Commentary: A win-win-win-win situation for LeBard

In the March 28 Independent, Celia Jaffe, a trustee of the Huntington Beach City School District, championed the sale of a portion of its LeBard property, ("Commentary: Sale of LeBard property is best plan").

In the spirit of compromise, both surrounding neighborhoods agree to a sale but recommend using the 4-acre site the district office occupies and not the 5 acres the current development plan designates for housing.

When the 10-acre LeBard Park was first purchased with public money, 4 acres were intended for a school structure with parking and the remaining 6 for public recreation. Two of those 6 acres are multiuse open parkland, with the remaining for exclusive use by the Seaview Little League. Three acres adjacent to the park are city-owned and currently contain a tot play area, tennis court and club/concession house.

Whether the city or the school board owns the property makes no recreational difference since Little League has its ball fields. The inference that somehow there will be additional parkland is misleading. In fact, under the plan to make room for the 30 houses, every ball field and city-owned facility would have to be demolished and then rebuilt to the tune of $2.5 million. Only restrooms would be added, making them more expensive than NASA's toilet seats.

The open multiuse parkland would be eliminated and almost 2 acres of city-owned park would be taken up by the rebuilt ball fields. Whether the school board foots that bill from its operating fund or the contractor lowers his bid, it's an appalling waste of public money, in addition to the $500,000 already spent for consultants to draw up the current plans. It certainly does not square with "maintaining fiscal responsibility" as cited in the letter.

One of the early plans drawn up by HBCSD's consultant in 2011 proposed building 14 houses on the district office site. A later internal memo from the consultant to HBCSD staff concluded that if no city fee waivers were forthcoming, then about the same $3-million profit would accrue from either plan. That is more than enough to reconfigure office space in the former Kettler School, which was closed in 2005 shortly after having a $2 million renovation using state funds.

Jon Archibald, assistant superintendent for HBCSD, even noted Kettler's possible use as a district office as reported in the Independent. While the term "professional office space" is not defined further in the letter, it need not be prestigious to support an "efficiently functioning district."

Once HBCSD has a new office location, it will have achieved its goal and the parkland will have lost its value to the district since, given the influence of the Little League, it could never be sold to a developer. The city could then acquire the 6 acres at little cost. With this scenario, HBCSD gets its new offices, the public retains multiuse parkland, the exceptional Little League fields remain, and the city is transferred ownership of LeBard. Sure sounds like a win-win-win-win.

ALAN WALLS is a Huntington Beach resident.

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