When local government wants to sell public land to pay for failed leadership, we should take note. Selling community assets is a signal that the city and school district’s financial house is not in order.
In Encinitas, mismanagement of the Pacific View School site is costing taxpayers. Years ago 2.8 acres of coastal bluff property was donated to the community by people who wanted the public to use the land not developers. Today, Encinitas Unified School District Superintendent Dr. Tim Baird wants to sell the irreplaceable, publicly owned property to developers.
In his community commentary last week in The Coast News, Dr. Baird wrote all information regarding Pacific View was available on the EUSD website. If that’s true where is the independent appraisal? I did not see one. It is in the interest of developers, who would gain an asset that the public is kept in the dark. It is in the interest of taxpayers who would lose an asset that an independent appraisal be done to shine a light on the true value of the property.
In May 2009 the EUSD sent a letter offering to sell the land to the city for $10 million. There is no appraisal of the property as currently zoned to support this number. During a meeting to discuss the letter, council member Barth asked city planning Director Patrick Murphy what the property was worth. Murphy admitted, “I have no idea.” Barth suggested the $10 million amount was a “pie in the sky number” and asked staff “to come back with real appraisal numbers.” Council member Maggie Houlihan asked for more information. Both were denied.
Getting an independent appraisal is a necessity Baird and Encinitas Mayor Bond and Deputy Mayor Stocks have avoided. An independent appraisal is important because under the Naylor act the city might be able to buy the land for as little as 25 percent of the appraised value. This would be a good deal for taxpayers and a bad deal for developers who would lose out on the prime coastal property.
At the council meeting where Barth requested an independent appraisal, Bond and Stocks opposed the idea. In opposing the appraisal, Stocks said he did not want to spend “several thousand dollars on an appraisal.” Performing an appraisal in 2009 could have cleared the air and cost less than the legal fees the city will now pay. Stocks has a history of spending taxpayer money on the wrong things. Earlier this year Stocks, along with Bond and Council member Gaspar, spent some $60,000 in a foolish lawsuit to keep a road report from the public. The city lost.
Baird claims the school needs to be sold to raise money. Just last year taxpayers passed a $44 million bond to fund schools. Baird needs to make do with the money he has. Under Dr. Baird’s leadership, he is raising our taxes, selling our assets and using our tax dollars to file lawsuits against us. Does this sound like he’s serving the community? Proceeds of a Pacific View sale would only temporarily plug budget holes, not provide real solutions. Encinitas needs a successful administrator for the $44 dollars taxpayers just gave to the school district. Dr. Baird seems more interested in chasing land development deals.
Encinitas and Pacific View need leadership. Taxpayer money that should be going to our schools and children is going to lawyers. Dr. Baird needs to terminate the lawsuit saving residents’ money. The city council can then terminate its legal defense, saving residents money. That money can be put to use for the children and an independent appraisal can be performed immediately. Until Dr. Baird, Bond and Stocks allow an appraisal to be done there will be a cloud of suspicion and the specter of cronyism over the whole affair. Encinitas doesn’t need that.
Filed Under: Life, Liberty and Leadership