Art center negotiations delay Pacific View development

ENCINITAS — The community breathed a sigh of relief when the Encinitas Union School Board voted 4-1 on Feb. 15 to enter into negotiations with Art Pulse to sell the Pacific View Elementary site. But the two parties have yet to agree on the particulars of the deal, and negotiations have resulted in significant delays.

San Diego-based nonprofit Art Pulse was chosen in part because the group plans to purchase the site for $7.5 million and has some funds on hand.

“As a school board, we have to be fiscal stewards of the district and protect our kids and their education,” Encinitas School Board President Emily Andrade said at the February meeting.

Envision the View and the Sanderling Waldorf School were also in the running. Both offered to lease the 2.8-acre oceanfront parcel. Trustee Maureen Muir supported Envision the View’s plan to turn the site into a community center.

April Game is the executive director of Art Pulse, a San Diego-based nonprofit organization that is in negotiations to purchase the Pacific View site. Courtesy photo

While several proposals have been tossed around regarding the future of the site, none have been met with success. In 2005, an advisory committee was created consisting of various stakeholders. An initial proposal to build a medical complex with office space and condos was met with disapproval by the downtown community.

The school board sued the city after the City Council refused to rezone the property from semi-public to residential last year. Encinitas Unified School District Superintendent Timothy Baird said the board would drop the suit if negotiations with Art Pulse were successful. “I’m hoping that we will wrap this up in the next month or so,” he said in mid-July.

Baird said the sale was “not a simple land transaction.” “There are a lot of pieces to this,” he said. “We are asking for money up front to enter into escrow.” Baird said he hopes to have the property in escrow by the time the school year begins but doesn’t want to rush the process that was slated to be finalized this past spring. “You’ve got to do it right. We’d like this to be a win-win for everyone”

While Baird said he could not give an exact amount because negotiations are still on going, Art Pulse Executive Director April Game said the organization is negotiating to lower the $400,000 deposit to $300,000.

Game said local developer John DeWald was paying $300,000 towards the deposit. “If they (the district) lower the amount to enter into escrow then Art Pulse can focus on fundraising for the other costs (of the project),” she said.

DeWald has also agreed to pay $3 million of the total purchase price of $7.5 million. In return, Game said he would own part of the land in order to develop single-family homes.

“Art Pulse will only have to come up with $4 million, plus the construction costs,” Game said.

Game plans to involve the community in various planning meetings and initiate a capital fundraising campaign.

According to the organization’s tax returns, it took in just over $98,000 in 2010 and has run at a deficit since 2008. Game said a large loan given to the organization by one of its board members was going to be partially forgiven.

She estimates the cost of arts center construction, including permits to range from $5 million to $12 million.

The city’s Director of Planning Patrick Murphy said the organization has submitted a request to submit an application to amend the specific plan to create a new zone for the property. “An applicant must first request council to allow it to submit a formal application to change the zoning,” Murphy said.

Game said the “arts center zone” would allow for artists-in-residency, retail, studios and a café. “This is good news for the longevity of the property, for the community,” she said.

Located on Third Street between E Street and F Street, the school is surrounded by commercial buildings and smaller homes. It closed due to declining enrollment in the area in 2003.

The property was gifted to the city in 1883 for a school site. The original schoolhouse is located to the west of the property and houses the Encinitas Historical Society.

 

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  1. kathleen2 says:

    As I read this article I can’t help but think that Art Pulse and April are/were just a front for John Dewald and his backers.

    • April Game says:

      Funny, as I read this article I can’t help but think how grateful I am that John DeWald is offering to pay for 40 percent of the cost of a property of which he will only receive 19 percent – making it possible for a nonprofit arts organization to spearhead the build of a a world-class arts center the community so badly needs and wants, and which we would not likely be able to create otherwise :o)

      • Lynn Marr says:

        Funny, as I read this article I can’t help but think how grateful I am that the Coast News helped us to expose the fact that Art Pulse does NOT have adequate financial backing, which so-called “non-profit” is then required to collaborate with developer John DeWald to pay for 40 percent of the (never appraised) “cost”a of a property for which he wants to receive nearly 20 percent of the land – of precious, irreplaceable ocean view public assets, in the name of profit. Ms. Game, your “game” appears to be manipulating numbers and public opinion to achieve your deceptive ends!

        A profit making venture should NOT be required to buy up a significant portion of our public land, in order forr a nonprofit arts organization to build a small, community based art center, which we do want, INCLUDING with a provision that a minimum of .84 acre should be devoted to open space, a community garden, and/or a baseball diamond, as specified by the Naylor Act.

        We are NOT interested in a monolithic supposedly “world class” center surrounded by parking lots, and residential duplexes, along with a superfluous “caretaker’s residence” to be “awarded” through cronyism to friends or family of the “elite,” or with nighttime productions at a proposed amphitheater, which could add hundreds of car trips a day to neighborhood residential streets, also disturbing the evening peaceable dwelling of adjacent neighbors. Bigger is NOT necessarily better.

        April Game, you were less than honest with the California Arts Council, and you were less than honest with the public and EUSD about Art Pulse’s being a “solid” financial company, with excellent backing. Only through a profit making developer and previous “loans” probably through other profit making corporations, have you been able to “schmooze” and deceive, only last year, the California Arts Council, representing a loan as income, and more recently, EUSD and the general public who were looking for proposals through non-profits, NOT to enable your attempting to sidestep the will of the people in selling off irreplaceable public assets for a profit.

  2. Lynn Marr says:

    http://www.sdcitybeat.com/sandiego/blog-603-is-a-countywide-arts.html

    “Back in April, Game applied for a grant from the California Arts Council, proposing to put together a feasibility report on creating a countywide arts council in San Diego. The council voted to award Art Pulse the grant, but a few months later, after Game had already begun research and started interviewing more than 50 county leaders, the grant was rescinded.

    “New information was brought forward,” said Craig Watson, the California Arts Council executive director who was hired in August.

    He said Art Pulse had claimed $600,000 in new revenue, which gave the council confidence in the relatively young arts organization. But upon further investigation—and before the grant contracts were signed—Watson said he found the revenue was a loan, not income, which doesn’t pass then council’s “rigorous practices” when it comes to the approval process.”

    Please check out the link above, from City Beat, 11/16/11, which is further evidence that April Game has exaggerated financial resources, before. Fortunately, the San Diego Arts Council thoroughly vetted Game & Art Pulse, formerly San Diego Fine Art Society, & PROMPTLY RESCINDED THE GRANT THEY WERE GOING TO GIVE ART PULSE.

    UNFORTUNATELY, Encinitas Union School District, seemingly so eager to compromise & negotiate with developers, rather than honoring the wishes of the community, apparently DID NOT CHECK OUT THE FINANCIALS OF ART PULSE!

    April, it’s not about what percentage of LAND DeWald is attempting to purchase; it’s about his making a profit at our community’s expense. The Naylor Act HAS NEVER BEEN HONORED by EUSD. .84 Acre of land should be offered to the City of Encinitas and other public entities at 25 cents on the dollar of the appraised value, if the land was used, in part, for playing fields, eight years prior to the time the land was INITIALLY offered for lease or sale. Eight years prior to the time the land was LEASED to the City of Encinitas for a temporary public works yard, IT WAS USED FOR PLAYING FIELDS. When the Naylor Act was brought up, before, EUSD claimed it was not going to lease or sale the property, but was going to trade it, so the Naylor Act didn’t apply. WRONG!

    EUSD SUED the City of Encinitas because it chose not to rezone mixed use from the current public-semi-public zoning which is compatible with and the same as other properties in the neighborhood of this area’s Specific Plan. EUSD didn’t follow protocol and common business practices when it failed to thoroughly investigate Art Pulse’s financials, as California Arts Council did, rescinding the grant it was going to give Art Pulse. Also EUSD dropped the ball by not commissioning an independent appraisal at the time the Pacific View property was initially offered for lease to the City of Encinitas.

    Art Pulse and you, April Game, seem very adept at lobbying and “schmoozing” school district representatives and City Council members. The Brown Act allows for real estate negotiations behind closed doors. Therefore, the public is being cut out of the process, in which you butter up public officials and groups such as DEMA, WITHOUT divulging the true facts of your poor financial standing, which has resulted in your pushing for a scenario where a developer, DeWald will acquire for his personal gain, and profit, public assets that are irreplaceable, which Pacific View site was DONATED for public use, not wheeling and dealing, not for financial gain, and not for a monolithic “art center” with an outdoor amphitheater, surrounded by parking lots, duplexes, and including a bogus caretaker’s residence, which would undoubtedly go to a friend or family of “the elite.”

    We would favor a smaller art center, built by Envision the View, NOT in partnership with the developer of Pacific Station, which is NOT fully occupied. Were it to be fully occupied, Pacific Station would NOT provide sufficient underground parking for all offices, shops, restaurants and residences, including the “affordable units” which only allow for one parking spot each. Construction DIRT was dumped on Leucadia beaches when the underground garages were excavated. DeWald falsely claimed Pacific Station dirt was sand. NOT! Seven parking spaces were taken from the street when Pacific Station was built. The city gains sales tax revenues, but many of we citizens felt we have lost, in that our quality of life is reduced by increased traffic impacts, as would happen if the monolithic art center, as proposed, were developed.

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