Converting school site is topic of meeting

A homeowners association president has urged his neighbors to attend a Wednesday night informational meeting about a property that the Huntington Beach City School District seeks to demolish and renovate into a park and residential development.

Steven Katz, the president of the Meredith Gardens Homeowners Assn., said he expects more than 100 residents to attend the meeting at 7 p.m. at Sowers Middle School, 9300 Indianapolis Ave., Huntington Beach. The association has urged members to oppose the development.

Under the plan, which has yet to be approved by the school board or Huntington Beach City Council, the district would convert part of the former LeBard Elementary School site, which now houses its headquarters, into a residential development. The district would also sell five acres to the city for use as park land.

Katz, who believes the construction would lead to traffic and other problems in the surrounding area, said residents have been opposed to the project since the district first floated it several years ago.

"This isn't the first rodeo," Katz said. "This has been an issue that's raised its ugly head on different occasions, and each time, there's been dissatisfaction with the concept of developing and putting homes in."

He added that the construction would also lead to the loss of shade trees and that park facilities would move closer to high-voltage power lines, which he said could be a health hazard for children.

The city currently operates a 3.1-acre park on the LeBard property. The added five acres, along with a two-acre easement owned by Southern California Edison, would expand the park to slightly more than 10 acres if the plan goes through.

The project would require not only the demolition of school buildings, but also the destruction and relocation of the property's existing baseball fields and park facilities. The new park would include six Little League baseball fields, two tennis courts, trails, a tot lot and a building that houses a concession stand, restrooms and storage, according to the district website.

Administrative Assistant Sharon Hojo said selling the property would boost the district's finances and help pay for a new headquarters, although the district had no official locations in mind yet.

The project, she said, has been in the works for several years but has picked up steam since new Supt. Gregory Haulk took office last summer.

"It's been in the talking stages, and now there's an actual proposal," Hojo said.

According to the district's website, LeBard was built in 1967 as a kindergarten-through-fifth-grade campus, closed in 1981 and reopened the following year as the district headquarters. The school board voted to sell the LeBard site in 2008.

Deputy City Manager Bob Hall said preserving the fields, which Seaview Little League uses, is a priority for the city. He acknowledged that the new fields would be closer to power lines, but said he hadn't heard of any safety concerns.

"I'm not an expert to weigh in on whether there's any health issues," Hall said.

Twitter: @MichaelMillerHB

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