Commentary: City School District doesn't need to build on LeBard Park

The Huntington Beach City School District is seeking to sell the closed LeBard School site in order to generate millions of dollars in funds to purchase a new office building. Why?

Is the district's current building too small to accommodate the district's employees? Is parking too limited? Are public meeting facilities too cramped? The answer to each of these questions is no.

Despite difficult fiscal times and with school funds severely strained, the district's board of trustees and Superintendent Gregg Haulk feel they're entitled to acquire a new office building and to relocate the district's employees. There is no need. This financially irresponsible action would be a complete and total waste of millions of dollars in scarce school funds.

To date, the district has spent more than $600,000 in general school funds in pursuit of their proposed LeBard development, a proposal that calls for the complete demolition of existing baseball fields, tennis courts, clubhouse, as well as LeBard Park — only to rebuild each of these facilities at an estimated cost of $2 million or more.

This is to make room for 30 small-lot homes while permanently destroying acres of irreplaceable open space and relocating a portion of LeBard Park under SCE's high-voltage power lines. This undesirable and potentially dangerous location would make the parkland virtually useless.

The district's leaders claim to have our children's best interests at heart. However, their aggressive actions pertaining to LeBard certainly don't support this.

The proposed LeBard development would inflict additional harm to the local community and its residents. Plans call for more than 50 remote parking spaces to be constructed near the power lines. Would this make for an attractive and hidden location for potentially illegal nighttime activities? Absolutely. Moreover, substantially increased traffic levels, especially in Suburbia Park, would raise the likelihood of car accidents as well as create a greater danger for bicyclists, who use the housing tract to access the Santa Ana River Trail.

The LeBard proposal is a terrible idea. Still, it's one that district leaders are adamantly pushing for — despite its harmful affects and strong community opposition. If the district desires a different location, why not relocate to the closed Kettler School site? An estimated $3 million or more was spent to modernize the building. Surely that should satisfy the district's leaders.

Unfortunately, Superintendent Haulk and the board of trustees don't feel Kettler meets their wants or perceived status. These individuals should be more concerned with the welfare of the district's children and local community instead of pursuing their own selfish interests.

STEVE VASQUEZ is a Huntington Beach resident and lives in Suburbia Park.

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