city’s website, “the intent of requiring a CDP is to ensure that coastal resources and coastal access are protected and not compromised by development projects.”

The alliance’s work toward the permit entails traffic impact studies, soil studies, surface drainage, proposed uses and parking.

“We applied in June of 2017 and it is a complex back and forth process which we are completing this month,” Murphy said.

For the alliance, President/CEO John DeWald is just the person for handling the processes for entitlement, permitting and construction of the site. DeWald is the principal of RhodesMoore and is an experienced developer who has played a role in many projects.

DeWald “has been the principal developer in over 15 projects in North County San Diego, Chicago, Hawaii and other locations worth over $200 million,” according to his profile at RhodesMoore’s website.

“He knows the business well,” Kranz said. “He’s been able to use his resources to get required reports at discounted rates.”

Murphy explained the remaining legalities that the alliance will need to take care of are a Minor Use Permit staff recommendation, a meeting with the Encinitas Planning Commission, a City Council meeting approving the CDP and the signing of a lease with the city.

“The intent and purpose of a Minor Use Permit is to provide for the accommodation of land uses with specific site or design requirements, operating characteristics or potential adverse effects on surroundings, through review and, when necessary, the imposition of special conditions of approval,” according to San Diego County’s Minor Use Permit application guide.

Renovation and site plans ongoing

Alongside raising money through donations, grants and events, residents have played a significant role in the development of the site. Alliance volunteers have participated in multiple cleanups and repair sessions since it became the operator of the city-owned site.

“The number of volunteer hours that they’ve put in has been tremendous,” Kranz said. “These people have nothing but their community in mind. The vision that they are pursuing is certainly one that I share which is a thriving, active, arts education facility.”

As far as the site’s design goes, the alliance is utilizing the expertise of San Diego architects Hubbell & Hubbell for plans and concepts for the Pacific View Academy of Arts, Culture and Ecology. The facility will be built using the redone school buildings as its base, which involves a wide-range rehabilitation of structural elements from facilities, plumbing and solar electronics to piping, hardscape and fencing.

The site includes the historic Encinitas Schoolhouse, built in 1883 and maintained by the Encinitas Historical Society. The land is mostly made up of the 1950s-era Pacific View Elementary School, which closed in 2003. The city bought the property from the Encinitas Union School District for $10 million in 2014 after a vocal public campaign.

The schoolhouse will remain on the property and be revitalized with its original functions in mind. Agriculture programs will be implemented alongside new gardens complimented by furniture and artistic displays.

“A permaculture teaching garden will surround the old schoolhouse,” the alliance’s website notes. “Water will be harvested from roofs and pavement and stored in large cisterns for distribution via drip irrigation to the far corners of the site.”

The alliance also plans to pay homage to the Swami’s State Marine Conservation Area, located a mile south of the Pacific View site, through an exhibit that will commemorate the conservation area’s collection of plants and animals in its 12 habitats.

Currently, the site is undergoing further construction.

“We are about to begin construction of new auto access gates on F and Fourth streets that are funded,” Murphy said. “We recently completed their design and bidding process. Fundraising for construction now and under the CDP is always a priority effort.”

Funding toward the site has gone favorably for the alliance in the past. According to its 2015-17 impact report, donations/memberships and government grants alone totaled $266,121 in 2017, making up more than half of the alliance’s total income. In the same year, income and subsequent expenses left the alliance with a net ordinary income of $67,708.

Along with the construction efforts, the alliance will have to begin the work needed to create and staff the programs of the academy.

“During construction and tenant improvements, we will be planning and completing an anticipated curriculum for the various arts and sciences departments, looking for teachers, staff and students in all departments, and raising the funds to operate Pacific View Academy of Arts, Culture and Ecology,” Murphy said.

Academy plans call for a broad arts curriculum. Arts such as music, painting and photography will be a part of the curriculum, as well as commercial arts such as computer graphic arts, film and architecture. In total, the curriculum will be home to roughly 40 types of art forms.

In terms of a timeline for the site’s completion and the academy’s launch, Murphy said, “realistically, 2020 for full operations. We plan to phase the opening of different sections of the campus and buildings as they are completed, for practical purposes and to maintain community and volunteer interest and momentum.”

“It’s a huge investment that we made but you can’t rush these things and it’s one of the lessons that I’m learning,” Kranz said. “I’ve never been known for my patience, so it’s definitely been trying at times, but we’ve had especially these last few years a lot of support from staff and the alliance. I know from my conversations it’s been a labor of love for them.”

Antonio Pequeño IV is a North County freelance writer