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Del Mar Heights rebuild plan
A rendering depicts a proposed rebuild of Del Mar Heights. Graphic courtesy of BakerNowicki Design
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Del Mar Heights rebuild faces $2.1M cost hike due to litigation delays

DEL MAR – The Del Mar Union School District board last week approved a change order for $2.1 million for the lease-leaseback agreements associated with the Del Mar Heights School rebuild project. The school district’s staff attributed the cost increase to delays caused by previously filed litigation against the district challenging the project.

Lease-leaseback agreements typically involve school districts leasing a property to a developer during the construction of a facility without having to pay for the entire project upfront. Once completed, the developer leases back the property to the school district.

Since 2019, the Del Mar Union School District has planned to demolish and rebuild its 61-year-old Del Mar Heights K-6 campus, using Measure MM bonds approved in 2018. The district intends to construct one-story facilities and an expanded parking lot with a new drop-off/pick-up lane, including on part of the existing playing field, reducing the field’s size.

A group of community members called Save the Field had been trying to stop the school district’s project since June 2020 when they filed a lawsuit calling for the preservation and protection of the open spaces within the school district’s boundaries.

Most recently, Save the Field appealed the San Diego Planning Commission’s unanimous approval of the Del Mar Heights rebuild project in October 2021. The decision went before the San Diego City Council where the group’s appeal was denied.

According to the staff report for Wednesday’s meeting, “due to litigation filed against the District challenging the Project, the District was not able to secure its Coastal Development Permit and was not able to issue a Notice to Proceed to commence the Work on the Project when originally intended. The delay caused by the litigation resulted in increases in costs and materials.”

The approved change order will increase the costs of the project by $2,107,396. The contractor for the project is Balfour Beatty Construction, LLC.

The board previously had to approve a similar change order of more than $4 million. In addition, litigation and attorney fees cost the district about $500,000, according to Chris Delehanty, assistant superintendent of business services.

“Because of litigation this cost us about $8 million that we would not have had to spend,” said Trustee Gee Wah Mok. “I am incredibly disappointed that it’s gotten here… to waste $8 million for nothing… it’s entirely frivolous. As community members in this community, we should be outraged that this is happening. This is a complete waste of our money.”

Del Mar Heights was supposed to reopen for the 2021-22 school year with the original schedule, but the project was delayed for a year and a half. With the new schedule, construction is expected to begin next month, with expected completion in May 2023.