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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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Judge lifts injunction in Del Mar Heights rebuild lawsuit

DEL MAR — Crews have resumed construction at the Del Mar Heights school rebuild site after a judge lifted an injunction that had stopped all work on the project for the past 10 months.

After the district demolished the old school building, progress on the long-awaited rebuild was halted in May 2022 due to a lawsuit initiated by local group Save the Field against the City of San Diego regarding the permits issued for the project. 

Judge Katherine Bacal ruled on March 6 to lift the injunction, stating that a recent Court of Appeals decision in a separate but related case had “fully and finally” resolved all issues raised by Save the Field.

The judge’s ruling seemingly ends the second lawsuit in the past three years by Save the Field, whose main argument has been that the Del Mar Union School District failed to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, in the project process. 

Chris Delehanty, Del Mar Union’s assistant superintendent of business services, said that Balfour Beatty Construction, the company leading the rebuild, was onsite with a bulldozer the same day the injunction was lifted. 

“We are excited to move forward, and we are looking forward to the challenge of getting it built as quickly as possible,” Delehanty told the district board of trustees on March 15. “There is some work to do in really getting us back to where we were 10 months ago because 10 months of rain and weather and sun has taken an impact on the site, but we are moving forward.” 

Save the Field first sued the district regarding its CEQA process for the project back in 2020, which resulted in Judge Joel Wohlfiel ordering an injunction requiring the district to re-evaluate project elements. The injunction was later lifted, and Wohlfiel ruled that the project did comply with CEQA, a decision that Save the Field appealed to the California Supreme Court.

When the Supreme Court in January refused to hear the appeal, Del Mar Union representatives argued the decision also resolved the 2022 lawsuit against the city of San Diego. Bacal agreed.

“We have finally come to an end of our litigation, and I’m very happy to share that the district has finally prevailed on the second lawsuit brought against it,” Delehanty said. 

Save the Field representatives have yet to respond to a request for comment. 

The district anticipated the rebuild would be complete in May 2023 when crews broke ground on the project early last year. Following the 10-month delay, officials said they would share a new timeline for the project at a future school board meeting. 

Delays caused by litigation have frustrated many Del Mar Heights families, whose students are currently split between Del Mar Hills Academy and Ocean Air School until the rebuild is complete. 

Costs for the project, funded by Measure MM, have also increased by over $6 million since 2020, district officials said.