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The new kindergarten next door in North Park

“Isn’t there a law that requires you to consult with your neighbors?"

Ted said he is bothered that the new facility is a few feet from his bedroom window.
  • Ted said he is bothered that the new facility is a few feet from his bedroom window.

On August 11, Ted received a letter from his next-door neighbor of eight years. He said that he rarely spoke to her until last month.

“They sent me a letter,” said Ted, a 47-year-old videographer and video editor, “[but] they were on the sly because they initially said they were putting up an art studio — but now it’s a kindergarten.”

They all live by the Illinois Street, Howard Avenue, and El Cajon Boulevard blocks in North Park. Ted bought his fixer-upper home (for $200,000) in 2009.

"The thing that concerns me is the kids screaming could potentially lower our property values.”

"The thing that concerns me is the kids screaming could potentially lower our property values.”

Janet Cherif said, “He was upset when the people built the new building because they made noise doing construction and you can’t do anything about that. He should be upset about the people working on the street [Howard] right now — at two in the morning you think you hear a thunderstorm coming…. We did [the construction] for the kindergartners to have a little green and we are going to put a garden there.”

According to Ted (and online research seems to back this up), Cherif is a teacher, director, and part owner of the Children’s Creative and Performing Arts Academy on El Cajon Boulevard.

“When we bought the house, we bought it specifically for a kindergarten,” Cherif said, “so the kids can have some grass area.” She and her husband also “own the preschool” and new kindergarten facility next door to Ted.

Ted said he is also bothered that the new “500 sq./ft.” kindergarten facility is a few feet away from his bedroom window.

“Isn’t there a law that requires you to consult with your neighbors before building a kindergarten [facility]?” he asked.

"Moving the fence would greatly impede the functionality of my side-yard access path between front and backyards."

"Moving the fence would greatly impede the functionality of my side-yard access path between front and backyards."

Ted said he consulted with the North Park planning committee, city agencies, and attorneys “and everybody said to ask somebody else and gave me the municipal codes to read.”

“He shouldn’t worry,” Cherif said. “Everything is in the classroom [and] these are Montessori classrooms [which] are quiet. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a Montessori classroom, but they are very focused areas and not screaming kids — it’s not going to affect anybody.”

“We filed a complaint in April,” said Mary, 62, who lives in the townhomes on the opposite side of the new kindergarten. “I’m not sure if they are legally zoned for the area — and the thing that concerns me is the kids screaming could potentially lower our property values.”

Then, on July 29 at about 8:30 a.m., Ted said, “I heard a power tool in the fence area [then] I ran out there to find the Cherifs’ hired-hand cutting the fence down. I told him to stop and Janet’s brother showed up a few minutes later as supervisor to the hired hand. He got aggressive in my face and said whether then or later that the fence is coming down.”

Ted's side yard

Ted's side yard

Ted said that the moved fence will increase Cherif’s driveway minimally but he’ll lose a significant amount of his “small space.”

“My girlfriend and I met with the Cherifs,” he said, “and I told them that I may have rights to the 19-inch strip of property via prescriptive easement rights if not adverse possession, and that moving the fence would greatly impede the functionality of my side-yard access path between front and backyards. It would greatly disturb my eight years of landscaping, which would all drop my property value. I also told him [and her] that I do not want a kindergarten right outside my window, and neither do his other neighbors who contacted me a few days prior, because it’s presence would be a disturbing nuisance to all us neighbors and also drop our properties’ values.”

On August 11, Janet Cherif opened the doors to her new kindergarten for this writer to observe. The double-paned windows facing Ted’s property were about seven feet high. “The kids have to jump up and down to see his property,” Cherif said. “You actually can have many more [kids] but we are only going to have 15.”

Ted edits videos during the day and night — and when matching voice-overs to moving mouths in a video, or implementing a sound effect to a specific scene; he needs to concentrate and line up some shots to a millisecond.

“It doesn’t matter if I’m a retired guy who wants to stare at the wall — I need my peace,” he said.

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Comments

It is hard to evaluate these claims and counter-claims without knowing if that piece of property is zoned for a commercial school. As residential as the area is described, the answer is probably that the zoning isn't there to allow it. And if that is true, it should be shut down by the city immediately.

Anyone have a better take?

I know there's a significant carve-out in zoning law to allow preschools and daycare use in a residential zone, I'm assuming that's the implication here. But as I understand it at least part of the house has to be used as an actual residence, which doesn't sound like it's the case here. Without the address I couldn't do a tax roll zoning check to be sure.

A user privately provided an address for the facility. My findings:

Current land use on that address is "single family residential," while zoning is "R-3 Restricted Multiple," indicating that based on lot size, as many as three residential units might be permissible. Without further research, it appears that daycare/preschool use would only be permitted with an on-site owner/full-time occupant, though I can't speak with thorough authority here.

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