The 6.7 acres of land at Scripps Poway Parkway and Spring Canyon
  • The 6.7 acres of land at Scripps Poway Parkway and Spring Canyon
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The draft environmental review for a four-story apartment project that will be built on San Diego Unified School District land in Scripps Ranch has been released, and residents are not happy with it.

"We gave them a list of questions and concerns and they never responded," said Summer Spencer on February 5. "We looked at the draft [environmental impact report] and it is identical to the plan they presented when this started."

Calls for explanation, clarification, and comment to the developer and to the school district were not returned.

The Monarch Group plan for the 264-unit project that includes a five-level parking garage and 2000 square feet of retail space has been controversial from the get-go. The 6.7 acres of land at Scripps Poway Parkway and Spring Canyon is currently home to the Innovations Academy, a highly regarded but apparently underperforming charter school, according to the state. The school district voted in January 2016 to close the school and lease the land to a La Jolla–based private development company calling itself the Monarch Group.

Because the planned development’s environmental report is the responsibility of the school district, the city has no jurisdiction over it and no ability to challenge it, according to Miramar Ranch North chairperson Michelle Abella Shon. Others noted that similar situations have resulted in citizen lawsuits over the environmental reports and projects.

Environmental impact reports are usually written by consultants hired by the people who stand to impact the environment. The final report is supposed to address all relevant concerns raised in the comments, and the report is ultimately registered with the state. It is not independently reviewed once the comments close…unless it is dragged before a judge. In some situations, agencies can go ahead and do projects that they report will be harmful to the environment.

A quick look at the 1105-page draft report indicates that its preparers concluded that there will be less than significant or no significant impact to the area resulting from the addition of about 800 new residents and less than significant impact to the existing net of public services: police, fire, libraries, and parks.

Similarly, traffic and greenhouse-gas impacts, from a project with about 1000 parking spaces, will be less than significant, the review concludes.

The building is two miles from the nearest mass-transit center at the I-15. Of the 264 units, 22 will be rented at below-market prices, making them "affordable."

The development company includes Ryan and Rodney Stone and Patrick and George Kruer, all prominent figures in the development community. Father and son Rodney and Ryan Stone and a partner from the Monarch Group were formally accused of buying in to a Chula Vista Card Room in September 2015 without notifying or seeking permission from the state Bureau of Gambling Control.

The Stones are already owners of several Sacramento-area card-room businesses.

In June 2016, Ryan Stone, Monarch Group partner Masis Kevorkian, and poker player Kermit Schayltz admitted that they had done what they were accused of. The three agreed to pay almost $1 million in fines and investigation costs and to be monitored by a gaming expert they will hire.

The company apparently was the only developer that submitted a proposal to the school district — and, according to the local NBC affiliate, may be looking at other school-district properties.

Civic groups in the communities affected by the project (Scripps Ranch and Miramar Ranch North) have voted against it, citing traffic and crowding. Many are concerned about the height of the buildings, which will be the tallest in the area, except for the zone two miles away adjacent to the I-15. The tallest buildings near the freeway are four and six stories.

According to the draft EIR, two-story multi-family residential units are located north of Scripps Poway Parkway, screened from view behind naturally vegetated slopes. Two-story single-family houses are also located south of the project site, on top of a naturally vegetated slope overlooking the project site. These two-story homes are the tallest existing structures in the immediate vicinity.

“I don’t believe the majority of the neighborhood understands the impact, the full impact that this project will have on the community,” Spencer said. “You’re adding in 264 units of families that will add their children to Scripps Ranch schools that are already overcrowded — and they’re closing one!”

The civic groups and residents say they presented a list of concerns to the developers, none of which were addressed in the draft EIR, they say.

The draft report is now available for comments, which must be noted and addressed in the final EIR, though it is not mandatory that the plan be revised. The comment period closes on March 6.

The planning group created an ad hoc committee that will hold a meeting to review the project at the Scripps Ranch Community Center on February 28.

UPDATE February 8, 6:20 p.m.

The following statement was sent after publication by Chris Wahl, president of Southwest Strategies LLC:

"Not only is the Scripps Mesa project a smart growth development, it is also a responsible growth development that is permitted by the underlying zoning. The project will bring needed high-quality apartments to Miramar Ranch North — a community without any existing apartment homes — helping to meet community and regional needs for more balanced housing. The proposed project is also being developed through a lengthy public process, which has and will continue to include numerous opportunities for community input and engagement."

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Comments

ugp Feb. 9, 2018 @ 12:22 p.m.

Yes and lets not forget the 22 very low income apartments that will be "affirmatively marketed to qualifying District employees", per the draft EIR. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. At the taxpayers expense.

Were the hundreds to thousands of apartments developed, and being developed, at Casa Mira View at the junction of Mira Mesa blvd & 15 not enough? Regardless, I don't recall any schools being taken down in support of that project.

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ugp June 19, 2018 @ 1:23 p.m.

Four months later and comments originally posted along with this article have been deleted...

Let's look at this situation from a pure financial standpoint, since this is the driving factor for the school district. Anyone wonder why the school district is "broke"? Case in point right here folks. This is the deal of the century for Monarch, all at the taxpayer's expense. Monarch is paying the school district $440K/yr to lease this land for 66 years. Monarch's rent goes up 10% every ten years. Ten percent every ten years, not ten percent every year. This is unheard of. And don't think for a second that Monarch will offer that same deal to its renters. The rent comes out to 12.5 cents per sq/ft, less than half the next lowest rent in Allied Gardens in East San Diego county.

SDUSD is allocating $20 million dollars to move Innovations Academy, when it does not need to be moved in the first place. How many years will it take the district to recoup that $20 million through the $440K/yr rental income? Plus the district is responsible for repair/maintenance of the community "STEAM lab" that Monarch is valuing at $625/sq ft.

Monarch's revenue stream is estimated at one billion dollars over those 66 years, whereas this is a losing proposition for the district.

Where is the reset button? Why is the district authorized to make these deals when they clearly have no clue what they are doing.

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ugp June 21, 2018 @ 10:20 a.m.

John Lee Evans, Michael McQuary, Richard Barrera, Sharon Whitehurst-Payne, and Kevin Beiser. Remember these names fellow San Diegans. These people comprise your elected San Diego school board that cast their votes in a historic decision to allow a successful and growing charter school to be torn down and replaced with an apartment complex.

There is no win-win here for our community or our children. There is no win-win here for the broader district. $20 million dollars is being taken away and spent to unnecessarily demolish, relocate, and rebuild a successful school. 264 apartments are being added to an area with the most populated middle school in the district, one of the most populated elementary schools, and one of the most populated high schools. But fear not. 2% of the land from the torn down school will be used as a "joint-use space", consisting of an unstaffed STEAM lab and community garden. The school is responsible for the staffing, operation, and maintenance of the STEAM lab and garden. The district will earn a meager $425k/yr in revenue, before expenses, by renting out the school property to a private developer for 66 years. The terms of the lease are that the private developer, Monarch, pays $425k/yr in rent for ten years. Rent increases by ten percent every ten years. While Monarch presents itself as an organization caring deeply about the housing crisis and serving the needs of low income families, do you think Monarch will offer the same escalation terms to their tenants? Show me a single landlord that has offered fixed rent for ten years, only to be increased by ten percent every ten years. At least in the eyes of the district, 22 of these apartments will be classified as low-income and marketed to qualifying school district employees (as documented in the district environmental impact report). Will these 22 low-income apartments also be marketed to qualified families throughout the county that are not district employees?

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ugp June 21, 2018 @ 10:20 a.m.

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The district is not making money here, they are losing money. They are giving the property away to a private developer at a tremendous loss, and incurring more debt in the process. None of the board members will be on this Earth 66 years from now to witness the full devastation their irresponsibility has brought on our children and grandchildren. To make matters even worse, board Vice-President Sharon Whitehurst-Payne spoke down to the Scripps Ranch community, stereotyping us as racist, elitist, and attacked community members for their Christian faith and for opposing this project. Clearly Sharon has never visited this area nor taken the time to get to know the residents that live here. While the average income levels and housing prices may be higher here than the district she represents, her stereotypes couldn’t be further from the truth. The community contains a diverse mix of people of all backgrounds, races, occupations, income levels, and religious denominations (or non-denominations). No one I have met here was fed from a silver spoon, they got to where they are today through hard work and prioritizing education (something the school board seems to have forgotten). Sharon’s colleagues sat quiet during her attack and did not address her assault afterwards. Her colleagues actions, or lack thereof, speak for themselves.

Think this can't happen in your neighborhood? Think again. This vote has allowed a dangerous precedent to be set, and the district is trying to do the same at locations throughout the county. They will succeed. Their historic vote has done nothing but increase the debt and allowed a private developer to make a fortune at a cost to our families, future generations, and the greater district as a whole. $20 million in district funds that could have helped an area truly in need was foolishly wasted here, and more debt will be incurred through the terms of the lease.

For the record, President Beiser, perhaps in hope of protecting his image for re-election, casted the dissenting vote. If Mr. Beiser truly cared for the community and children he was elected to represent, he would have reached out to the community and convinced his colleagues to rethink this debacle. While claiming the contrary, Monarch and the school district made no effort to reach out, engage, and collaborate with the community throughout this process. I’ve yet to meet a single resident in our community that supports this project.

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ugp June 21, 2018 @ 1:24 p.m.

John Lee Evans, Michael McQuary, Richard Barrera, Sharon Whitehurst-Payne, and Kevin Beiser. Remember these names fellow San Diegans. These people comprise your elected San Diego school board that cast their votes in a historic decision to allow a successful and growing charter school to be torn down and replaced with an apartment complex.

There is no win-win here for our community or our children. There is no win-win here for the broader district. $20 million dollars is being taken away and spent to unnecessarily demolish, relocate, and rebuild a successful school. 264 apartments are being added to an area with the most populated middle school in the district, one of the most populated elementary schools, and one of the most populated high schools. But fear not. 2% of the land from the torn down school will be used as a "joint-use space", consisting of an unstaffed STEAM lab and community garden. The school is responsible for the staffing, operation, and maintenance of the STEAM lab and garden. The district will earn a meager $425k/yr in revenue, before expenses, by renting out the school property to a private developer for 66 years. The terms of the lease are that the private developer, Monarch, pays $425k/yr in rent for ten years. Rent increases by ten percent every ten years. While Monarch presents itself as an organization caring deeply about the housing crisis and serving the needs of low income families, do you think Monarch will offer the same escalation terms to their tenants? Find one landlord that has offered fixed rent for ten years, only to be increased by ten percent every ten years. At least in the eyes of the district, 22 of these apartments will be classified as low-income and marketed to qualifying school district employees (as documented in the district environmental impact report). Will these 22 low-income apartments also be marketed to qualified families throughout the county that are not district employees? During the vote, Vice-President Sharon Whitehurst-Payne urged the community to consider the project “from the heart”. Afterwards, President Beiser claimed that these 22 low-income apartments would allow some low-income school district employees to live near their work. The vast majority of the San Diego workforce does not live near their place of employment, and enjoys an extensive commute to and from work each day. Who exactly does this project aim to benefit?

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ugp June 21, 2018 @ 1:25 p.m.

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The district is not making money here, they are losing money. They are giving the property away to a private developer at a tremendous loss, and incurring more debt in the process. None of the board members will be on this Earth 66 years from now to witness the full devastation their irresponsibility has brought on our children and grandchildren. To make matters even worse, board Vice-President Sharon Whitehurst-Payne spoke down to the Scripps Ranch community, stereotyping citizens as racist, elitist, and faux-Christian for opposing this project. Clearly Sharon has never visited this area nor taken the time to get to know the residents that live here. While the average income levels and housing prices may be higher here than the district she represents, her stereotypes couldn’t be further from the truth. The community contains a diverse mix of people of all backgrounds, ethnicities, occupations, income levels, and creeds. No one I have met here was fed from a silver spoon, they got to where they are today through hard work and prioritizing education (something the school board seems to have forgotten). Sharon’s colleagues sat quiet during her attack and did not address her verbal assault afterwards. Her colleagues actions, or lack thereof, speak for themselves.

For the record, President Beiser, perhaps in hope of protecting his image for re-election, casted the dissenting vote. If Mr. Beiser truly cared for the community and children he was elected to represent, he would have reached out to the community, studied the facts, and convinced his colleagues to rethink this debacle. While claiming the contrary, Monarch and the school district made no effort to reach out, engage, and collaborate with the community throughout this process. I’ve yet to meet a single resident in our community that supports this project. The board’s decision was clearly made from the start, with some perhaps making that decision “from the heart” to benefit their own colleagues. Innovations Academy was targeted by the district due to the value of the land, and fact that the school is a charter vs public school. At the vote, President Beiser claimed that charter schools take away funding from San Diego public schools. Charter schools may take away students from public schools, but they do not take away funding from public schools. Charter schools receive funding from the state, not the local district. Public school funding is based on student attendance; less students require less teachers and supplies. Unless the public schools are allocated more revenue than required per student, the local public schools should not be impacted by a slightly decreased student enrollment. Scripps Ranch schools are overcrowded as it is.

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ugp June 21, 2018 @ 1:25 p.m.

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Think this can't happen in your neighborhood? Think again. This vote has allowed a dangerous precedent to be set, and the district is trying to do the same at locations throughout the county. They will succeed. Their vote has done nothing but increase the debt and allowed a private developer to make a fortune at a cost to our families, future generations, and the greater district as a whole. $20 million in district funds that could have helped an area truly in need was foolishly wasted here, and more debt will be incurred through the terms of the lease.

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