San Diego Unified School District has accepted a winning bid of $18.5 million for a prime piece of land in Mission Beach as part of the district’s effort to raise $50 million to help plug a projected $84 million deficit.

The bid is $2 million more than the previous high bid the district accepted, then rejected, last year. That failed deal was lambasted by local real estate experts, who criticized the district for sinking its biggest land sale.

Local land brokers said the district should have taken the money and run, since the property had sold for far more than its appraised value.

So much for that.

District Superintendent of Business Phil Stover sent out an email earlier today announcing the news.

“This is certainly good news for the district,” Stover wrote. “I am proud of the good way the real estate department followed through on this transaction. We continue to shepherd each of the sales as they progress.”

The district needs to raise $50 million this year by selling land to help plug an estimated $84 million budget.

Last year’s sale of the Mission Beach property was scuttled after then-Trustee Shelia Jackson changed her mind on the deal at the last minute, voting against accepting the $16.5 million bid for the land. Jackson left office last year and was replaced by Marne Foster, who voted in favor of putting the property back on the market earlier this year.

Trustee Richard Barrera said he was pleased the district had received such a high bid, and said he’s hopeful the deal will actually happen.

“We were playing with fire by rejecting that bid before, so it’s important that we go ahead and accept the bid this time,” Barrera said.

Trustee Scott Barnett, who has been against land sales from the start, begged to differ.

“It shows that the real estate market is getting stronger in San Diego and that we are throwing away incredible upside value to the taxpayers by this foolhardy policy of selling land to cover over spending by this administration and school board, actions which border on financial malfeasance,” Barnett wrote in an email to district staff, board members and reporters. “In addition it’s an absolute disregard for the feelings of the community which will receive a high density development in an already overburdened area.”

Local land broker David Santistevan told me earlier this year that the district had squandered a great deal by turning down the $16.5 million bid last year. Santistevan said Wednesday that he couldn’t believe the new $18.5 million price tag.

“I’m so shocked,” Santistevan said. “This market’s crazy.”

Santistevan said he understood the district’s desire to sell now.

“Markets come and go,” he said. “Right now, the market is so frothy, and what if they miss it? Maybe they’re right to cash in their chips now.”

The winning bidder was a duo of developers, doing business as McKellar-Ashbrook LLC, registered in La Jolla.

The board will vote in the coming weeks on whether to accept the bid.

Will Carless is an investigative reporter at Voice of San Diego currently focused on local education. You can reach him at or 619.550.5670.

Like VOSD on Facebook.

Voice of San Diego is a nonprofit that depends on you, our readers. Please donate to keep the service strong. Click here to find out more about our supporters and how we operate independently.

Will Carless was formerly the head of investigations at Voice of San Diego.

Leave a comment

We expect all commenters to be constructive and civil. We reserve the right to delete comments without explanation. You are welcome to flag comments to us. You are welcome to submit an opinion piece for our editors to review.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.