PVUSD sues Palos Verdes Homes Association & City of PVE

The Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District has filed a lawsuit against the Palos Verdes Homes Association, as well as the city of Palos Verdes Estates, regarding deed restrictions to an undeveloped property at Palos Verdes Drive West and Via Pacheco in PVE. The deed restriction, made in 1938, prevents the sell and development of the lots if they are not used for school purposes.

Today I received an email (below the PV News piece) through Edline, a communication conduit used between teaches, students and parents which favors the district position, names names and I fear seeks to rabble rouse…

Maybe I’m not supposed to express an opinion about such things, but this is flat out nuts!

Regardless of whether the District should or should not have the right to sell, is this really the time to be spending money to litigate? If PVUSD were my client, expressing interest in selling undeveloped land I’d probably say “do you really need to?” This is not a good time to sell and the school district shouldn’t be wasting resources on a win/lose scenario. In the end they’d need to dramatically wholesale the property for a developer to even consider coming to the table.

School District sues over rights to property
By Mary Scott, Peninsula News
April 8, 2010

A dispute about two undeveloped properties, known as Lots C and D, between the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District and the Palos Verdes Homes Association has prompted the School District to file a lawsuit against the association, as well as the city of Palos Verdes Estates, in the Los Angeles Superior Court.

The lots, located in a residential neighborhood between Palos Verdes Drive West and Via Pacheco in PVE, was given to the district’s predecessors by the city and the Homes Association in 1938, according to Superintendent Walker Williams.

The property was handed over, but with restrictions. The deed restriction prevents the sell and development of the lots if they are not used for school purposes.

When the News contacted the Homes Association regarding the lawsuit, the newspaper was told the group had been advised by legal counsel not to comment on the case at this time.

“It’s been a dispute about how this property can or cannot be used for many years,” Williams said. “And we haven’t been able to work it out where we get together and say, ‘OK, do we all agree?’

“We’re hoping that a judge can look at both sides, both arguments and make a determination,” he continued. “Either we’re right or we’re not.”

Williams said the School District owns the lots, although the district never has used them.

“It’s one of the few district properties that we own that is not being used for something right now,” he said.

The School District would like to the explore the possibility of selling the lots, which would be one source of revenue to finish its construction and modernization projects, such as playground renovations, physical education facilities, and the replacement of deteriorated fences and asphalt and concrete surfaces.

However, the properties cannot be sold until the deed restrictions are lifted and the properties are “appropriately rezoned,” Williams said.

The lots currently are zoned as Class F, he added, meaning they can be used for schools, playgrounds, parks, public art galleries, museums or a single-family dwelling.

The superintendent said the district has made attempts to resolve the issue with the association since 2008. But the topic has been ongoing at Board of Education meetings, both in closed and open sessions, as far back as 2005.

“There are [records of] meetings in 2005 with a different Board of Education, directing then-Superintendent Dr. Ira Toibin to try to find out how to sell this property … They were directing Ira to try to sell this property,” Williams said.

As to whether the district agreed upon a lawsuit under “a cloak of secrecy,” as stated in the Concerned Citizens for Peninsula Conservation’s ad in last Thursday’s issue of the News, Williams responded that the vote did take place in a closed session.

“Decisions related to litigation or existing litigation can be decided in a closed session agenda, and so that’s where it took place. It’s not illegal,” he said.

The decision to move forward with the lawsuit, which was voted on at the Jan. 28 board meeting and later reported to the public in open session, is an attempt to resolve the deed restrictions only. The district and the board have not made a decision to sell the property.

“We’ve tried to reach resolution on it, we tried mediation and nothing has worked,” Williams said. “This is where we’re at, at this time.

“Even if a judge rules in our favor, no decision to sell the property has been made,” he continued. “That would be another decision later on.”

There is a process with the state that the district would have to go through before it could do so.

“Really, once and for all, make a decision about what our rights are to the property. We believe we have rights to them; others disagree with us,” Williams said.

From: PV Schools
To: Undisclosed Recipients
Sent: Fri, April 16, 2010 3:35:28 PM
Subject: Update on District Owned Vacant Lots in City of PVE

Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District
April 16, 2010

For many years, the School District has owned two dirt lots between Palos Verdes Drive West and Via Pacheco, known as Lots C & D. The unimproved lots are located in a residential neighborhood. This is a separate and distinct property from the district owned land where the Lunada Bay Little League field is located. Lots C & D are not “open space” property; they belong to the District, and until they are sold, the District is free to use them for any District purpose.

The discussion about whether or not the District should sell Lots C & D, or use it for other purposes, has been going on for many years. Prior school boards, along with the present one, have discussed the potential sale of lots C & D as a possible source of revenue to the District. In fact, as recently as 2005, the school board had the foresight to vote 5-0 to sell the lots. At that time the Board consisted of Gabriella Holt, who is now on the board of the PV Homes Association, Ellen Perkins, who is now on the PVE City Council, Barbara Lucky, Dora de la Rosa, and Dave Tomblin.

District leaders promised during the campaigns for Measures K, R, & S (construction bonds) that they would not place the entire burden of paying for the projects listed in the Facilities Master Plan on the taxpayers. In fact, District leaders promised that they would evaluate ALL other possible sources of revenue in order complete projects that would benefit students throughout the community. If Lots C & D were sold in the future, the proceeds would go towards completing projects on the Facilities Master Plan or other identified construction, modernization, and/or safety needs.

The Homes Association’s CC&R’s applicable to the Property currently allow the property to be used for construction of single family residences. It is the antiquated deed restrictions that are the issue between the Association and the District, not the CC&R’s.

The legal dispute centers on the right of the District to sell the property if it wishes. Realistically, the property cannot be sold unless the deed restrictions are removed and the property is appropriately rezoned. For many years, the District has attempted to persuade the Association to remove the deed restrictions. The District believes that the deed restrictions on the property are no longer enforceable. In an effort to resolve these issues, the District initiated mediation in order to avoid litigation. In fact, mediation was begun between the school district and the homes association in November 2008 in an attempt to amicably resolve the dispute and avoid legal action. No agreement could be reached between the parties. While the representatives of the Homes Association were sympathetic to the District’s financial plight, they were unwilling to voluntarily waive the deed restrictions. At this point, the District and Homes Association invited the City to join the mediation, but the city declined to participate.

When mediation failed, and faced with no other options, the District initiated legal action. The Court has been asked to determine if the deed restrictions are, as the District contends, unenforceable. If the District prevails, the court will remove the deed restrictions. The District will then have clear title to the property.

The property will also need to be rezoned and subdivided into four lots. Although the City has zoning and subdivision control over the property, the District contends that California law requires the City, upon the District’s request, to rezone the property to allow single family residences and to allow the two lots to be separated into four lots, the same size as the neighboring residential lots. Although the City has been added to the lawsuit, the District continues to discuss land use issues with the City and hopes to be able to resolve these issues without a trial.

The District believes its legal position is strong and that the lots can ultimately be sold for between $2-4 million. The school board believes that investing in a legal determination once and for all in order to generate maximum revenue for the benefit of its students is fiscally prudent and the only responsible thing to do.


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