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Council opts not to renegotiate Pacific View purchase price

An environmental report highlighted asbestos and other potential problems on the Pacific View property. But the council majority said the city was already aware of those findings.
( / Jared Whitlock)

An Encinitas City Council majority declined to renegotiate the $10 million Pacific View purchase price, stating that the potential problems detailed in a recent environmental report are nothing new.

The report from city staff, presented at the July 16 meeting, noted that the former elementary school contains asbestos. Also, neighbors could have a legal claim to an access road on the edge of the land, which would reduce the size of the 2.6-acre site by around 10 percent.

But Councilwoman Lisa Shaffer said the city has been aware of those findings for a while.

“If we found something really unexpected — that we didn’t know was there — we certainly should go back and renegotiate,” Shaffer said. “But discovering that the school building is old and has asbestos is not news.”

She added that the city doesn’t have the grounds to renegotiate, since it has known about the road for some time.

Shaffer, Deputy Mayor Tony Kranz and Councilwoman Teresa Barth voted to move forward with buying the property from the Encinitas Union School District on terms agreed to last month.

Councilman Mark Muir and Mayor Kristin Gaspar, who have contested the purchase, opposed the motion.

Gaspar said in light of the report, the city should ask for a discount.

“It’s inconceivable to me that we wouldn’t give residents access to their properties — it’s just impossible,” she said. “So what that’s done is actually reduced the size of this space. And now the price per square foot has gone up on the property.”

Gaspar later added the road hasn’t been explored in very much detail at previous council meetings.

City Attorney Glenn Sabine said it has yet to be determined whether the homeowners have a legal claim to the road.

Ed Deane, senior civil engineer with the city, said the asbestos and other findings wouldn’t preclude development on the site.

Many have floated the idea of an arts or community center at Pacific View, but nothing has been set. The city plans to do community outreach in several months to gain input.

Councilwoman Teresa Barth said it would be more appropriate to discuss the road during the design phase of the process.

Transforming the property would involve either retrofitting the buildings, which date to the 1950s, or installing new structures.

The city will work to finance the deal by selling $13 million in bonds, with $10 million for Pacific View and up to $3 million for a new lifeguard tower at Moonlight Beach.

The purchase won’t be final until financing is obtained, according to Jay Lembach, city finance manager.

The plan to finance the deal will add between $700,000 to $750,000 to the city’s annual debt service — money to pay down interest and principal — for the next 30 years.

As a result, the city’s debt-management ratio will increase about 1 percent to 8 or 9 percent. The council’s goal is to stay below 10 percent.

Kranz said despite the added debt, the city is still funding all essential services.

“It is going to be something that future generations will very much appreciate,” Kranz said of Pacific View.

Gaspar, however, said the money would better spent on core services.

“I feel it’s important and that we’re obligated to provide not only the level of service that we have now, but an improved level of service in areas such as our road maintenance,” she said.


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