The Riverside Unified School District board earlier this month voted to condemn two properties the district wants to purchase for the construction if a new elementary school. (Screenshot/RUSD YouTube)

The Riverside Unified School District Board of Education earlier this month voted to move forward with condemning two parcels of property in order to purchase them for the construction of a new elementary school adjacent to Lincoln High School on the city’s east side.

“This location will provide a local school to serve the eastside neighborhood and will reduce operational costs associated with transporting students to widely dispersed school sites and provide safe vehicular and pedestrian school access by avoiding direct access via 14th Street, which is a major arterial,” Orin Williams, assistant superintendent of facilities, planning and development, said. 

In April, Williams said the district made a formal statutory offer to purchase two properties in the 4300 block of Park Avenue, giving the owners until May 8 to respond to the offer. Williams said that the owners responded with questions but neither accepted the offer nor provided a counteroffer, leading the district to seek a resolution of necessity for the properties.

“While our offers remain open, and we remain willing to negotiate with [the owner], it is in the meantime necessary to move this acquisition forward,” he said.

However, Mark VonEsch, a representative for the property owner, said that it was his hope that the district could find a way to move forward with the project without having to take one or both of his properties.

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“The subject property is apparently going to be used as part of a playground for the new school, and it would appear that that could be worked around in a way so as to reduce the necessity of taking both of the properties, perhaps only one might be sufficient for the purposes of the school,” he said. “The property owner also contends that the district has not negotiated in good faith.”

Emails sent to the district ahead of the meeting by Carol Hyde, wife of property owner Lance Hyde, argue that not only are the properties not needed for the new school, but also that the district’s offers did not match the reality of today’s real estate market, though no official counteroffer has been made, according to the district.

“We have pleaded with them to solicit their own appraisal,” Williams said. “We made our offer based on a bonafide, certified appraisal, and to date we haven’t received any counteroffer or a counter appraisal that would call into question our appraisal.”

Ultimately, the board voted unanimously to adopt the resolutions to condemn the properties for the purpose of building a new elementary school.

A full recording of the meeting can be found here on the school district’s YouTube channel.

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