The McMartin Pre-School, which was the focal point of an alleged child sex abuse scandal that touched off the longest and costliest trial in U.S. history, has been purchased by a real estate broker who wants to tear it down and replace it with an office building.
Arnold Goldstein, a Hermosa Beach real estate broker who bought the Manhattan Beach property in February, said he would like to begin work soon. “Who needs that monument any more?” he said of the fenced and deserted school buildings.
Goldstein’s plan, filed April 18 with the city of Manhattan Beach, calls for demolishing the McMartin Pre-School and joining the property with another lot for construction of a three-story office building.
Before the project can proceed, it must be reviewed in public hearings before the Planning Commission and City Council, and it must receive a commercial planned development permit from the city.
“It will take a little time,” said City Planner Rosemary Ballister.
The McMartin case erupted in the fall of 1983 when a parent told police that her child had been molested at the preschool in the 900 block of Manhattan Beach Boulevard. Other parents alleged that their children had been absed, and by the following May, seven people had been charged with 208 molestation counts involving 41 children.
Charges later were dropped against everyone but Peggy McMartin Buckey and Ray Buckey, the daughter and grandson of the preschool’s founder. In January, after a preliminary hearing and trial that lasted more than five years, Peggy McMartin Buckey was acquitted of all 12 counts against her, and Ray Buckey was acquitted of all but 13 of the 53 counts against him.
The jury deadlocked on those 13 counts against Ray Buckey. Prosecutors refiled eight of the counts the jury could not resolve, and Ray Buckey is being retried on the eight counts in a proceeding that is expected to take six months.
Goldstein bought the school on Feb. 6 for $320,000 from Buckey attorney Danny Davis, according to Los Angeles County records. Davis, who has represented Buckey since the start of the McMartin case, said he acquired the property as a legal fee.
While the school was combed for evidence during the first trial, no objections to demolishing the buildings have been raised by the Los Angeles district attorney’s office, which is prosecuting Buckey, or Judge Stanley Weisberg, who is presiding over Buckey’s second trial.
Goldstein’s office plan calls for 8,200 square feet of usable space and parking for 28 cars. He will combine the McMartin property with an adjoining lot he owns at Manhattan Beach Boulevard and Walnut Avenue to construct the building.