P.V. Estates Turns to Zoning to Block Continuation School

The school district's controversial efforts to find a permanent home for its continuation high school encountered new obstacles Tuesday night when the Palos Verdes Estates City Council ordered the drafting of a zoning ordinance that could block or delay the conversion of the closed Margate Intermediate campus to a facility for teen-agers with special educational needs.

Trustees of the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District are scheduled to decide on Sept. 9 whether to move the continuation school, which has been operating in temporary quarters on the Rolling Hills High School campus, to Margate in Palos Verdes Estates or to the closed La Cresta Elementary School in Rolling Hills.

The council, citing "a current and immediate threat to the public health, safety and welfare" from the possible use of Margate as a continuation school, instructed City Atty. Mark Allen to draft an urgency zoning measure for review by the lawmakers on Tuesday.

Some residents of the Margate area have argued that converting their neighborhood school would have a detrimental effect on property values and the quality of life in the area.

The proposed zoning revisions would require a special permit before substantial changes could be made in the use of property zoned as open space--a designation generally applying to parks and public schools.

In a letter delivered to the council before its meeting this week, Charles Greenberg, an attorney for the district, questioned whether the city had sufficient reasons to adopt an urgency measure. He also argued that a strict interpretation of the proposed ordinance could be unduly burdensome for the district, since it might require special permits before school facilities could be made available for community meetings as required by state law.

The city of Rolling Hills invoked a similar ordinance in its ultimately successful efforts to prevent relocation of the continuation high school at La Cresta last fall. District trustees countered by invoking a state law that restricts municipal zoning controls over how school classrooms are used.

A Superior Court judge upheld the district on that score, but then ruled in favor of Rolling Hills on technical grounds involving the district's preparation of an environmental impact report.

Meanwhile, opponents of converting Margate to a continuation school have until Aug. 23 to submit written comments on a new environmental report that lays the groundwork for the district's decision on where to put the school.

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