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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.

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Comments

Bob_Hudson Aug. 26, 2016 @ 8:47 a.m.

This week's hyperbole award goes to:

"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."

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shirleyberan Aug. 26, 2016 @ 11:12 a.m.

A lot of rich bumbs are likely drooling on themselves over that corner lot. The high school is next to City College where they have an important partnership. Leave the kids in school(s).

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nostalgic Aug. 26, 2016 @ 8:01 p.m.

Open space and public parkland were sacred to the framers of the city charter. We do have an example to compare - Mission Bay, which removed that protection for Sea World and hotels from the charter by vote. Not to mention restaurants. The lease is up, guys. Maybe there will be room for the students in the new library. Part of it is an International baccalaureate magnet program. So Alvarez's local kids are only a part of it; numbers not known.

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jelula Aug. 29, 2016 @ 3:28 p.m.

While I agree with the general sense of your post, I would correct you about Mission Bay Park. Sea World managed to get the necessary majority vote (by a fraction of 1%) in order to build higher than the 30-foot coastal height limit within their leasehold. The protection for dedicated park land in the City Charter, which requires a 2/3 vote for a change in use to a non-park purpose, was not in question. However, if the City's ballot measure regarding the high school - which the City believes can be done with less than the 2/3 vote required by Charter Section 55 - you can believe there will be future attempts which could be made to any dedicated park or open space in the City of San Diego. Vote NO on Measure 'I' !

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nostalgic Aug. 27, 2016 @ 7:53 a.m.

The school district has a notorious reputation for selling school sites for development. Think Mission Beach and Bernard elementary. The old Bernard site was developed with 190 units. Once the charter protection is lost, it is lost forever. I only know what is in the article about this deal, but we can guess that this site will ultimately become a part of downtown redevelopment if this goes through. The opposition is not being excessive in their predictions.

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nostalgic Aug. 30, 2016 @ 12:40 p.m.

To clarify, the City Charter has a special section permitting commercial use of parkland for Mission Bay park property, so I was not specifically referring to the height limit. In any case we agree, Vote NO and be careful with our Charter and our public properties, which turn into condos in a blink.

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Gretchen8it Sept. 12, 2016 @ 8:10 a.m.

San Diego High School was founded in 1882, the San Diego Park and Recreation Department was founded in 1946. Currently San Diego High School has a student population of 3,000. The majority of these students come from families located in Hillcrest, North Park, South Park, and downtown, plus the lucky students who get in through the magnet program for the award winning San Diego High School International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme. It would be impossible to move these 3,000 students to the central library, as has been suggested. As a parent of a current student, the high school offers so much to so many residents and tax payers, the city would be hard pressed to explain the cost of finding land for 3,000 students, building a new school, then moving the school (all at the taxpayers expense) in order to create more open land, or put up a parking lot.

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