Pacific View options still murky for city of Encinitas

Pacific+View+School%2C+which+closed+in+2003+due+to+declining+enrollment%2C+sits+at+the+corner+of+E+and+Third+streets+in+Encinitas.+%28Photo+by+Scott+Allison%29

Pacific View School, which closed in 2003 due to declining enrollment, sits at the corner of E and Third streets in Encinitas. (Photo by Scott Allison)

Jessica LaFontaine

The Encinitas City Council discussed and voted on Jan. 15 to continue pursuing an ongoing topic – the purchase of the Pacific View School property currently owned by the Encinitas Union School District.

The 2.6-acre seaside property is located at 608 Third Street.

Discussions continued at a City Council meeting Jan. 22 after the school district board voted to pursue auctioning the property in March.

The beginning of the city’s involvement with the Pacific View property began on Nov. 26, 2012, when the city submitted an official offer of $4.3 million to purchase the property. On Dec. 3, 2013, the school board rejected the city’s offer while stating that the district was hoping to change the Pacific View property’s zoning from public to residential so it could sell the land.

“The school superintendent (Timothy Baird) has made public statements to the fact that the school board believes the property is worth significantly more than the city offered,” Encinitas Mayor Teresa Barth said.

One of the major issues involved is the zoning of the property, which currently is zoned as public property but could be valued at more if it is zoned as residential.

“I believe the bottom line issue is that the city appraised and evaluated the property based on its current zoning. The school district did not appraise the property and continues to evaluate the value based on an up-zoning of the property which is almost always an uphill battle in Encinitas,” Encinitas Councilwoman Kristin Gaspar said.

However, the City Council discussed during its public meeting on Jan. 15 that the city had no intentions of rezoning the property after purchase or using it for residential purposes.

“The City Council had not yet defined any specific uses but they have been talking about opportunities for an arts/culture center, outdoor theater, interim uses for arts purposes, and generally keeping the property as open space as possible,” City Manager Gus Vina said. “There was nothing concrete yet but I wanted to share the kinds of things coming up in conversations.”

The city further pursued negotiation, suggesting a mediation process. The school board continued to decline this offer, as well. On Jan. 9, the school district decided to sell the property in a public auction.

“The council was surprised and disappointed that the school board did not make a counter offer to our initial proposal. Our offer was based on the current zoning and recent appraisals,” Barth said.

Moving forward, the council asked for a future staff report regarding eminent domain, rezoning and the Naylor Act, and how these may pertain to the property.

The Naylor Act is a statute that allows outside government agencies to obtain surplus school property in order to keep it available for playing fields, playgrounds or other outdoor recreational purposes.

The staff report regarding the potential purchase of the Pacific View property was released, along with all correspondence with the school district, during the City Council meeting on Jan. 22. The report includes the two appraisals conducted by the city as well as a fiscal analysis of the viability of making such a purchase.

Speakers at the meeting expressed a desire for a cultural arts center as discussed by the city. The speakers also expressed disapproval of the handling of the property by the Encinitas Union School District.

The school district also released a minimum bid price at $9.5 million.

The city is considering the filing of a complaint with the court as a potential option to resolve the issue, which will be discussed again at the Feb. 12 City Council meeting.

The city report released Jan. 22 can be found at www.encinitasca.gov.

Jessica LaFontaine is a San Diego freelance writer