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Residents petition to preserve school sites

Save Our Fields will bring more than 400 signatures to City Council in effort to keep residential developers off former sites of Lamb and Wardlow elementary schools.

September 12, 2012|By Michael Miller
  • Sadie South, 5, and her brother Blake, 8, play with a soccer ball near a pair of closed school sites off Yorktown Avenue in Huntington Beach on Friday.
Sadie South, 5, and her brother Blake, 8, play with a soccer… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

More than 400 Huntington Beach residents have signed a petition urging the city to preserve a pair of former school sites that a developer seeks to turn into residential communities.

The grass-roots campaign, known as Save Our Fields, plans to bring the signatures to the City Council before it votes on the project Nov. 5.

Tri Pointe Homes, an Irvine-based firm, hopes to build 130 houses on the sites formerly occupied by Lamb and Wardlow elementary schools.

Tri Pointe seeks to demolish the existing school buildings and have the property rezoned for residential use. Members of Save Our Fields argue that the development will cause traffic congestion and other problems, and take away some of the last undeveloped space in Huntington Beach.

Before the council vote, the Planning Commission is scheduled to vote on Wardlow on Sept. 25 and Lamb on Oct. 9. The petitions Save Our Fields has circulated are addressed to both the council and Planning and Building Department.

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Annette South, who lives by the Lamb site, called the area an ideal place for family recreation.

"The kids don't have any other place to play," she said. "I have four grandchildren, and if they close this place down, where will they go? Play in the street?"

In a document that member Holly Derheim submitted to the Planning Commission on Tuesday, Save Our Fields outlined more than two dozen concerns about the proposed development, including the possibility of children crossing a dangerous intersection to go to school, the incompatibility of Tri Pointe's two-story homes with the single-story surrounding neighborhood and the decrease in available soccer fields for AYSO and other groups.

In addition to the grass-roots effort, Save Our Fields has enlisted legal help for its cause. Los Angeles attorney Stanley L. Friedman wrote to the Planning and Building Department calling the development "ill-planned" and "dangerous," while the Law Offices of Hutchens & Hutchens in Bellflower have also promised support.

Tri Pointe officials said they sympathize with those who want to retain the open space but that the Fountain Valley School District had clearly intended it to be developed when it put the land up for sale.

In 2005, after the district declared the Lamb and Wardlow sites surplus land, the city negotiated a deal to buy 2.6 acres of the Lamb property and six acres of Wardlow. Both sites are now preserved as park land, and the latter is home to the Huntington Valley Little League.

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