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District, interest group still at odds over demolished buildings


December 12, 2013
The Valley Center-Pauma Unified School District (VCPUSD) is back in court over its plans for a piece of its land that a local group wants to see oriented towards preserving what they see as historically significant.

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Interest Group lost its lawsuit against the district in August, when the group alleged the district violated the Brown Act and the regulations of CEQA (the California Environmental Quality Act) when the district tore down two buildings built to accommodate the CCC during the Great Depression. District officials will fight the appeal, but have declined further comment.

"Basically, we're asking the appellate court to rule the judge was wrong on both of these points and that there was a likely violation of the California Brown Act," said Kevin K. Johnson, a San Diego-based attorney for the group.

The lawsuit pertains to a 1.9-acre site purchased by the district in 2011. That land was formerly home to several buildings that were built in 1933. Although unused since 2007, local preservationists tried to save and maintain the buildings as historic landmarks, the Valley Roadrunner reported last summer.

Jon Vick, an active member of the interest group, said the group presented several items to the school board on March 14, 2013.

That presentation included a professional draft of proposed improvements to Valley Center's CCC historical site.

Vick said that at the board meeting that a local community member offered to rehabilitate the site for the district, "at no cost, as a gift to the community."

However, the district demolished the deteriorated buildings on March 18.

Johnson and the CCC Interest Group believe the Brown Act was violated by the district, and said it is their opinion that the school board made a decision to tear the buildings down in advance of any public hearing.

"They were moving forward and not willing to listen to things like the generous proposal to buy it, rehabilitate it and give it (the buildings) back," Johnson said.

In October, VCPUSD announced its proposal to build a sports field on the entire site.

After board members were contacted for comment about the lawsuit, Lou Obermeyer, Superintendent of VCPUSD, replied to the Valley Roadrunner in an email.

"Mr. Vick chose to file an appeal of the judge's decision, therefore, while this matter is pending litigation, I am unable to comment further," Obermeyer said in the email.

"Please understand that this is all I can say on the matter due to pending litigation," she added.

Johnson said that his client wants to preserve the history that was once on the site. They offered a very modest settlement proposal to the school district, he added.

"The foundations are still there and have historic value, and they could be rebuilt upon," he said.

Johnson expects to file his opening brief within the next 30 days and have a decision from the court within the next eight-to-nine months, he said Dec. 7.

"Our position is — we'd like to have two buildings restored. We'll find funding and the district could do what they want with (the funding)," he said.

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