New Law Regulates Changes in School-Site Uses

Palos Verdes Estates adopted an emergency zoning ordinance that officials said will give the city a more equal position with the school district in determining changes in the use of school property, such as the proposed conversion of the closed Margate Intermediate campus to a continuation high school.

The ordinance requires a special city permit before substantial changes can be made in use of property designated as open space--zoning generally applied to public schools.

Debate over the measure in recent weeks had appeared to be shaping up as a turf battle between two sovereign agencies, but both sides indicated Wednesday that adoption of the ordinance had relieved tensions and opened the way to a more cooperative approach to solving mutual problems.

Mayor James H. Kinney appointed a City Council subcommittee, headed by Councilwoman Ruth Gralow, to begin a dialogue with school officials on the district’s plans for Margate. He pointed out that the new ordinance applies equally to all public schools and other open space areas in the city.


“We’re holding out the olive branch,” said Councilman Ronald Florance. “This is a community of four cities with one school district and it makes sense to cooperate because we’re all going in the same direction.”

He said that “far too much independent action by the school board in the past has created an atmosphere of uncertainty and confusion, but now maybe we can sit down and talk things over instead of getting a lot of expensive lawyers in the act.”

Nancy Mahr, a spokeswoman for the Palos Verdes Peninsula School District, said school officials are “happy that the council wants to get together with us and talk over our mutual problems and concerns.”

She said the district still does not see a need for the zoning ordinance, but welcomes last-minute revisions that she said would prevent barriers to normal changes in classroom activities and to the use of school property by community groups.


Mahr declined to speculate on what might happen if the new spirit of cooperation between the two agencies fails to resolve differences over the future use of the Margate. But she noted that state law gives the district the right to override local ordinances that restrict its use of school property for classroom instruction.

Florance, in viewing the same possibility, said: “If they try to run roughshod over us, we’re going to fight them.”

The district closed the Margate campus in June to consolidate its intermediate school classes at three remaining sites. Trustees are now considering proposals to use the Margate facility in Palos Verdes Estates or the closed La Cresta Elementary School in Rolling Hills as the permanent home of the continuation school for teen-agers with special educational needs. It has been operating in temporary quarters on the Rolling Hills High School campus.

Margate-area residents oppose the relocation of the continuation school in their neighborhood, contending that it would create traffic and safety problems.