As promised, a group of Mission Beach residents has filed a lawsuit against the city and developer Christopher McKellar over a proposed residential development to be built on the site of the former Mission Beach Elementary School.
The disputed area lies east of Mission Boulevard, between Kennebeck Court to the north and Santa Barbara Place to the south.
The group that filed the lawsuit, named Mission Beach Citizens for Responsible Development, asserts that the proposed 63-unit multi-family residential development ignores the community's planning ordinance by including private roads, larger lot sizes, increased density, and open-space requirements.
In recent months, as reported by the Reader, residents have warned the city council that a lawsuit would be filed if the city granted the developer permission to build the project as proposed; city councilmembers did just that on April 11.
The battle began shortly after La Jolla–based developer McKellar McGowan purchased the 2.23-acre parcel from the San Diego Unified School District for $18.5 million in 2013. San Diego Unified built the elementary school along Mission Beach Boulevard in 1925. In 1950, it expanded with the addition of a six-lot parcel on Santa Barbara Place to establish a kindergarten. Two years later, in 1952, the district joined the two parcels to make one.
Months after McKellar McGowan purchased the property, residents learned that the developer was trying to separate the two parcels. McKellar McGowan allegedly did so, say residents, by creating a separate LLC to build the smaller of the two projects. Doing so exempted the smaller six-parcel development from any city-mandated park requirements. Instead of a .35-acre park, one that preserved a large ficus tree as a centerpiece, the developer proposed a .19-acre pocket-park.
During the April 11 council hearing, residents warned councilmembers that they were prepared to take the city to court if they approved the project. On May 10, their attorney Cory Briggs filed a writ of mandate on their behalf.
According to the lawsuit, the project violates the California Environmental Quality Act by failing to "provide adequate identification and analysis of significant adverse environmental impacts,” including traffic, parking, transportation, air quality, community character, and noise.
The complaint also says the council erred by allowing the developer to separate the project. Doing so prevented the council and city from considering any impacts caused by the entire development.
The group is asking that a judge prevent construction from beginning until all environmental violations are addressed. A hearing is scheduled for October 21.