Appeal Filed Over School, Zoning Ruling


Los Angeles County officials Wednesday appealed a court ruling that for the first time gave them the ability to deny zone changes on the grounds that the development would overburden public schools.

The appeal was filed partly because some county officials felt that the responsibility for funding school construction was better handled at the state level.

In addition, Supervisor Mike Antonovich said he hoped that the appeal would continue the pressure on school districts to reach their own consensus with developers on appropriate fees to finance school construction.


“This keeps the hammer in place for them to reach the agreement,” Antonovich said.

Only Supervisor Ed Edelman objected, saying the county needs the additional power in making land-use decisions.

“I just don’t understand why . . . we are weakening our own power,” Edelman said.

The original lawsuit that prompted the 2nd District Court of Appeal ruling earlier this year was filed against the county in 1989 by two crowded Santa Clarita Valley school districts. School administrators said they turned to the courts after unsuccessful efforts to block a 2,500-unit housing development in Saugus, which they feared would inundate them with students.

Antonovich had previously asked that the appeal not be filed because the two districts--William S. Hart Union High School District and Saugus Union School District--were involved in negotiations to set a development fee of about $2.50 a square foot, nearly $1 more than state law requires.

However, the appellate court ruling, if it stands, reaches far beyond the Santa Clarita Valley and even beyond Los Angeles County. School construction advocates in Sacramento welcomed it as an important tool in their efforts to handle rapidly growing numbers of school-age children in the state.

In the past, developer fees have paid primarily for trailer-like temporary classrooms, while new schools have been built with public bond money.

But that money has fallen $6 billion short of the need, said Henry Heydt, assistant director of school facilities planning for the state Department of Education. By 1996, the state estimates that $17 billion more will be needed to house the projected 1.1 million new students.