City Council OKs campus overhaul

DEL MAR, California – After years of delay, the 60-year-old Del Mar Heights Elementary Campus will have what school advocates say is a much-needed and modern remodel.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the San Diego City Council unanimously approved design plans for the public school and rejected an appeal to delay construction.

“Heaven is the limit. These kids have been waiting too long, and we should celebrate,” said Ian Phillip, a sports teacher at the elementary school. “For my entire teacher family, we’re coming back to our school and we deserve it.”

According to city documents, in 2018, the district started redesign plans followed by community members who passed measure MM to help pay the costs.

The reconstruction project stalled when the nonprofit group “Save the Field” filed its first of several lawsuits in 2020.

“The teachers had finally moved out of their classrooms and were on the verge of starting construction,” said Erica Halpern, chair of the Del Mar Heights Board of Trustees. ‘That was the moment a couple of neighbors chose to sue the district. It is more than disappointing that these people have made an extraordinary effort to stop or delay the reconstruction of our neighborhood school, especially after we changed the design three times to accommodate their views. “

Neighbors and parents belonging to Save the Field appealed the project, expressing concern about obstruction of the ocean view, environmental impacts to the Torrey Pines State Reserve, limited public access to parks and fire hazards.

“The project is too close to the reserve itself, and it could lessen that impact by moving these buildings further away, and it would also be better for fire protection,” said Ted Griswold, a lawyer representing Save the Field.

Teachers and students have been relocated during the trial limbo, causing stress for many.

“Our kindergarten for third grade kids is in Del Mar Hills and fourth to sixth is at Ocean Air School, so for families like my family we have kids at two schools and one of our kids has to ride the bus and that’s an extra half an hour to go there and come back and then pick up the times are out, ”said Jesse Barrick, a Del Mar Heights parent.

Several children were among the nearly 170 comments submitted to the council in support of the project.

“The last two years have been so strange. We could all have used the support of our brothers and sisters who go to the same school, but instead we have been separated,” said one student.

A few members of the local community supported the appeal to delay construction. One parent thought it would be more time and cost effective to modernize the existing building instead of tearing it down completely.

Eventually, city staff rejected all claims about the appeal, and councilman Joe LaCava put forward a proposal to dismiss the complaint and approve the city planning commission’s project recommendation.

Del Mar Heights would have reopened for the school year 2021-2022 under the original construction plan, but now it is unclear how long the newly approved construction will take.

When completed, it will have a 66,800-square-foot campus and will welcome more than 530 students.

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