Encinitas School Board Opposes High-Density Development

Times Staff Writer

The Encinitas Union School District has asked the state Coastal Commission to reverse its approval of a bitterly opposed county zoning change that vastly increased residential building densities in a 93-acre area known as Quail Gardens.

District officials say the controversial change could add up to 1,800 students to the school system, which is already overcrowded and has no room for additional pupils.

To support their request, administrators argue that their concerns were inadequately considered prior to the commission's action. In addition, officials protest that the pace of development in the area will make the district unable to build facilities needed to match the growing demand.

The six-school district has 3,600 students and already operates five schools on a year-round basis to ease crowding problems in the classroom.

After consulting with an attorney, trustees--who normally steer clear of land-use issues--agreed to send a letter to the commission requesting that it reconsider its decision amending the area's coastal development plan and providing builders with permits to begin construction in the Quail Gardens area.

Commission staff members in San Diego, who urged denial of the Quail Gardens zoning change, are studying the district's request and will announce next week whether a new hearing will be scheduled, according to Chuck Damm, assistant district director.

Under the Coastal Conservation Act, a request for a rehearing is to be granted if there was either inadequate public notice of the initial meeting or if developers provided incomplete, inaccurate or erroneous information on their permit applications.

"It's not a matter of whether the Coastal Commission's decision was right or wrong, but rather a question of whether sufficient and accurate information was provided prior to their vote," Damm said.

Damm declined to speculate on whether a rehearing might be held. However, commissioners did hear testimony from Encinitas Supt. Donald Lindstrom about the district's concerns prior to voting on the matter.

The Coastal Commission approved the Quail Gardens developments on May 16 after a lengthy public hearing attended by more than 100 angry residents, most of whom protested the scale of the projects and their effect on traffic congestion in the area.

The zoning change increased building densities on the formerly agricultural land from between one and three housing units per acre to as high as 29 dwellings per acre. The area, part of the newly incorporated City of Encinitas, borders the Quail Botanical Gardens, an ecological preserve that contains rare local plants.

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