Del Mar council, Winston School continue work on redevelopment application

Del Mar City Hall
(Jon Clark)

The Winston School and the city of Del Mar, which serves as landlord of the school property, continue to work toward an April deadline to finalize a development application.

Representatives from The Winston School, which serves a little more than 100 students in grades 6 to 12, met with city leaders this week and had “a very productive meeting following the June 2020 submission of our School Redevelopment Plan,” according to a statement from the school.

“I believe that we can move this process forward and work together to complete and meet not only the city’s vision and goals, but the school’s,” Dena Harris, Winston School’s head of school, said during public comment at the March 1 City Council meeting.

After the school submitted the plan last June, the city asked for additional details about building improvements and parking to ensure it could qualify as a complete redevelopment plan.

According to a Feb. 24 letter from City Attorney Leslie Devaney to The Winston School, the city can terminate the lease with the school if the April deadline is not met.

“The City hopes that our collaborative relationship will continue,” the letter said. “However, it is imperative that Winston comply with the terms of the lease. Once Winston submits its development application, as required by the lease, the City looks forward to further discussions on how the proposed redevelopment plan can be implemented.”

The letter also mentioned a dispute the two sides have had over the terms of the lease, including rent payments. The city has contended that rent payments from the school will begin in 2023, after the school has used up its prepaid rent credit. The school, which has been paying approximately $197,000 per year in rent using the prepaid rent credit, was seeking a reduction based on community use of school resources and other factors.

Del Mar Mayor Terry Gaasterland said she hopes the city and school are now “pulling in the same direction,” and that she was “delighted” with recent materials that the school submitted to the city.

“The Winston School is certainly a treasured part of Del Mar and we look forward to that,” she said.

The school had also asked Del Mar Deputy Mayor Dwight Worden to recuse himself from council discussions regarding the school, alleging that he has been biased against the school throughout the process so far. Worden refuted those claims in a memo, and said he will continue to deliberate on The Winston School proceedings after consulting the city attorney.

“I’m pleased that we got an application, and the next step is for our staff to go through it and see if it’s complete or not, and if it’s not complete to work with Winston and get it to be complete,” Worden said.