7-11 panel goes back to square 1

Committee: No great support for any of its plans

After months of discussion about how surplus space could be utilized to house the district offices, the Del Mar Union School District’s 7-11 committee was unable to come to consensus on any of the proposals it developed.

On Dec. 18, the committee decided not to submit any of its proposals to the district board of trustees.

What the seven-member committee heard through 16 meetings and three public hearings was that there was no great support for anything the plans committee members proposed.

“In the end, all the work we did shows that there isn’t a solution and none proposed are acceptable to our community or workable,” Chairman Bob Shopes said.

At the board’s January meeting, the committee will submit its report on all of the proposals considered, which all received split support or no support.

Proposal F, which called for housing the district office at Carmel Del Mar, got no support. The two proposals with the least support were E, which placed the district office at Ashley Falls, and G, which proposed building a new district office at Torrey Hills, each with a 5-2 vote against them.

The committee’s most favored options were B and I, which both included closing Del Mar Hills.

Both Shopes and Jennifer Emberger were the two opposing votes. Proposals needed 80 percent support to move forward as a recommendation, so a 5-2 vote was insufficient to gain consensus.

Susan Paul, who voted in favor of proposals B and I, said she wasn’t very comfortable with recommending closing a school.

“When we first convened and looked at the possibility of school closure it seemed simple to me, just looking at the cost-savings numbers,” Paul said.

But Paul said her thoughts changed as she put herself in the shoes of the principal who would be accepting students from the closed school, how demographics can change, and the public support of the alternative of the district buying or leasing a new building for the district office.

“It was much more complex than I originally looked at it as being, I think that’s been the accomplishment of the committee,” Paul said.

Even as the committee considered recommending school closure, Wayne Harris said members wanted to make it clear to the board, closing should be a last resort.

The public hearings over the last few weeks were very helpful in shaping the board’s point of view, especially on school sites that committee members weren’t as familiar with, Shopes said. Shopes was very pleased with the meeting at Torrey Hills on Dec. 14, calling it the most informative to date.

In his proposal to move district offices to Torrey Hills, he wasn’t aware of the traffic and green space issues — he said public input helped change his mind.

Public comment also tipped the committee off to the fact that many of its recommendations would trigger potential lawsuits, a “taxpayer revolt,” costly and lengthy California Environmental Quality Act reviews or city zoning changes.