LONG BEACH — The school district has turned up the heat in its two-year dispute with city officials over classroom funding, labeling a new city-commissioned study "grossly deficient."
At the same time, the district blasted city officials for their "continuing cavalier treatment of and arrogant disregard for the schools in the community."
The harsh language was included in the district's first written response to an environmental study of proposed changes in a plan that would allow dwellings to be built in more of the 421-acre Downtown Redevelopment Zone.
"It's unbelievable to me that the report could be issued showing no impact at all on the school district," E. Tom Giugni, superintendent of the Long Beach Unified School District, said in an interview.
The environmental study--and the tough school district response--are scheduled to be considered Nov. 11 by the City Council and the Redevelopment Agency, which must certify the adequacy of the environmental report. The district response was delivered to city planners late last week and distributed to the school board on Monday.
Also included in the district's response was a request for $72 million in city assistance to pay for three new schools. But Mayor Ernie Kell said that amount is unrealistic, especially in light of recent passage by the Legislature of funding that would bring the district about $3 million to $5 million a year if it is signed by the governor.
The district's comments follow two years of disagreement between the city and its rapidly growing school district about how much City Hall should contribute for new classrooms.
1985 Suit Withdrawn
The district filed a lawsuit in 1985 to try to force city officials to assess fees on developers or provide other money to the 66,000-student school district, which is already at capacity and projects an enrollment of 91,400 by 1994.
It eventually withdrew that suit, saying it wanted to improve relations with the city. But now, 13 months later, it has secured no city commitment to help.
The sharpness of the district's response to the new study reflects school officials' increasing frustration, Giugni said. "The only progress I see at this point is that we're still talking with the city," he said. Giugni and City Manager John Dever are scheduled to meet to discuss the issue next week, Giugni said.
In its response, the district maintains that city consultants gathered too little information before concluding that only 13 students will be among the 3,494 people who will live in the 1,839 additional dwellings that the downtown redevelopment plan would allow.
"Projecting only 13 more students for the remaining 25 years of project activity is irresponsible," said the document written by school facilities administrator Mary Anne Mays and approved by Giugni. Overall, the environmental study "lacks integrity" because it does not consider the severe effect downtown redevelopment has had on schools on its periphery and elsewhere in the city since 1975, the district said.
Written Response Due
Roger Anderman, executive director of the Redevelopment Agency, would not comment on such specific allegations, but said he will issue a written response by Oct. 20.
He did say, however, that the goal of the environmental report was to look only at the effect of proposed amendments to the redevelopment plan, not at the overall effect redevelopment may have had on school enrollment. "There was no requirement to look beyond that narrow issue," he said.
The report's projection of only 13 students for the 1,839 additional dwellings is based on a survey of 415 existing downtown apartments and condominiums similar to those allowed under the amended plan. Only three school-age children live in those dwellings, the report says.
Residents of the new dwellings--many of which would be bachelor apartments or have just one bedroom--are expected to be single persons or young couples without children, the report said. It concluded that after the 1,839 additional homes are built there will be one less school-age child on the 12 blocks affected by the amendments.
School officials, however, insist that it is time for the city to look at the bigger picture--the effect a projected 30,000 new dwellings citywide will have on local schools during the next 15 years.
Giugni said new construction throughout the city, including growth spawned by downtown redevelopment, already has filled local schools to overflowing. And Mays cited issuance of about 2,645 residential building permits over a 12-month period ending in June as evidence of that continuing boom.