The Coast News Group
The second phase of the Cardiff Elementary School campus rebuild has been suspended after a court ruling last week granted a preliminary injunction, and made certain other legal findings, requested by a small group of nearby residents who oppose the project. File photo by Aaron Burgin

Cardiff School rebuild foes win court ruling

ENCINITAS — The second phase of the Cardiff Elementary School campus rebuild has been suspended after a court ruling last week granted a preliminary injunction, and made certain other legal findings, requested by a small group of nearby residents who oppose the project.

The ruling from San Diego County Superior Court is the latest in a growing battle between the school district and the residents who have opposed the proposed overhaul since drawings of the redesign were made public in 2017. The plan includes the construction of new buildings and the construction of a new multi-purpose room and outdoor amphitheater on land that is currently part of the district-owned George Berkich Park.

Funding for the rebuild comes from Measure GG, a $22 million bond measure approved by nearly 66% of Cardiff voters in 2016.

The ruling is part of ongoing litigation brought by the residents and primarily surrounds a $160,000 grant tied to the school playfields. Encinitas and the Cardiff School District accepted the grant more than 25 years ago to improve the playfields. The grant agreement included a stipulation that requires the district to obtain certain state and federal approvals when building any new structures within the then existing school playfield boundary.

The current school rebuild plan calls for a small additional encroachment — less than 10% of the overall project site — into the playfield and a corresponding grant agreement boundary adjustment to accommodate the project.

The district said it is considering its legal options with regard to the ruling.

“This decision does not change the fact that the district continues to work in good faith to deliver Cardiff voters the new school they were promised as part of this bond measure,” Cardiff School District Superintendent Jill Vinson said in a news release. “We stand behind this project and the priority that it places on student safety and the educational programs of the District.”

The Cardiff School rebuild project replaces the 60- to 70-year-old buildings on the school site with a new and modernized school that prioritizes school safety, learning spaces, traffic flow, community connection, green space and views, and an environmentally focused design.

Since 2017, the district has made several changes to the original design, including backing off the original plan of building both the multi-purpose room and kindergarten classrooms on park space.

It also attempted to address concerns about the floor plan — which opponents argued was too sprawled _ the loss of green space, trees and views. The final iteration of the plan, released in May 2018, proposed fewer of the large courtyards than in the previous proposals and relocated the multipurpose room on a lower section of current field so that it didn’t impact views as much as the first plan.

For now, the district will continue moving forward with construction on Phase 1 of the project, which sits outside of the playfield boundary in question. Phase 1 includes the majority of the new classroom buildings. Demolition, grading and underground utility work is nearly complete, and construction of classroom buildings will start this month and run through next August.

Phase 2 is on hold until the grant and litigation issues are resolved and includes the new multi-purpose building and new parking lot. It is anticipated that this phase will take place from June of next year through Spring 2021, when the entire Cardiff School campus is scheduled for completion.

“The District’s priority has been and will always be the students,” Siena Randall, president of the Cardiff School District board, said in a release. “We will continue to put their best interests above the interests of others that have attempted to impede this project.”


NaturePower December 19, 2019 at 3:28 pm

Cardiff Mom,
The bond measure GG was approved by the voters, not the project plan. Get an education!

Cardiff Mom December 10, 2019 at 11:40 pm

This project (which was approved by voters) would be almost over if it wasn’t for Save the Parks endless lawsuits. The school is in shambles. The only reason any of you has a view at all is because the school is there. Save your money and buy oceanfront next time.

SavethePark December 10, 2019 at 7:15 pm

Cardiff Mom: The District demolished the school buildings and put the children in a construction zone. No one else is responsible for that but the District.

Cardiff mom December 5, 2019 at 11:40 pm

I hope you feel good about little 5 year old kids starting out their education in a construction zone. ABSOLUTELY NO ONE believes that you people care about a park or a bond measure, this is about your view. Please remember how much of your property value is also based on the school district. It was your choice to move next to a school, get a life.

My Dad's out of work! December 4, 2019 at 3:52 pm

Well I hope everyone involved to shut the job down feels good about themselves. Dozens of families affected because their bread winners are now out of work during this Christmas season. Merry Christmas one percenters!

Save the Park December 1, 2019 at 1:23 pm

This article is not a journalistic exercise. Rather, it is a near verbatim copy of the District’s press release that spins its significant loss in a lawsuit brought by Cardiff residents who are simply trying to convince the District to respect the law.

Richard Michael November 28, 2019 at 8:17 am

Kind of one-sided article, wouldn’t you say? Plenty of sanctimonious blather from district officials who appear to be hell-bent on getting their way. Nothing from the opponents or the hundreds of neighbors and community members that opposed the project before a dollar was spent when they realized the district was pulling a bait-and-switch from the promises made in selling the bond measure in 2016.

You also didn’t address where the money for the district’s defense is coming from and how much its costing the district. We know its all being paid by the taxpayers ultimately, but if bond money is being used that’s quite a different story. Proposition 39 bond proceeds can only be used for very limited things. Misuse of public moneys is a felony (Penal Code 421(a)) in California.

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