ENCINITAS — The Encinitas Union School District trustees will vote on whether to offer to sell valuable property to the city at their meeting June 23. According to outgoing Superintendent Lean King, the change of plans was provoked by discussion during the November City Council campaign where some candidates called for the use of the land as a city park.
Despite years of planning, the district found itself back at square one in its efforts to develop a former elementary school site in downtown.
The Planning Commission sent the district back to the drawing board July 24, 2008, when it declined to approve a request to rezone the site of the former Pacific View Elementary School from a “public-facilities” use designation to so called mixed-use that would allow a combination of businesses and residential to occupy the land.
“The Planning Commission did not approve the mixed-use rezoning plan but gave very specific direction on how the project could better mirror the neighborhood,” King said. He indicated that making certain changes in the plan would gain the necessary approval.
Among the top concerns were traffic, parking and building heights. Commissioners and neighbors questioned the 33-foot height proposal in an area zoned for 30-foot height limits. “It’s right on the bluff and I think it’s unfair to block our access to the spectacular views with a huge building complex,” Encinitas resident Thomas Lancaster said after the meeting.
The project, known as Pacific View Commons, calls for 12,000 square feet of office space, seven condominiums and 14 townhomes in addition to five single-family homes. Less than half of the 2.83 acres would be developed according to plans submitted to the commission.
“We have until June 30 to file plans with the Planning Commission,” King said. The site is currently used as a maintenance yard for the district.
Largely absent from the discussion last year was the district’s complex maneuvering of the development process. Although local business owner and City Council candidate Bob Nanninga, who died in February of this year, questioned why the district did not offer to sell the land or a portion of it to the city to be used for a park, most speakers and commissioners stuck to the issue of off-site parking and increased traffic.
The district was originally planning a land swap with local developer John DeWald, whose Pacific Station project in downtown is being developed at a brisk pace. Under the agreement, the district would exchange the prime seaside real estate at 608 Third Street for income-producing property elsewhere. District officials said it would use the income to support programs at the nine elementary schools it operates. King said the district might also move some of its offices into the new site.
Neither DeWald nor King would comment on whether the land swap deal was still in play.
An outright sale of the property might trigger the Naylor Act, allowing the city to purchase a portion of the site at below market rate for use as a park. This information was not discussed in meetings of a neighborhood advisory group that was formed after the community soundly rejected the district’s plans to develop a 12,000-square-foot medical complex on the site in 2004.