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Homeowners Propose Alternate Site in Margate School Dispute

May 02, 1985|BOB WILLIAMS | Times Staff Writer

In a renewed effort to fend off proposals to locate a special school for teen-agers in their neighborhood, Margate-area homeowners have come up with a plan to establish the facility in a soccer field at Rolling Hills High School.

The field at the lower end of the campus in Rolling Hills Estates is a "more suitable and accessible" site for the special "continuation school" for teen-agers and its location there is likely to win "broader community acceptance," leaders of the Margate group contend.

On the other hand, the leaders warn, if the Palos Verdes Unified School District insists on using the closed Margate Intermediate School as a permanent home for the continuation school, the homeowners will resort to lawsuits and political action to unseat school trustees in the November elections.

"We are trying to be reasonable and we want to contribute whatever we can to a sensible solution to this problem," said Nazeer Ahmed, one of the homeowners. "We will go out and raise funds to help pay the costs of establishing the continuation school on the Rolling Hills campus.

Property Values Threatened

"But we can't accept the district's present plan. We can't afford it."

Converting Margate to a continuation high school for teen-agers with personal problems or special educational needs would cost Margate homeowners "several million dollars" in reduced property values, Ahmed said, because potential buyers would view the facility as a detriment to the neighborhood.

"That perception, whether justified or not, is the economic reality that we have to face," Ahmed said.

District officials, while vehemently rejecting arguments that the continuation students would pose any special problems for the Margate neighborhood, expressed cautious interest in the proposal to locate the school on the Rolling Hills campus. They said the soccer field had not been considered previously because trustees felt that the continuation school should have a separate campus.

"Certainly, it's an idea that should be considered, along with the other alternatives," Supt. Jack Price said. "But we can't really say if it's feasible until we look at it in detail."

Other sites being studied by the school board are the closed La Cresta Elementary School in Rolling Hills and the continuation school's present temporary quarters in portable buildings on an upper stretch of the 38-acre Rolling Hills High School campus.

Ahmed, a management-level scientist at Hughes Aircraft, said it would be relatively simple to move the portables down to the soccer field, but Price pointed out that foundations, parking, plumbing, electrical power and an access road would have to be provided. The total cost of the relocation, according to estimates quoted by Ahmed, would be from $300,000 to $500,000.

The Rolling Hills campus is a better choice, Ahmed said, because it is more centrally located than the Margate site, which is at the west end of the Peninsula, and would produce fewer transportation and traffic problems.

Residential Neighborhood

The Margate school also is "right in the middle of a residential neighborhood, with only a few yards separating it from some homes," he said, while bushes and steep inclines set off the Rolling Hills soccer field from the nearest homes.

Ahmed acknowledged, however, that homeowners in the vicinity of the soccer field may have their own ideas on locating a continuation school in their neighborhood.

Meanwhile, the district's plans to revise attendance boundaries for its remaining three intermediate schools have drawn fire from the city of Palos Verdes Estates.

In a letter to the district, Mayor James Kinney said increased traffic from the boundary changes, especially if combined with the relocation of the continuation school to Margate, could cost the city an estimated $1.1 million.

To control school-related traffic in accordance with a district consultant's recommendations, he said, the city would have to install new traffic signals and turn lanes at two intersections, build a bike lane and reconstruct a street, Paseo del Mar, in a slide area.

A draft environmental impact report prepared by the consultant does not adequately consider such problems, the mayor said. He said the report also fails to view the Margate closure, the boundary shifts and the possible conversion of Margate to a continuation school as one project. Kinney cited a number of court decisions which he said bars public agencies from "chopping a large project into . . . bite-size pieces."

Supt. Price countered that traffic problems cited by the mayor existed long before any thought was given to changing school boundaries and said the city is not legally required to follow the district consultant's recommendations.

Trustees will review the consultant's environmental impact report at a meeting on Monday and are expected to adopt the revised attendance boundaries May 13. Both meetings will be at 8 p.m. at the Rolling Hills High School at Hawthorne Boulevard and Silver Spur Road.

The meetings had been scheduled a week earlier, but were postponed when the district's consultant, Michael Brandman Associates, requested more time to respond to objections raised by public officials and residents.

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