Plan to Sell Peninsula Sites : Schools’ Surplus, Developers’ Dream

Times Staff Writer

The land-scarce Palos Verdes Peninsula may get a substantial infusion of new home sites as its financially strapped school district moves ahead this month with plans to dispose of some of its surplus properties.

Six sites totaling 123 acres have been designated as saleable assets by the 10,400-student district, which is struggling to cope with the financial woes accompanying a 41% decline in enrollment over the past 15 years.

In theory, developers could build as many as 164 single-family residences on the usable school land--about 105 acres after subtracting steep hills--or even more if the Peninsula cities were to allow higher densities on some of the choice parcels.

The potential expansion would not be impressive in many communities, but on the affluent hill, where half-million-dollar homes sit on at least an acre or two, the idea of gaining even a couple dozen new building sites can be exciting for developers and potential home buyers.


Available building sites in Rolling Hills Estates, for example, have shrunk to about 30 lots, and Rolling Hills figures that it has about a dozen two-acre home sites open. Altogether, the four Peninsula cities have only an estimated 700 lots to be filled in an area with more than 20,000 single-family homes.

“I think there would be a lot of interest if the district puts its surplus on the market,” said Ron Florance, a Peninsula real estate broker and a Palos Verdes Estates councilman. “It could help satisfy a pent-up demand for more homes.”

However, no major building spree on the surplus land is likely, city and district officials agree.

Development at most of the sites will be slowed, if not blocked, by local opposition to new homes replacing school buildings now used for community activities and to filling up open fields where Little League games are played, the officials say.


“Our community is highly sensitive to how land is used,” said Ann Negendank, acting planning director in Rancho Palos

Verdes, “and I think people would want to take a very close look at any plans for developing the sites here.”

She recalled that Rancho Palos Verdes broke off from Los Angeles County and incorporated in 1973, in part to ensure local control over land development.

Three of the surplus school properties--Portuguese Bend, Loma del Mar and Pedregal--are in Rancho Palos Verdes and all are zoned for institutional use.


“There would have to be zone changes and amendments to our general plan before anything could be done at those sites,” Negendank said.

The district has received friendlier reception so far in Rolling Hills Estates, where the Peninsula High School property is located. The vacant 36-acre parcel, long viewed as a prime candidate for disposal, was acquired in 1965 before escalating property values began to make it difficult for younger couples with school-age children to find affordable housing on the Peninsula.

Upgrade Zoning

Under a deal awaiting final approval this month, Rolling Hills Estates will upgrade the zoning on the Peninsula High parcel to permit a developer to build as many as 72 single-family homes on 26 acres. In return, the district will deed the remaining 10 acres to the city for park and recreational use.


District spokeswoman Nancy Mahr said money from the sale--the property has been appraised at $5.4 million--will help replenish the school system’s capital fund, and the interest will be used for general operations.

The fund reached a peak of $9.2 million in the late 1970s, but fell to the current level of about $1 million as the hard-pressed district dipped into it repeatedly to finance capital improvements, Mahr said.

The money went for major maintenance and renovations of facilities and for computers and other equipment, she said.

Mahr said the district expects to call for bids on the Peninsula High property this summer.


Here is the status of the other surplus properties viewed as potentially saleable assets:

- Loma del Mar--A vacant 8.5-acre parcel near the ocean in Rancho Palos Verdes. Acquired in 1967, the property was appraised at $4.5 million in the 1970s, but that estimate may be far below its worth in today’s market, Mahr said. She said a committee advised the district several years ago to hang onto the property until its value increased.

- Portugese Bend--Another vacant parcel northwest of Loma del Mar, acquired in 1968 and intended as the site for an intermediate school. About 14 of its 22 acres are deemed suitable for construction. The site has been leased for about a decade by the American Youth Soccer Organization, and other groups use it extensively. A $6.3-million appraisal on the property may be outdated, Mahr said, and the school board plans to get a fresh estimate.

- Pedregal--A closed elementary school in the northwest corner of Rancho Palos Verdes. Most of its 9.4 acres would be ideal for new homes, but the large number of community groups that use the facility are expected to resist any development proposals. An appraisal is planned, Mahr said.


- La Cresta--A closed elementary campus, now used by the district’s continuation high school, on a narrow parcel outside the gates of Rolling Hills. The value of the 31-acre site was estimated recently at $1.8 million--only a fraction of what the district believes it could get if Rolling Hills can be persuaded to upgrade zoning on the property.

Late last year, the city indicated willingness to help get a better price for La Cresta, in return for the district’s pledge not to keep the continuation school there for more than two years.

- Lower Dapplegray--A 16-acre portion at the north end of the active Dapplegray Intermediate School in Rolling Hills Estates. Future use of the school parcel may be linked to the outcome of proposals for a major residential development on the adjacent Chandler Quarry.

Those proposals have been stalled by questions of access to the huge quarry site and by objections from nearby residents opposed to the development.



Surplus Usable School Site Acreage 1. Pedregal Elementary (closed) 8.6 2. Peninsula High School (undeveloped land) 36 3. La Cresta Elementary (Continuation High) 22 4. Portuguese Bend Intermediate (undeveloped) 14.3 5. Loma del Mar Elementary (undeveloped) 8.5 6. Lower Dapplegray Intermediate (undeveloped portion of intermediate campus)16 32 Totals 105.4

Surplus Potential School Site Homes 1. Pedregal Elementary (closed) 27 2. Peninsula High School (undeveloped land) 72 3. La Cresta Elementary (Continuation High) 11 4. Portuguese Bend Intermediate (undeveloped) 14 5. Loma del Mar Elementary (undeveloped) 8 6. Lower Dapplegray Intermediate (undeveloped portion of intermediate campus)16 Totals *164

*Assumes that single-family homes are built on the total usable acreage in accordance with maximum density permitted under current zoning laws. The actual number eventually built could be substantially smaller.