Del Mar Union School District trustees modify guidelines for office search

When Del Mar Union School District trustees learned that there was a “dearth” of property options available that meet their selected district office requirements, they decided to modify their specifications.

Chuck Wasker, who has a contract with the district to help find a site, reported that there are only 16 buildings that meet the district’s criteria within its boundaries and only one of those buildings is for sale. Among the requirements is that the building be between 10,000 and 25,000 square feet.

The board adjusted the search guidelines to include spaces under 10,000 square feet and up to 30,000 square feet within its $8.5 million price range. That’s the amount of money available from the sale of the Shores property. The board will also allow the real estate agents to look at spaces just outside the district boundaries and will consider ideas for leasing space.

Wasker said there are a number of appropriately size properties just outside the borders. On the plus side, he said, Sorrento Valley spaces are much cheaper than the Del Mar Village, El Camino Real and High Bluff corridors.

District officials will seek a legal opinion to make sure they could locate outside the bundaries.

Realtors Wasker and Mark Kagen began their search for buildings to lease or purchase, as well as available plots of land to buy, in February 2009. In April, when the 7-11 Committee formed, the property search was called off as the committee went through its process of exploring whether surplus space existed within the district.

As the process neared a close, the search was renewed to find buildings to purchase, not lease. But as the timeline narrows (the district needs to be out of the Shores by May 2011), the board told the agents to look at leasing options as well.

Wasker said there is available property for lease, noting the average rent for 10,000-square-feet would be about $20,000 a month. There also might be additional costs to make tenant improvements.

But he added that the funds from the sale of the Shores property cannot be used for a lease — that would have to come out of the general fund.

Superintendent Sharon McClain said it would be a difficult decision to use that general fund money as it is meant for student programs.

“The lease wouldn’t be the best option for us, but the board might be forced into that by other circumstances,” McClain said.

Del Mar Hills parent Beth Westburg said she was “dumbfounded” that the district is just now finding out that only one of 16 properties is for sale.

“You have created a huge mess,” Westburg told the board. “How are you going to fix this?”

The board has yet to make a decision on the 7-11 Committee’s final report. While the committee did not reach a consensus on surplus space options, such as closing Del Mar Hills or reconfiguring Del Mar Hills, Carmel Del Mar, Ashley Falls or Torrey Hills to make room for the district office, those proposals are still on the table for the board’s consideration.

At the Jan. 27 board meeting, the board opted to renew the district Realtors’ contract for an additional six months.

The superintendent had recommended a yearlong contract, but Trustee Steven McDowell said a shorter contract might lead to a faster conclusion.

“There is a sense of urgency,” said McDowell. “Let’s get going and get it done.”