Monday, October 17, 2011

Encinitas Land Donations

Context: Encinitas Union School District officials are privately stating that many of their reflexive decisions are motivated an desperate effort to balance their budget by finding more revenue. Leadership that promotes financing iPads that might last a few years with a 30 year repayment horizon should result in a vote of no confidence on EUSD's financial wisdom, but it hasn't.
Encinitas Union School District has announced it’s going to sue the City of Encinitas over the Pacific View school property.  Really?  Remember last November, when we passed proposition P to allow EUSD to borrow 44 million dollars and extend our tax rates another 30 years in order to upgrade their school’s computers and technology and renovate outdated classrooms and facilities?   65% of our community voted to pass Prop. P.  It is expected to cost about 150 million dollars over the next 30 years.  And now they are going to sue us?     Now, in addition to our overwhelming support of that 44 million dollar bond measure, we could end up paying the litigation fees for both EUSD and the City of Encinitas.

Communities like to support it's schools and their children.  EUSD knows this, and something else: they know we have short memories and lead busy lives.  As this plays out, citizens from all of Encinitas should take note, because this will affect not only how we deal with “surplus” school properties going forward, but "any" historic property near and dear to you as well! 

We all need to know the special history of the Pacific View school site.  Most of the property was gifted to our community in 1883 by one of the early town founders, J. Pitcher.  Over the last 128 years the remainder of the property has been meticulously deeded down through several generations until it was finally deeded to EUSD in 1964.  It was a gift.  There was lots of land available in Encinitas in 1883.  These town founders were very particular about this special site on top of the bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  They wanted it for the community and it’s children.  They did not give cash.

While watching as EUSD staff members have left two city council meetings completely frustrated and angry that the city did not go along with their demands, it's hard to put your finger on why there is such disconnect on their part.  Yes, it’s about the money; it always is.  But, there is something more here.  The heart.  Superintendents are hired to think pragmatically always keeping their eye on the children and the bottom line. The Pacific View property has to do with this and something else: The heart of a community.  The heart that threads together a community’s history.  We have expected whichever superintendent: whether it’s Douglas Devore, Lean King or Timothy Baird to see the heart of the community he serves.  All of them have missed the mark when it comes to the Pacific View school site. None of these 3 men have had the nuanced ability to not only work the bottom line, but at the same time to uphold the integrity of our community history with equal importance.  It is understandable that a superintendent coming from outside our community would not fully understand the “heart’ of our community.  They arrive.  They stay for a while.  They leave.  The rest of us are here to stay.

As shocking as it sounds, it should not be a surprise when Tim Baird’s October 11th, 2011 letter states: “The only value that Pacific View has for the education of our children is as an asset that can be sold, leased or traded.”  This conveys the perspective of someone temporarily coming into our community with a singular focus on raising money for EUSD. That’s the job.  Up to this point the PV property has been a sale/exchange/development agenda item pushed on the citizens of the community.

In the past year DEMA (Downtown Encinitas Main Street Association) secured an offer to lease the PV property as a cultural arts center for $200,000 it’s first year, with an agreement to eventually lease the property for $600,000 a year.  Considering one of the initial reasons for closing the school was that the district would save over $100,000 yearly and that they have only generated $1 a year since 2003 by leasing it to the City of Encinitas, the DEMA proposal looked like a workable solution.  EUSD rejected the proposal.

So when Superintendent Baird says in his letter “we are now forced to take this step” (meaning litigation), it is the continuation of a tone deaf sentiment characterized by the last three EUSD Superintendents.

In the middle of our busy lives, let's stop to remember the history of the town that surrounds us.   Remember, it was a group of concerned citizens that formed the Encinitas Preservation Association in order to purchase and protect the Boat Houses.  Remember Ruth Larabee who donated her 26.5 acres in Encinitas to the County of San Diego to be preserved as a public park.  Her vision and generosity is why we have San Diego Botanic Garden right here in our own backyard.  Remember a group of concerned citizens that gathered in May 1965 to answer the question “What are we, the community, going to do with the Olivenhain Hall and property?”.   Remember Mr. Pitcher in 1883.   He deeded 2.8 acres on the bluff, overlooking the Pacific Ocean to the community of Encinitas and its children.  These historic properties are near and dear to the entire community of Encinitas.

Like the citizens before and among us today, we need to collectively work to preserve the Pacific View school site for future generations.  The first step is for community residents to voice their thoughts to our elected officials.  We cannot do this without the sincere help of EUSD and the Encinitas City Council.  It is time for these two groups to work "genuinely" and collaboratively with members of the community they serve.   Like the concerned citizens from Olivenhain in 1965, we need to ask ourselves "What are we, the community, going to do with the Pacific View School and property?".  If we don't pay attention now we will lose forever this magnificent 128 year old gift from our town founder.


Sarah Garfield & Bill Sparks
Friends of EUSD
Friends for the preservation of Historic Pacific View Property

Well, you probably shouldn't trust the city with a land donation either. From Hoodlink:

In 1975 the estate of Mildred Macpherson donated the properties located at 945 Orpheus Avenue and 1000 Vulcan Avenue to the County of San Diego with specific instructions for their use.

Mrs. Macpherson instructed that the Vulcan property be used for a park bearing her name. For the Orpheus property, her instructions were to create the James Macpherson Roadside Park in honor of her husband. These parks, in addition to money she left to create a fountain at Quail Gardens was the legacy she chose to leave her community, little pieces of peace.

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