Opponents have filed their opposition letter pertaining to a ballot measure that, if passed, would extend San Diego High School's land lease in Balboa Park.
The letter, written by Balboa Park Heritage Association president David Lundin and former assistant city attorney for the City of San Diego Hal Valderhaug, was submitted on August 25. The essence of the letter claims that San Diego Unified School District has had more than enough time to find a new location for San Diego High School, which has been located on the southern edge of Balboa Park since 1882.
As it stands, the school's lease expires in 2024 as a result of a court order issued in 1974 that granted San Diego Unified rights to the land in exchange for a $200 annual lease for the span of 50 years. News of the lease's expiration prompted city councilmembers and district officials to work toward a solution.
They were faced with two options: take the issue to court or amend the city charter by a vote of the people to allow for school use in Balboa Park. San Diego High School alumni and school-board trustee Richard Barrera worked together to choose the latter.
In June 2016 the city council voted seven to one to place the item on the November ballot.
Doing so upset park supporters, including Lundin and Valderhaug. The opposition was something that councilmember David Alvarez didn't see coming.
"I am surprised there is so much opposition, given the history of the school and its record," said Alvarez during an August 24 phone interview.
"Yes, I understand some of the criticism against the school district, and the city for that matter, for waiting over 40 years to solve the problem. But, you can’t blame the current administration. They weren't there in 1974 and only found out about this recently. Regardless of who gets the blame, the most important thing for me is to keep this school open so it can continue to serve children in my district, in communities such as Barrio Logan, Golden Hill, East Village, and South Park — communities that depend on this high school."
In their opposition letter, however, Lundin and Valderhaug feel that allowing the city council and school district to sidestep city-charter provisions aimed at protecting dedicated park land from misuse would set a dangerous precedent.
"This measure will create a land rush by every for-profit, charter and private school asking for their 'free land' in Balboa Park," reads the 300-word opposition letter. "Commercial development could follow. This measure gives away 34 acres of priceless dedicated park lands perhaps permanently. [It] forces San Diego residents, park users and taxpayers to bail out the wealthy [school] district, reward a lease breach, and deny another two generations use of dedicated park lands."
Part of the issue for park supporters is the measure's lack of information in regards to how long and how much the district will pay for the lease.
"The politicians don’t disclose any details. They say, 'trust us.' That means trouble. The District has at least two great sites for the high school, but prefers a gift of your park lands. That gift would come at an enormous cost to [Balboa] Park, its future, and the next generations of park users. Vote “NO” on the Politician’s [sic] dangerous give-away scheme."
Now, voters will decide the fate of the school in November. A majority vote is needed to amend the city charter and make room for San Diego High.