ENCINITAS — A group of La Costa Valley homeowners attended the San Dieguito Union High School District meeting Nov. 13 hoping the board of trustees would approve a deed restricting the use of a 22-acre lot in their community to a middle school, as was planned, open space or a park.
But the five-member board took the advice of the school district’s attorney and voted unanimously to reject the deed restriction, which was presented to the board last month.
Dan Shinoff, attorney for the district, said the education code neither restricts nor prohibits the board from accepting, rejecting or postponing action on the document.
“Ultimately, the decision is in your hands,” Shinoff said. But he presented five reasons why, in his opinion, the trustees should reject the restriction.
He said, according to contract law, the deed is invalid because there is a lack of consideration. He also said it would restrict future use, is incompatible with the original mitigation agreement and doesn’t consider other homeowners associations. Finally, Shinoff said it would thwart the efforts of the facilities action plan, a series of workshops the district is holding to determine the needs for all facilities districtwide.
The district bought the lot from Fieldstone in 1999 for $5.8 million using Mello-Roos funds paid by homeowners in La Costa Valley and the surrounding neighborhoods. In addition to purchasing the lot, the funds can be used at all other facilities in the northern section of the district.
According to the original purchase agreement, if the district determines the lot is surplus it must offer first right of refusal to Fieldstone or its successor. Fieldstone no longer exists, making Bank of America the successor, Shinoff said.
When enrollment began to flatten a few years back, the district announced it no longer planned to build a school, but it had no plans to sell the property either. Superintendent Ken Noah said recent long-term projections indicate a possible increase of 1,500 students or more in the north part of the district.
Homeowners fear the district will sell the land for use as industrial or commercial centers, although Carlsbad City Councilman Mark Packard said that is unlikely.
“That’s not a proper area for commercial or industrial,” Packard said.
Another possibility is high-density housing, which the homeowners say the community is not built to accommodate. District officials said selling the land for residential use, which would increase enrollment and the need for a new school, would be counterproductive.
“I have never wanted to sell this property,” said Deanna Rich, who made the motion to reject the deed restriction. “I, personally, will never vote to sell it.”
Joyce Dalessandro, board vice president, said she thought the deed restriction was unnecessary. “I believe a school will be built on this property,” she said.
The district has been paying the state an unused-site fee since 2006 and will continue to pay more than $100,000 annually from the general fund until the property is either developed for school use or sold. Officials are looking into ways to use the lot as an outdoor environmental lab for students to avoid the fee.
Greg Brucia, a member of the La Costa Valley homeowners association, said the group paid an attorney to prepare the deed restriction expecting a “good-faith response” from the district. Assuming Shinoff’s reasons for rejecting the document were valid, Brucia said the board should have at least offered a counter-proposal.