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Accord Costs S.D. Schools $82,699 : Developer to Receive Money Because District Broke Lease

Times Staff Writer

Odmark Development Co. will receive $82,699 from the San Diego Unified School District in a settlement of the district’s cancellation in May of a 99-year lease on the closed Dana Junior High School in Point Loma.

The Board of Education Tuesday voted, 4-1, with President Kay Davis opposed, to authorize the settlement. Davis asked for a week’s delay to allow Point Loma residents to testify. Those residents active in opposing the board’s long-term leasing policy were before the San Diego City Council on Tuesday on a related zoning issue and unable to appear at the education center.

The board Tuesday also debated how to proceed with a more restrictive policy for leasing unused school sites to raise money for building schools needed elsewhere in the district. That policy, still several weeks from adoption by the board, would limit to 25 years any lease of a school site including buildings that the school district might one day need again.

The board’s problems with Odmark stemmed from its decision in May to change the 99-year policy after fierce opposition from residents around Dana and the Farnum Elementary School site in Pacific Beach. Odmark subsequently filed a claim against the district for $600,000, alleging sustained and anticipated damages as a result of a breach of contract.

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Specifics of Settlement

The settlement approved Tuesday will reimburse Odmark for costs of planning for condominium development on the Dana site: $12,848 in design and consulting work, $15,200 for employee payments and $33,671 to the law firm of Peterson, Thelan & Price for legal work. It also includes the return of a $20,000 deposit posted by Odmark and $980 in other legal costs.

The board voted without comment on the settlement.

Board members subsequently debated for more than an hour a new staff report suggesting two major ways to carry out the proposed 25-year maximum time limit.

One method would be to develop a lease document for any of five sites proposed for a 25-year arrangement. Under the document, the board could terminate an agreement at the end of 25 years if the site again was needed for a school. If not, the lease could be extended. A successful bidder could use the existing buildings or demolish them and build new structures if the design was approved by the board.

A Second Method

The second means would allow the board to sell or exchange an unneeded site but give it the right to repurchase the site at the end of 25 years if the district then needed the land for a school. The board would have final say on demolition of existing buildings under this arrangement as well.

City Councilman Mike Gotch told board members that the sale-repurchase agreement would fit in with city hopes to put a library and park at the Farnum site. An anonymous donor has pledged $1.5 million toward that project, community representatives from Pacific Beach said Tuesday. The beach community has strongly backed plans for such a library.

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But board president Davis worried that the latest proposal, as worded by district staff members, could be viewed by Dana area residents as an opening to allow condominium or other unwanted development in the single-family Point Loma neighborhood.

“They’ll look at this and say, ‘Oh, my God, another end run to develop Dana not in compatibility with what the community wants,’ ” Davis said. Unlike the Farnum site, Dana area residents have no consensus on what they would like to put at their school site. Davis chairs an advisory committee of Point Loma residents and school district members that attempts to figure out who might be interested in bidding on Dana and be willing to use the existing school buildings.

“We’re looking at some tenant (to use the existing buildings) and some park use,” she said. The committee hopes to present recommendations to the board in early September.

The board will debate the policy again next week, leading toward a vote by the end of the month.

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