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SOUTH BEACH: LAGUNA BEACH

Irvine Co. Will Pay Schools Upfront

November 03, 1998|STEVE CARNEY

The Laguna Beach Unified School District will get nearly $7 million in one chunk from the Irvine Co. for school improvements under a modified agreement approved last week.

The payment is compensation for the 150 or so students expected to attend Laguna Beach schools when the developer builds its Crystal Cove subdivision in Newport Coast. The two sides previously agreed to the payment but revised it to give the district all the money at once, so it can use the cash to improve and expand schools. Previously, the district would have gotten $3.9 million at first, and the rest as homes were built in Newport Coast.

"It's going to be a huge boost to the district. We won't have to wait for the Irvine Co." to start building homes, Trustee Eileen T. Walsh said.

The school board approved the change Tuesday night.

The district will get $400,000 upfront from the company to pay for architectural designs, perhaps as soon as a year from now, Walsh said. The Irvine Co. will pay the remainder of the $6.9 million in mitigation costs once the office of the state school architect approves the plans for El Morro Elementary, Thurston Middle and Laguna Beach High schools.

"We have a vested interest in making sure those facilities are of the highest quality," Irvine Co. spokesman Paul Kranhold said. "That will make this future community that much more attractive to home buyers."

The school board had considered transferring the students to the Newport-Mesa Unified School District in exchange for a payment from that district. But Laguna trustees decided in June that their district would benefit more if it kept the $1 million per year in property taxes expected from those students' families. Some residents opposed the decision, however, saying Laguna Beach schools are already too crowded.

Initial estimates said about 340 students would come from Newport Coast, but that has been revised to about 150.

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