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Cardiff Elementary School
A judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by the group Save the Park against the Cardiff School District over disputed boundary lines of George Berkich Park. Photo by Caitlin Steinberg
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Judge dismisses lawsuit over Cardiff Elementary rebuild

ENCINITAS — A district court judge dismissed a local group’s lawsuit last week, ending a court-ordered preliminary injunction and a year-long string of legal battles over Cardiff School District’s rebuild of Cardiff Elementary School.

According to court proceedings, the order “declines supplemental jurisdiction, dismisses without prejudice [Save the Park’s] fifth and sixth causes of action, dissolves the preliminary injunction entered by Judge Larry Burns on July 24 and denies the permanent injunction requested by [Save the Park against Cardiff School District.]”

In addition, Judge Todd W. Robinson acknowledged the district “remains under the law… and the Settlement Agreement to refrain from the vast majority of its planned construction within Boundary without [National Park Service] approval.”

In an unexpected reversal this fall, the National Park Service (NPS) rescinded its original approval of several Cardiff Elementary School construction elements, committing to reworking plans in accordance with the District and California Department of Parks and Recreation.

However, Robinson warned the district about the importance of maintaining NPS approval.

“Should the district fail to abide by those obligations, [Save the Park] has a remedy before the Superior Court to reopen the issue,” Robinson wrote.

In an email sent to families on Nov. 11, the district applauded the decision.

“The court’s ruling is a win for the students, parents, and teachers at Cardiff School, who will be moving into the newly built classrooms after winter break,” the district wrote in an email.

The district also acknowledged the unresolved NPS approvals, saying it “will continue to work with the appropriate agencies to resolve the remaining grant agreement implications associated with the project.”

In the email, the district refers to Save the Park as a “small group” that “prioritized its own interests and used the courts to delay and increase the cost of the project by attempting to force the district to accede to its selfish demands.”

However, the district continued, saying “it hopes that these recent court rulings will cause the project opponents to finally consider these same interests, [the students and community].

Eleanor Musick, a Save the Park representative, has on multiple occasions told The Coast News that the group’s intentions are not selfish, but rooted in “compliance with the law.”

“This dispute is and has always been a legal issue,” Musick told the Coast News in September. “From that day in February 2018 when the district was informed that they had a major legal obstacle in the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and were advised to take a conservative approach and revise their plans at that early stage to avoid it.”

As it stands, both groups believe the ruling to be a positive outcome in their favor.

Pleased with the dismissal of the lawsuit and preliminary injunction, the district told families it “looks forward to continuing to provide announcements about the project in the next few months and continuing to focus on creating the safest and most rewarding educational experiences for its students.”

Similarly, Save the Park believes they have ultimately succeeded in forcing the school district to redraw its original plans in compliance with state and federal guidelines.

“Save the Park hopes that wiser minds prevail this time around and the District accepts that it must change its plans,” Musick said.  “We will continue to monitor the review process to ensure it goes properly this time.”

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