Angered by the sale of a neighborhood recreation center, about 100 residents asked the City Council on Monday to block the sale and take over the facility.
Homeowners near the Sierra Recreation Center, one of four in the city run by the Mission Viejo Co., accused the development firm of acting in bad faith by not notifying them that the building was being sold and converted to a school.
The Mission Viejo Co. plans to phase out its involvement in the planned community by 1995 and has long sought to sell the centers.
The Sierra Recreation Center "was no longer economical to operate," said company spokeswoman Wendy Wetzel. "The city didn't indicate to us in the past three years that they wanted it."
Membership in the center had dwindled to "about two dozen" when the company sold the two-acre facility to the La Monte Academie, a school for children with learning disabilities, Wetzel said.
Sister Paula Jane Tupa, the school's chief operating officer, said the property entered into escrow last December.
Tupa held a meeting with about 50 neighborhood residents last week, the first time that the residents had been notified of the purchase. "I felt like I was run over by a tank," Tupa said after the meeting. "They were yelling and screaming about the Mission Viejo Co."
School administrators had been somewhat apprehensive about community reaction to the sale, but Tupa said she was still surprised at the angry response of the neighborhood.
However, City Councilwoman Sharon Cody said the company had agreed to look for a purchaser that would maintain all four facilities as recreation centers until 1992, then give the city right of first refusal when the property was put on sale.
The promise was made during negotiations over a new development agreement between the city and the Mission Viejo Co. in late December, she said. However, the promise was not inserted into a temporary agreement approved by the council last month.
The Mission Viejo Co. "knew about (the Sierra sale) when they were negotiating with us in December," Cody said. "I believe they were not negotiating with us in good faith."
Wetzel denied that the company ever agreed to delay the sale of the recreation center. City Manager Fred Sorsabal said he didn't recall company representatives making any promises not to sell the center for use as a school or for similar purposes.
Before the facility can be converted to a school, site plans must be cleared by the Planning Commission, Sorsabal said.