Parents Sue Poway District for Failure to Include Community on Plan to Commercialize School Site
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, October 28, 2020
27-Acre Public Land was to be Future Middle School, Now Slated for Private Development
SAN DIEGO –Left with no other option to gain a seat at the table before Poway Unified School District’s Board (PUSD) finalizes plans to commercialize land designated for a middle school, a grassroots group of nearly 2,000 local residents known asProtect Our Community Now (POCN)have sued PUSD.
POCN will hold a digital town hall event tonight from 7:30 – 9:00 p.m. on the issue. The webinar, which is open to PUSD families and the media, can be viewed viaZoom. More information to access the event can be found on the flier below.
“This is the last thing we want to do while we’re all working to ensure our children receive a quality education during the pandemic, but the school district has left us no other choice,” said Gianni Nguyen, founder of POCN. “We were left out of this process. I ask every San Diegan how they would feel if a major piece of land they thought would become a school is suddenly slated to become a major commercial property, adding significant impacts to your community that were never envisioned.”
PUSD failed to comply with the legal requirements to dispose of school property in its negotiations with Costco to build large commercial center at the northeast corner of Camino Del Sur and Carmel Valley Road, and deliberately excluded the community from meaningful public input on any proposals received, according to the lawsuit.
“This is not about opposition to a specific project, it’s all about a failure to adhere to required process and transparency,” said John Lemmo, an attorney with Procopio who filed the suit on POCN’s behalf. “School districts have an obligation to garner community interest if they want to declare school land unneeded ‘surplus’ and change its use. PUSD not only ignored the process, they appear to have actively subverted it.”
PUSD sought a waiver from the public bid process for surplus land from the California State Board of Education. The State Board granted the request, but specifically mandated that PUSD maximize the return on the sale or lease of the PUSD Middle School Site “in a manner that best serves its schools and community through the RFP process.” This requirement is also in the Education Code § 17387 which states that leases entered provide for community involvement.
The only known in-person community outreach included a single meeting held at the private Santaluz Club in January 2020, only accessible to Santaluz members, and billed as an update on Measure P, the now-failed bond measure. Attendees confirmed there was little-to-no specific discussion about a solicitation by PUSD to develop the site or any bids being considered. Moreover, Santaluz represents just a fraction of area residents. Thousands of people in numerous surrounding communities, beyond Santaluz, will be impacted by this land-use decision, and none of them were included in community outreach outside the single meeting. Additionally, PUSD ran a small print advertisement in the San Diego Union-Tribune.
“I don’t see how any of this was done in collaboration with, or in the best interest of, residents of our community,” said Jessica Vogelsang, a member of POCN. “It looks like they were checking the boxes and are rushing this through without checking in with the community.”
PUSD may vote to approve a final long-term lease with Costco as soon as November 12.
Critical Community Conversation digital townhall with PUSD residents
Thursday, October 28, 2020
7:30 PM – 9:00 p.m.