In January 2009, the San Diego city council denied Our Lady of Peace, an all-girl parochial school in Normal Heights, a permit to expand their facility. The council sided with the neighbors, who claimed that the school violated its existing permit by having more students and faculty members than the permit allowed. In addition, neighbors didn't want to see the demolition of three historic homes to make room for a new two-story parking structure and library.
In the following months, school administrators and their attorney Paul Robinson sued the city for violating the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA).
On April 19, as part of a potential settlement agreement, councilmembers were asked whether they wanted to waive the "permanent rules of council" and reconsider the project.
Early into the hearing, Robinson indicated that his client would likely move forward with litigation if council did not agree to reconsider the expansion project.
Councilmembers took issue with the lack of progress made between school administrators and nearby residents.
"Just to be clear, the project has not changed, there has been no further discussion between the neighbors and the applicant. In fact, there has been radio silence, not even a newsletter. We have to have something new," said councilmember Todd Gloria, the representative for district three.
Some councilmembers disagreed with waiving the council rules to avoid a lawsuit.
"To approve this suspension of rules sets an amazingly dangerous precedent," said councilmember Sherri Lightner.
Marti Emerald agreed: "We shouldn't sit here and waive permanent rules of council because somebody wants to bully us in court. Bring it on."
In the end, the council remained split, failing to reach the six votes necessary to reconsider the project.