by Julie Thunder
This is a followup to an earlier article, found here.
Three important updates to Cardiff School District’s rebuild project using Measure GG funds:
(1) The group opposing the school rebuild has filed a lawsuit against the District;
(2) The Sierra Club has apologized for the confusion caused by their earlier statement and has formally changed its position;
(3) Letter submitted to state agency claims Council support – before the issue had been heard by the full Council.
(1) Opposing Group Files Lawsuit
The group opposing the District’s rebuild of Cardiff School, Save the Park and Build the School, filed a lawsuit in San Diego Superior Court on March 8th. Daniel Littrell, a member of the group said this about the lawsuit’s intent:
The objective of the lawsuit is to get the District to change the planned school footprint to avoid expanding onto Berkich Park. There is no intent to prevent renovation of Cardiff School as specified in Measure GG.Statement issued from Save the Park and Build the School, on March 28, 2019
As far as asking the District not to expand further into Berkich Park, Randy Peterson responded:
It’s important for people to know that none of the Cardiff School property is a park. The entire site is a school. The City of Encinitas asked the District if it could use both Cardiff School and Ada Harris School playfields for its community recreation programs. The District has allowed the City to use the playfields but has never designated any portion of either one of the schools as a park. The District named the Cardiff School playfields George Berkich Park in honor of a previous school principal when improvements were made to the playfields. Both Cardiff and Ada Harris have always been schools owned completely by the Cardiff School District with no deed restrictions or easements of any kind.Randy Peterson, responding to the verbiage in the lawsuit
(2) Sierra Club Retracts and Reissues Statement
Early last month, a North County chapter of the Sierra Club issued a formal statement that calls upon Cardiff School District and the City of Encinitas to “preserve Berkich Park in its current form”, a statement clearly aligned with the opposition group. The statement was issued without meeting with the District to attempt to understand their plans for the rebuild.
Randy Peterson, a consultant hired by Cardiff School District, reached out to the Club after seeing their statement and invited them to sit down with school officials and review the plans. This meeting appears to have brought about the retraction of the initial statement.
At this week’s Encinitas City Council meeting, the chapter co-chair, Diane Nygaard, apologized to the Council for the earlier statement, saying, “I take responsibility for the fact that our initial research was not as thorough as it should have been” and issued a new statement, changing their position. She asked that the City and the District “now work together ” to amend the park boundary agreement, which would pave the way for the District to alter George Berkich Park.
Nygaard’s statement to Council:
“I’m here tonight as the conservation co-chair of North County Coastal Group of the Sierra Club. I wanted to come tonight to personally present our revised statement regarding the land referred to as George Berkich Park. My apologies for the confusion that our initial statement seems to have caused. I take responsibility for the fact that our initial research was not as thorough as it should have been.
It’s now clear that not all of the conditions of the 1993 grant were complied with. We believe that was inadvertent, and that once aware of those problems that there’s a clear intent to correct them.
But to correct the changes that have already occurred and to address the recreational and safety needs of today, really requires amending that agreement.
It’s our hope that both the parties – the school district and the City – will work together to do just that. Thank you.”
(3) Letter Submitted to State Agency Claims City Council Support – Before the Issue had been Heard by the full Council
Several letters showing both support and opposition have been sent to the Office of Grants and Local Services (OGALS), the State agency that oversees the 1993 agreement between the City and School District.
One of the letters sent in August 2018 was from Tricia Smith, Mayor Blakespear’s mother. She stated in her letter that Encinitas “City Council members do NOT support the [Cardiff School District] Board’s proposals.” And that the Council “does not want the Board to use the protected parklands for the school building campaign.”
This surprised Randy Peterson because although the District has met with individual City Council members, the Council has not heard public comments on the issue and has not voted on a position. A search of the Council meeting agendas since 2016 shows no mention of the District’s rebuild issue, OGALS, or Berkich Park.
The City Council is scheduled to address the OGALS application at their meeting on April 17th. Both groups are asking their supporters to attend.