John Gartman | Pine Needles Drive
Del Mar Union School District trustees voted last month to proceed with the new Heights’ school design – demolition as early as late June. The unanimous vote approving the CEQA environmental review was without a single alteration of plans despite legitimate citizen and public agency concerns about fields, wildfire evacuation, traffic, impacts to the nature reserve, student compaction during the COVID-19 pandemic, or other issue. We predicted this months ago, once we discovered how much already had transpired, including over 300 pages of construction documents finalized down to the type and location of every tree and shrub and filed with the State Architect in February.
Play Outside’s inaugural campaign was to save the magic of the “field of dreams” for the kids of today and tomorrow and for our community – following our guiding principles of honesty, transparency, accountability, and public service. We always agreed with our opponents on the goal of new buildings, but we parted ways on this: they wanted new buildings a few months earlier; we wanted new buildings and old magic forever.
I wish I could report some measure of success. The final numbers show otherwise. In their final CEQA document, the district openly confessed to trading 2.1 acres of fields, baseball, and playgrounds in a near-even exchange for more parking, a car queue, buildings, and decomposed granite paths/gathering areas.
The final numbers for both field size and blacktop are, by our carefully checked measurements, significantly less than half of what exists in today’s school. The field will be the district’s smallest by 8,000 square feet and 40% smaller than the district average. Although the loss of fields and blacktop was a core issue in CEQA, the district did not reveal any numbers for them. Our numbers were front and center and unchallenged.
Even disconnected green space – which the district clung to throughout these last few months as the sole positive spin they could offer us from a play perspective – is now admitted to have dropped another 19,132 sf without explanation. We’re now down to 108,692 sf from the 142,919 sf that the district promised in October in the Del Mar Times, according to the district’s own numbers that include the entire “tot lot” area that is outside school gates.
Perhaps Play Outside and the multitude of community members who stood with us accomplished one good thing. DMUSD promised without reservation to sustain free public access of the new Heights’ grounds outside the school day. We hope that sticks.