Encinitas City Council puts Pacific View request on hold

ENCINITAS — The City Council voted 4-0, with Deputy Mayor Kristin Gaspar recusing herself, not to accept the request for a general plan amendment to rezone property and create a new arts center at the former Pacific View Elementary site. 

The council agreed that the request could return after a pending lawsuit with the owner of the property, the Encinitas Union School District, is resolved.

Gaspar removed herself from the proceedings because she felt she could not participate “unless and until the lawsuit with the district is resolved.”

A letter of intent was filed by John DeWald, a local developer, for a formal general plan amendment, according to senior planner Diane Langager. The request sought to change the current public/ semi-public zoning to a new, undefined category called arts center mixed use. Formal action on the request would require a public meeting with the applicant and the neighbors and would only come to the council for a vote after a recommendation from the Planning Commission, according to Langager.

Located on Third Street between E Street and F Street, the modest school is surrounded by commercial buildings and smaller homes, with a few exceptions. 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.

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 in a previous interview that the board would drop the suit if negotiations with Art Pulse were successful. However, he has since added a caveat to the promise.

He said he is neither a supporter nor a detractor of the proposed project. “I think I’m the third side of the coin here,” Baird said. “If this zoning moves forward, the school district would drop its lawsuit against the city.”

San Diego-based nonprofit Art Pulse was chosen out of three proposals submitted to the EUSD in part because the group plans to purchase the site for $7.5 million and has some funds on hand. The group partnered with DeWald who agreed to pay the $300,000 escrow deposit and an additional $3 million of the total purchase price. In return, DeWald would own part of the land in order to develop up to seven single-family homes.

Art Pulse had numerous supporters at the meeting, including William Simonson, co-founder of the Positive Action Community Theater, Diane Welch, a local writer and Paul Ecke III.

“I know its complicated but I think its worth the time and effort to move forward,” Ecke told the council.

However, just as many detractors of the project were in attendance. Many of the speakers made a point that while they did not support a zoning change, they did support an arts center.

“Every coin has two sides,” Stocks said.

Tom McPherson, owner of nearby property said that by applying the mixed-use arts center to the entire parcel, the city would be violating the EUSD purchasing agreement that requires subdivision of the residential portion of the plan.

He said the parcel would have to be divided into two distinct portions, one with mixed-use and one zoned single-family residential for the seven planned homes.

“This site is absolutely a jewel,” said Bill Sparks, who owns property on Third Street. He said it was land that belonged in the public domain and was “deeply troubled” that it might fall into the hands of a private real estate developer.

“I support an arts center, let’s not sell out the PV site just yet,” Sparks told the council. “Please do not be rushed into making a decision.”

Annie Lief, who taught at Pacific View in the 1990s, said she supports the concept of an arts center but wants one that is “community based.”

“Many of the uses under the letter are allowable under the current zoning,” she said.

Danny Salzhandler from the 101 Artists’ Colony was apprehensive about the rezoning.

“The thing that’s in the back of our minds is that it gets rezoned and the money isn’t there and then we don’t know what we get.”

City Attorney Glenn Sabine said the lawsuit with the school board must be dismissed before the rezoning can be approved.

“I just can’t support a zone change while we have an active lawsuit,” Stocks said. “I’m not going to go through a process with a gun at our heads,” he said.

“We can’t run off in two directions at once without failing,” Councilman Jim Bond said regarding the lawsuit.

 

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  1. April Game says:

    Thank you for covering this Ms. Tucker. It was a long night – our agenda item was not complete til four and a half hours into the evening… and I want to thank everyone who came out:

    Art Pulse wishes to acknowledge the 17 supporters who spoke at the City Council Meeting (14 Encinitans, 1 San Diego, 1 Solana Beach, 1 Carlsbad):

    William Simon – Encinitas: Positive Action Community Theater
    Peter Tobias – Encinitas: Doctor
    David Chase – Encinitas Resident: Choral Director of La Jolla Symphony Chorus
    Roxanne Grooms – San Diego: Artist who hopes to move to Encinitas if this center is built
    Manuelita Brown – Encinitas: Artist, Encinitas Preservation Association boardmember
    Diane Welch – Solana Beach: Artist, Writer, Local Historian
    Paul Ecke – Encinitas: President of Encinitas Preservation Association, Developer
    Treggon Owens – Encinitas: President of DEMA, board member of Encinitas Preservation Association
    Mia – little girl who wants this because there is no art in her school
    Erick Scott – Encinitas: Lives near PVAC and is excited about what this will bring to the neighborhood
    Ann Olson – Carlsbad: Artist
    Bhavna Mehta – San Diego: Artist and art educator
    Dianne O’Connor – Encinitas: Artist
    Betsy Gilpin – Encinitas: North Coast Symphony
    Robert Matts – Encinitas: Businessman
    Austin Blue – Encinitas resident

    We would also like to thank and acknowledge the 8 additional supporters who attended the meeting but had to leave early or didn’t have the opportunity to speak:

    Erin Weidner – Rancho Santa Fe: Arts Patron
    Susan Bailey – Rancho Santa Fe: Cowan: Bach Collegium
    Ansley Pye – Point Loma: Artist and Gallery Director
    Francine Hudson – San Diego: Arts supporter
    Steve Dilley – Encinitas: Artist
    Joe McNalley – Encinitas: PVAC immediate neighbor, Artistic Director, The Hutchins Consort
    Ryan Maher – Encinitas: Gallery Director
    Pam Wells – Encinitas: Artist

    We would also like to acknowledge the 6 people who spoke against allowing Art Pulse to submit a rezoning application. Being passionate and committed the betterment of your community deserves praise and to each of you, we tip our hats (our apologies if we did not spell your name correctly):

    John McPherson – Encinitas: Believes arts center and residential should be specified up front, not go forward as one zone
    Felix Tinkoff – believes the SEQUA process should be followed, sent a letter to the council.
    Bill Sparks – Encinitas: Part of the Envision the View group. Believes in an arts center under current zoning and without houses.
    Cowan Strong – Encinitas: Believes in an arts center under current zoning and without houses.
    Annie Leaf – Encinitas: Believes in an arts center without Rezoning.
    Lynn Marr – Encinitas: Against rezoning.

    Danny Salzhandler also spoke in support of an arts center, expressing his continued hope that it can happen in existing buildings.

    Thank you all for participating in the process and letting City Council and the entire community know where you stand and how you feel.

    Thank you,

    April Game and the Art Pulse Team

  2. April Game says:

    I’m sorry – how could I forget. Lloyd O’Connell of the Encinitas Historical Society also spoke in support of this project, very eloquently in fact. To those who wrote letters and emails in support… thank you too. Its a big process but together we can do it.

  3. Linda Bergen says:

    I am copying you on a letter I sent to Logan Jenkins
    Dear Mr. Jenkins:

    I wonder if you had the opportunity to watch Wednesday’s Encinitas City Council meeting agenda item #7 regarding a rezoning application for the Pacific View Elementary School property to allow for the an arts center and 7 residential lots. No matter which side of the debate one favored, the discussion was a complete waste of everyone’s time and a mere ‘kicking the can down the road’. The council rejected the application at this time because 1) there was no tolling agreement from EUSD and 2) it may require a vote of the citizens. I ask, “why didn’t the city council either contact the EUSD to request a tolling agreement prior to the council meeting (EUSD has already provided a letter saying they would drop the lawsuit upon approval of the rezoning) or decide to move forward with the application process pending a tolling agreement and with the understanding that a vote may be required?

    The next item on the agenda regarding the annual banners faired no better.

    As a well respected journalist who regularly addresses city issues, I would like to know your opinion.

    In mine, Mayor Jerome Stocks and the council should do their homework before coming to council meetings.

    Sincerely,

    Linda Bergen

    cc: Jerome Stocks
    Coast News

  4. Herb Patterson says:

    Yesterday, his Imperial Regional Emperor, Mayor Jerome Stocks, declared democracy too inefficient
    and time consuming. Faced with a large amount of speakers on two issues, his Imperial Regional
    Emperor exercised his benevolent wisdom and unilaterally appointed leaders within speaking groups,
    reduced or increased speaking times, and cut off those speakers that were just wasting time. Like the
    ancient leader Alexander when faced with the Gordian Knot, the Emperor cut through annoying City
    procedure, common courtesy, and useless opinions so that the City Council would not have to face an
    extra long meeting. His Imperial Regional Emperor knows what you are thinking and knows what is
    good for you. He is there to help whether you know you need it or not. I do believe the rumors of the
    Mayor’s office being made hereditary and the construction of a bejeweled crown for his Imperial
    Regional Emperor to be incorrect. Please get in line.

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