Judge sets date for trial between Winston School and Del Mar

The trial will proceed unless both sides reach a settlement before then


The trial between The Winston School and city of Del Mar will take place March 3, 2023, unless the two sides settle before then, a superior court judge said during a July 1 conference downtown.

The Winston School, a private school that serves about 100 students with learning disabilities, filed a lawsuit last year against the city, which serves as the school’s landlord, over the city’s decision to terminate the school’s lease.

According to the lease, the school had to submit a redevelopment plan for the Shores property by the end of 2019. That deadline was extended multiple times, but the city rejected the multiple plans submitted by the school throughout that timeframe. Council members and city planners have said the plans did not meet all the necessary criteria.

The sticking points included parking requirements and whether the COVID-19 pandemic should have invoked an “act of god” clause that protected the lease.

But in its lawsuit, The Winston School alleges that the city “manipulated its regulatory power to constantly change the criteria used to evaluate Winston’s redevelopment applications.” The suit asks the court for declaratory relief to affirm the school’s interpretation of the lease.

School officials have also alleged that the city wants to replace the school with affordable housing, since the city has been working on an updated housing element to satisfy state mandates for new housing units. City officials have denied that they want to replace the school with affordable housing.

“The city is choosing to breach its lease with Winston to attempt to force Winston off this valuable land so that the city can use it and avoid litigation with the state,” the lawsuit reads. “While the city may find it inconvenient to have Winston on this land, that does not give the city the right to breach a long-term lease and force a school for children with learning disabilities to move somewhere else.”

The city filed and won a tentative ruling on a demurrer in March that covered most of the causes of action in The Winston School’s complaint. A demurrer is a common legal argument for dismissing a complaint on the basis that it lacks relevance, rather than disputing the facts asserted.

That ruling also gave The Winston School an opportunity to submit an amended complaint, which it did in April. The city filed another demurrer over the amended complaint. Superior Court Judge Kenneth Medel will rule on the new demurrer Aug. 19.

“All the allegations upon which Winston seeks declaratory relief were completed prior to the commencement of this suit, and all stemmed from Winston’s own breaches of the lease agreement,” attorneys representing the city wrote in court filings. “Therefore, Winston’s allegations do not meet the requirements of an action for declaratory relief.”