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Students Favored to Win in Home Raffle

Fundraising lottery with townhouse as top prize could net $1 million for Irvine schools boosters.

March 28, 2004|Daniel Yi | Times Staff Writer

Forget bake sales.

A foundation that supports Irvine's public schools is raffling off a $500,000 townhome in a new neighborhood, and even at $200 each, the tickets are selling fast.

"This is the single-biggest fundraising we've ever done," said Tim Shaw, chief executive officer of the Irvine Public Schools Foundation, which began selling the tickets about a week ago.

The foundation expects to net more than $1 million from the June 12 drawing, Shaw said. The proceeds will go toward funding several programs the foundation already supports in the Irvine Unified School District, including science, art and music programs in elementary schools.

Shaw said the foundation expects the 10,000 tickets to sell out in April, long before the June 1 closing.

"Our fax machine has been beeping nonstop with incoming raffle orders," he said. By the end of last week, nearly 2,000 tickets had been sold.

For some ticket buyers, it was an opportunity to support public education while having a chance at getting in on one of the nation's hottest housing markets.

The February median price of an Orange County home was $475,000, a 23.7% increase over a year ago and the biggest jump in 15 years.

Eileen Ganong, 53, of San Clemente bought a ticket for herself and split another with her 21-year-old daughter, a college senior.

"I thought this would be a wonderful opportunity for her to get a foot in the door in the Orange County real estate market," Ganong said. Given the high prices, she said, "I am afraid my daughter will never be able to own a home without a lot of struggle and sacrifices."

But what if Ganong's ticket proves to be the winner?

"She will have to rent it from me," Ganong said, laughing. "I'm willing to make the rent attractive."

Irvine's public schools could use the money. Despite being one of the best performing districts in the state, Irvine is one of the lowest funded.

It receives $100 less per student than the statewide average of $4,841 for unified school districts.

The discrepancy is the result of California's school funding system that tends to send less money to affluent communities. The shortfall is felt more deeply during state budget crises.

"The foundation has helped support programs that would otherwise have been cut," said Supt. Dean Waldfogel. "We know one of the primary reasons why people buy houses in Irvine is because of the schools. This [raffle] is sort of two-for-one."

The foundation, which began supporting Irvine public schools in 1996, currently contributes more than $4 million for class-size reduction, health education services, after-school programs, teaching supplies, scholarships and other programs.

The idea to raffle a house began two years ago, Shaw said. "It came from one of our parents, and it sort of went into the pipe-dream column."

Given the early success of this raffle, he said, the foundation plans to turn it into an annual event.

House raffles have proved popular elsewhere too. Last year the Palos Verdes Art Center raffled a $1.2-million mansion and is expected to sell out 18,000 tickets this year for another house on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, said Bob Yassin, the center's executive director.

In Irvine, the public schools foundation teamed up with John Laing Homes, developer of Casalon, a 165-home neighborhood in the new Village of Quail Hill, just off the San Diego Freeway.

The foundation bought the three-story, 1,592-square-foot condominium for $489,000 at $25,000 below cost. The home, which is under construction, could fetch close to $550,000 on the open market, said Steve Kabel, John Laing's president for Southern California.

The three-bedroom, three-bath home features a two-car garage, a built-in gas range, microwave oven and dishwasher.

Raffle ticket buyers also will have a chance to win cash prizes ranging from $250 to $25,000. Information is available at the foundation's website, www.ipsf.net.

The winner of the townhome can opt for $400,000 in cash instead.

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