The Coast News Group
Winston School
The Winston School holds a 55-year lease on part of that property, set to expire in 2063. Courtesy photo
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Del Mar council, private school grapple over lease terms

DEL MAR — A pair of Del Mar City Council members and leaders of The Winston School, a private school, disagree about the terms of the school’s long-term lease on city-owned property.

School officials think the rent agreement is unfair and want to negotiate a new figure. However, Del Mar Councilman Dwight Worden and Councilwoman Sherryl Parks believe the lease is fair, and lament that negotiations have delayed the city’s planning process to develop parkland on the property.

In 2008, the city government bought the Shores Park property from the Del Mar Unified School District. The Winston School holds a 55-year lease on part of that property, set to expire in 2063.

The terms include that, during the lease period, Winston must rebuild its school, which would include filing plans with the city and going through the approval process, according to a June 2 statement by Worden and Parks.

The Winston School contributed about $3 million to the city’s $8.5 million purchase of the Shores property, which it “has been recouping … as prepaid rent, meaning no new money rent is due until 2023,” according to Worden and Parks’ statement. Winston currently pays the city an annual rent of $197,245.

In 2018, as the deadline approached to file school redevelopment plans with the city, the school said it wanted to renegotiate terms. Among other things, it wants its rent reduced to $1 per year and its lease extended from 55 to 99 years, according to Worden and Parks’ joint statement.

Worden and Parks further assert that a rent reduction would, in effect, “transfer millions of dollars of money over the life of the lease from Del Mar taxpayers to Winston’s private school. This would be an unconstitutional gift of public funds.”

Dena Harris, Winston’s head of school, told The Coast News in a June 8 e-mail: “So many of the ‘facts’ in [Worden and Parks’ statement] are misrepresentations or interpretations. It will take time to formulate an adequate response.”

Additionally, the deadline to submit development plans is mitigated, under the lease agreement, by present circumstances of “epidemic” and “riot,” Harris said.