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School District Hopes to Raise Funds Through Home Sales : Development: ABC Unified will sell 13 acres next to a high school. Opponents call the plan too risky in a down market.


CERRITOS — The ABC Unified School District and an Orange County developer plan to build 70 houses on 13 acres of district property next to Whitney High School.

The school board voted 4 to 3 Tuesday to enter into a limited partnership with Costa Mesa-based Warmington Homes.

District officials said the school system expects to receive $7.7 million from the deal, which will include payment for the land and a 35% share of the profit as the houses are sold.

The venture is part of a district program to raise money by selling or leasing surplus property. Other plans include relocating Tracy High School at 12222 Cuesta Drive and the district headquarters at 16700 S. Norwalk Blvd. to less valuable locations in order to lease or sell those lots.

Opponents of the housing development, who are skeptical that the district will make money, said the program is too risky for the current economic climate.

"Major developers are collapsing and here is the ABC School District without any experience entering into this complex deal," Trustee A. Cecy R. Groom said. "It's very favorable to Warmington. As far as I'm concerned, the school district, the students, and the taxpayers are getting . . . ripped off."

Board members Sally Morales Havice and David Montgomery joined Groom in voting against the proposal.

Some critics said the district should hold on to the property, which district officials estimate is worth $5 million, because it might need it in the future.

But supporters of the plan argued that the proposal will allow the district to raise money to supplement its capital improvement fund, which is used to repair buildings or buy science and computer labs that the district otherwise could not afford.

"We have 20- and 30-year-old school buildings that are decaying, they are showing their age and need to be modernized. The bottom line is we can't look for the resources from the outside. We have to look at our available assets and maximize their use," said Trustee Bob Hughlett, who voted for the deal.

Board members Catherine Grant, Jim Weisenburger and Dixie Primosch also voted for the proposal.

Warmington Homes will submit construction plans to the city of Cerritos in December. If plans are approved, construction could begin in March or April, 1994, and houses would be sold beginning in February, 1995, company officials said.

The developer proposed a gated community of 2,600-to-2,800-square-foot homes that would sell for about $350,000.

"There are some successes in this market, and some failures. You just have to be careful," said Tim Hogan, president of Warmington Homes. "We have approached this project on a conservative basis. We think we can sell these houses at these prices and be successful."

The development at Shoemaker Avenue and 166th Street would reduce the size of Whitney High School's lot from 30 acres to 17 acres. The school may lose a parking lot to make room for the development, but district officials said another lot would be expanded.

The combination junior high/high school for the district's gifted students could benefit from the project, district officials said. Proceeds from the development may be used to construct a gymnasium, something the school has never had.

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