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Whither Winston
Shores Park Puzzle
Ann Gardner | Via Latina

Original vision courtesy Friends of Del Mar Parks.
Graphic courtesy of City of Del Mar.
Click to enlarge.

Neighbors of the non-profit private school at the corner of Stratford and Ninth and parents of children who attend Winston are circulating a petition “urging the City to revise Winston’s lease …so the school can stay small in scale with shared community uses.”

The school’s current lease with the City runs until 2063 with the stipulation that redevelopment plans for the old buildings are submitted to the City by December. The rent is prepaid to 2023 at $197,245 annually, with the annual CPI adjustment waived under the lease terms, but increases to $266,910 in 2023, when prepaid rent is exhausted and the CPI adjustment takes effect, according to the existing lease. The petition supports capping the annual rent at $147,000. In the meantime planning for the Shores Park 5.3 acres which include 1.3 acres for the school have been on hold for two years as negotiations continue.

Winston has occupied the northwest corner of the property since 1988 when it was founded by a Kaiser Permanente pediatrician who recognized the need for a local school to serve those with learning differences. Before then the buildings were occupied by elementary students in the Del Mar Union School District. The School was replaced by two new elementary schools in Del Mar Heights and the old District building on the site was vacated. A local group, the Friends of Del Mar Parks, who supported the idea of a neighborhood park, raised 5 million dollars, 3 million from Winston supporters and the rest from local residents, to buy the property. The City bought the property in 2008 after selling its prime real estate property on Balboa Ave In order to meet the district $8.5 million price tag. The vision for the Park was for recreational open space and the school.

Since then, Community input gathered during the park planning process in 2015-2016 amended the vision to include a community center with activities for seniors. When the new Winston Head Dena Harris came on board at about the same time she suggested that a collaborative plan that covered the whole 5.3 acres with shared parking and uses might result in more park space.

Unfortunately, the collaborative planning broke down in 2018 when the School began discussions with the City over the rent. In December of that year the City responded that Winston’s proposal to pay $1 a year would amount to an illegal gift of public funds, and offered several options for reducing the rent including the provision of two affordable housing units for their teachers. In July the School came back with the $147,000 offer cited in the petition. Three of the neighbors who have signed the petition spoke at the August 13 Planning Commission meeting tasked with determining the parking needs of the proposed new Community Center, separate from the School.

The neighbors emphasized that, although they were puzzled by the stalemate between the School and the City, “We support the proposed Community Center and its activities for seniors, just not at the expense of the school.”



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