Category Archives: Union Tribune

Council OKs deal to help group buy former school site

By Terry Rodgers, Staff Writer | Union-Tribune

DEL MAR – The City Council has come to the rescue of a community-based campaign aimed at acquiring a surplus school site that represents the largest piece of open space left in tiny Del Mar.

The Campaign for Del Mar Shores wants to buy the former school site at 225 Ninth Street and donate the 5.3 acres to the city to put the property out of reach of developers.

The ocean-view land fronts on Camino del Mar, the main street in this 1.8-square-mile city of 4,500 residents.

The campaign has raised $5 million in just eight months, but it has fallen short of the $8.5 million purchase price set by the Del Mar Unified School District. The deadline for escrow to close is May 15. The school district has denied a request to extend escrow for another year.

To keep the deal alive, the council on Monday voted 4-0 to negotiate a promissory note with the school district guaranteeing that the full purchase amount will be paid by May 2009. Under the preliminary terms, the $5 million in donations will be tendered at the close of escrow next month, with the balance being paid with interest by May 15, 2009. The city will guarantee full payment, using the Shores property as collateral.

“We are not going to put the city in a position of defaulting,” said Deputy Mayor Crystal Crawford. “We enjoy an exceptional credit rating for a city of our size, and we are not going to put that at risk.”

The city’s “bridge financing” deal will give the Campaign for Del Mar Shores another year to raise funds. It also gives the City Council time to pursue the option of placing a 20-year bond issue before voters.

“This is the biggest and most expensive piece of property we have ever tried acquire as a city,” said Councilman Richard Earnest. “To own it would be quite a feather in our cap.”

The site currently accommodates offices that serve as the school district’s headquarters, classrooms for the private Winston School, a Little League ball field, dog-walking area, playground equipment and basketball courts.

“This was valuable enough and the community wanted it badly enough that the city was willing to step in and borrow the money to complete the deal,” Earnest said. “This allows us more time to put a more orderly financial process together.”

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District omits key detail on Tomlinson deal

By Logan Jenkins | Union-Tribune

A bouquet – the Killing the Chicken award – to the Del Mar Union School District’s resurgent board for ending the terrible game of chicken that for more than a year has divided the interests of the school district from the city of Del Mar’s.

Both sides walked halfway to reach an $8.5 million price for the 5-acre parcel called the Shores property.

Two lawsuits will be dropped as the city of Del Mar, the Winston School and the steadfast Friends of Del Mar Parks will bundle the money to preserve the school campus as well as public playing fields.

This was a classic case of too many lawyers and too few gray heads. Fortunately, the bleeding stopped.

A fair price, based on appraisals under current zoning, was worked out, saving both sides from a further flood of billable hours

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Future of former school site depends on two legal disputes

By Bruce Lieberman, Staff Writer | Union-Tribune

DEL MAR – Robert Ramp says he can see both sides when it comes to the controversy surrounding the former Del Mar Shores School.

The real estate agent understands that the Del Mar Union School District wants to get the most money possible for a property it doesn’t need anymore – and that the buyer probably would be a developer who aims to fill the 5.3-acre site with high-priced condos.

But Ramp, who was walking his 4-year-old Doberman, Zoe, on the property’s baseball field Thursday morning, wants more parks. Like other Del Mar residents who frequent the patch of green space near Ninth Street and Camino Del Mar, Ramp hopes the district doesn’t get what it’s after.

“It’s a very valuable piece of property, (but) leave it as a park,” he said. “Make it a bigger park.”

That pretty much sums up the controversy simmering over one of the most valuable properties in this affluent beach community.

The fate of the Del Mar Shores campus, which hasn’t been used as a district school since 1975, hinges largely on the outcome of two unsettled legal disputes.

One centers on a deed restriction imposed on the property, which a wealthy family sold to the school district in 1946 for $10. At the time, the owners of the Wm. G. Kerckhoff Co. stipulated that the property could be used “for school purposes only.”

The second is an ongoing dispute between the district and city officials, who disagree over how the property should be valued in a sale.

The city has claimed that a state law, the Naylor Act, should enable the city to buy the property at 75 percent below its assessed value, said Tom Bishop, the district’s superintendent. However, a 1998 amendment to the act should exempt Del Mar Unified from having to offer the property at below-market value, Bishop said. The district and city are scheduled to argue the issue in court in July.

The district’s attempt to remove the deed restriction has run into problems. On May 18, a Superior Court judge voided an earlier judgment to free the property from the restriction on the deed. Instead, Judge Jeffrey Barton ordered Del Mar Unified to start over with the legal process.

Del Mar Union must attempt to notify the direct heirs of the Kerckhoff company that the school district is trying to change the deed, after Barton found that the district failed to adequately search for them.

Del Mar resident Elise Kerckhoff, a grandniece of the owners of the Kerckhoff company, did protest the district’s attempt to remove the deed restriction, but she didn’t have legal standing, the judge ruled. She isn’t a direct heir of the Kerckhoff company, he said.

The district also failed to properly post notices on the old Del Mar Shores campus and fulfill other legal obligations, Barton ruled.

The mistakes were honest oversights, and re-publicizing the district’s intentions should take about 60 days, Bishop said. A court resolution may not come for many months afterward, however.

Today, the buildings that made up Del Mar Shores School are rented by the private Winston School. A small complex of portable buildings used as the district’s administrative offices is also on the property, as are a basketball court and a baseball field.

“For (the campus) to be converted to something else and for that land to be bulldozed would be a tremendous . . . loss for the community,” said Laura DeMarco, chairwoman of Friends of Del Mar Parks, a community group trying to raise money to help the city buy the property.

Bishop has said it’s not the job of his school district to ensure that Del Mar is provided with parks. The money the school district would earn from the sale would benefit children attending district schools, he said.

“Our responsibility is to teach kids to read and write, not to provide a dog park,” Bishop said.

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