City of Del Mar, Winston School end discussions on lease

Del Mar City Hall
(Jon Clark)

The city of Del Mar announced that the Winston School’s lease, which runs through 2063, will remain unchanged following a period of negotiations between both sides.

The Winston School owns the buildings on its property, but the city owns the land and serves as landlord.

In 2018, the Winston School asked for a rent reduction from $197,245 per year to $1 and increasing the term from 55 to 99 years, among other requests, according to the city’s news release. “The City and Winston engaged in discussions, off and on, to address these requests,” the release said.

Negotiations ended after the Winston School received an appraisal, but wouldn’t share it with the city, according to a 10-page memo written by Council members Dwight Worden and Sherryl Parks.

“The reasonable inference is that the appraisal did not support Winston’s position that its rent was too high,” they stated in the memo.

The city announced on June 2 that the negotiation period was concluded and that Winston’s new deadline for submitting a complete redevelopment application to the city is October 2, 2020, according to the city’s news release. The new date is based on the four-month extension from the point that either side decided to end discussions to amend the lease.

Dena Harris, Winston’s head of school, said in a phone call Wednesday, June 10, that the school’s legal counsel will send a letter to the city disputing the city’s position on the lease negotiations, and refuting information in the memo by Worden and Parks. Among the issues, Harris said, is that the lease wasn’t supposed to be contingent upon an appraisal of the value of the school’s lease.

“It definitely has material omissions that are inaccurate and actually defamatory toward the Winston School,” Harris said of the city’s 10-page memo.

According to the city, there were no complaints from the Winston School for the first 10 years of the lease; Harris said the original lease terms allowed for an “economically feasible, mutually beneficial” renegotiation.

In a phone call Wednesday, June 10, Worden said he stands by the information presented in the city’s statement and the 10-page paper he coauthored with Parks. The two serve as City Council liaisons overseeing the Winston School lease.

The Winston School also said in a statement that school officials were unaware that the city was going to end lease negotiations.

“This statement [by the city that negotiations were over] was especially surprising since we formally made a request to the city in writing on March 13, ‘that all decisions, meetings, discussions, planning and negotiations that pertain to the redevelopment, planning and revised lease terms are placed on hold for a minimum of 30 days,’” the school’s statement read in part, adding that school officials needed to focus on complying with public health guidelines put in place because of COVID-19.

The school’s plans include a remodel of its existing buildings and classrooms that can accommodate in-person and remote learning.

“We look forward to sharing our vision with the Del Mar community, who have been so supportive of the school over the past thirty years,” the school’s statement said.


3:15 p.m. June 10, 2020: This story was updated June 10 at 3:16 p.m.