Residents push back against proposal to use Earl Warren site for new district office

A rendering for the proposed office building on the Earl Warren Middle School campus.

Solana Beach residents spoke out against a San Dieguito Union High School District proposal to build a new district office that would take away field space on the Earl Warren Middle School campus. At the board’s Nov. 7 meeting, resident Patrick Germon said he represented the kids of Solana Beach and all students at Earl Warren when he asked the board not to build on land that kids need for play.

“Leave this land for the children. Please, I implore you. We can never get this land back,” said Germon. “You guys are the stewards of our community. These kids have nowhere, our open spaces are getting squished further and further.”

The proposed 25,000-square-foot building, designed by architects Ruhnau Clarke, would be located on the field space next to Earl Warren and the Solana Beach Library, pulled toward Stevens Avenue. The renderings detail a large board room with big windows fronting Stevens, more space for staff collaboration and professional development as well as wellness components such as a gym and access to the outdoors.

The field space in question was home to the interim campuses of Earl Warren and Skyline Schools as both new schools were being built—once the portables were removed, parent Shannon Kearns said she assumed it would remain a field, which was an exciting prospect as she said while their town has the ocean, lagoons and golf courses, it does not have enough land or open space.

Kearns said neighbors negotiated for two years with the Solana Beach School District to leave the fields at Skyline and Solana Vista School open as there are no other places to play sports like baseball or soccer.

“We are all reliant on our school and that’s what makes us different than Pacific Trails or Carmel Valley Middle School, you drive around those places and they have beautiful parks. We don’t have parks,” Kearns said. “Earl Warren is a beautiful school and everyone is so proud of it but at the same time our facilities for sports are significantly inefficient and non-existent compared to other schools that we see.”

San Dieguito has been exploring the potential for a new district office since 2018, with the goal for an administrative building that is more centrally located than their Encinitas Boulevard location as well as a building that is more collaborative, open and transparent.

The board held a workshop on Oct. 30 to discuss the results of its feasibility study and found out the costs associated with constructing a new building would be around $20.8 million. Rather than sell the existing office building in Encinitas, the idea would be modernize it to attract rental office tenants and create revenue. The approximate investment needed for the building to attract tenants would be $2 million to $5 million.

As the district has just $1 million available in its capital funding budget, the board acknowledged that without securing additional money, they would not be able to move forward with the project at this time.

“The feasibility study was very thorough, looking at that location and looking at this building and presenting what the options might be,” said SDUHSD Superintendent Robert Haley. “We’ll see where that takes us in the future but for now, we’ve got that thorough report and we learned a lot.”

Germon said he believed that the district should abandon the plan for the project altogether as it is too costly and “superfluous”; he suggested that the board consider the option of renovating the existing office building for its own use.

Kearns said Solana Beach is a tight-knit community and the issue has “blown-up” among friends and neighbors. She said people are upset, but reasonable, and they want to be a part of the discussion about the future of the property.

“You see that chunk of land and there’s so much potential to encourage community play, sports and social interaction. I feel like I’m begging you, because I am begging you: there are other opportunities and please think about that,” Kearns said. “Look at that piece of land and think of what it could be versus a building. I love this district but please work with us.”