The Coast News Group
Graffiti, litter and upturned desks are a common sight at the Pacific View property. The site closed in 2003, and due to a string of failed negotiations, the Encinitas Union School District voted to auction the property. Residents gathered to stop the sale. Photo by Jared Whitlock

Updated: Amid protests, school board moving forward with Pacific View auction

City requests one more meeting before auction

ENCINITAS — Along with sending hundreds of emails to city and school officials, residents packed into the EUSD (Encinitas Union School District) board meeting on Tuesday night to try and prevent the Pacific View property from going to auction.

But ultimately, the district board of trustees decided to proceed with the sale. Trustee Maureen Muir was the lone board member voicing opposition to the upcoming March 25 auction.

“I agree with everyone here — it shouldn’t be going to the highest bidder,” Muir said.

Drawing cheers from the crowd, Muir made a motion for the board to reconsider the auction.

Board President Marla Strich said it wasn’t the appropriate time to make a motion, because the Pacific View agenda item was only for informational purposes.

Earlier in the meeting, EUSD Superintendent Tim Baird summarized a decade of failed negotiations with the property.

For instance, the district tried to sell the property to the nonprofit Art Pulse, a group that wanted to build a community arts center and houses on the site in 2012. However, the city didn’t rezone the property by a key deadline and the deal fell through.

Residents crowd into an Encinitas Union School District board meeting on Tuesday night and urge the district to halt the auction. Photo by Jared Whitlock
Residents crowd into an Encinitas Union School District board meeting on Tuesday night and urge the district to halt the auction. Photo by Jared Whitlock

Last fall, the city offered $4.3 million for the property. Yet the district believes the property is worth quite a bit more.

And the city indicated its financial capacity wouldn’t allow for an offer much more than $4.3 million, Baird said.

Entering the auction has a minimum bid of $9.5 million.

Resident Scott Chatfield said he empathizes with the district’s frustration, but said moving forward with the auction is a “death sentence.”

“To sell out now because of exhaustion and budget issues is wrong,” Chatfield said. “It’s obviously wrong. You can feel it in the air tonight; it’s a horrible mistake.”

Chatfield started, an online campaign urging the board to halt the auction. Using the website, residents have sent 500 emails to the school board and city council.

The website also urged the public to gather at the meeting and speak their minds on Pacific View.

Resident Darius Degher said the district shouldn’t sell the property to shore up its budget.

“Budgets go up and down — they’re fluctuating, short-term events,” Degher said, adding that the district should preserve the property’s long-term legacy.

Several residents mentioned that John S. Pitcher deeded the 2.8-acre property to the district in 1883.

Sealed bids will be opened at the March 25 auction. Trustee Emily Andrade said she’s hopeful that bids contain an arts center.

Trustee Carol Skiljan encouraged residents to show up at Wednesday night’s council meeting to ask the city to participate in the auction.

“Please use your energy in that direction,” Skiljan said.

As a result, many of those who spoke at the school board meeting also delivered impassioned speeches at the council meeting.

The council voted unanimously to send a letter to the school board requesting another meeting regarding Pacific View before the auction. If the board can’t meet prior to that, the city is asking the board to consider postponing the auction.

“There is still some time before the auction, and I think we should do everything that we can to have one more meeting,” Councilman Tony Kranz said, adding that an alternative like joint use of the property could make a deal feasible.

A month ago, the City Council declined to take part in the auction. Council members stated the property isn’t worth the minimum bid under the current zoning.

The district, however, believes the site could be rezoned, accounting for the site’s proposed value.