Trial Date Set as 130-Year-Old Academy of Our Lady of Peace Alleges Federal Religious Land Use Violations Against City of San Diego
Modernization of San Diego's oldest high school blocked by politics, federal trial set for October 1, 2012
Contact: Zak Walsh, for Dalton & Tomich plc, 248-626-0006, email@example.com
SAN DIEGO, May 23, 2012 /Christian Newswire/ -- The Honorable Cathy Ann Bencivengo, United States District Court Judge for the Southern District of California, has set a trial date of October 1, 2012 in the case of Academy of Our Lady of Peace v. City of San Diego, a precedent-setting religious land use and zoning case. In April 2012, Judge Bencivengo denied the City of San Diego's motion to dismiss the case and ordered that all City Council members, and their staff, submit to a deposition to explain their behavior. The next steps in the proceedings will include the depositions of City Council member Todd Gloria and his staff member, Stephen Hill, in early June 2012.
The Academy of Our Lady of Peace filed a federal lawsuit against the City of San Diego in May 2009. The suit alleges violation of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, better known as RLUIPA, as well as violations of federal and state constitutional rights. The October trial may also explore possible abuse of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) as a stall tactic.
The Academy has created an informational website about the modernization effort at www.StayEducatedSanDiego.org. It includes a timeline of events, downloadable case documents, and an opportunity for alumnae, parents and community supporters to share their thoughts.
The Academy's attorney in the case is Daniel Dalton of Dalton & Tomich plc. Dalton has won precedent-setting land use cases on behalf of catholic churches and other religious institutions across the country against municipalities found to be in violation of RLUIPA. One of the largest settlements included a $550,000 cash award granted to Church of the Open Door in a case against the City of Bellmead, Texas, the largest such award in the state's history.
At issue in Academy of Our Lady of Peace v. City of San Diego is the City's refusal to approve the all-girls Catholic high school's plan to modernize its campus and facilities, a step necessary to enable the continuation of a tradition inaugurated in 1882, of superior education for the region's future female leaders. With no new school facilities built since 1965 and with all adaptive reuse possibilities for existing structures exhausted, the proposed modernization plan is critical to the school's future and to the education of the region's young women.
The proposed modernization plan includes construction of one new school building and a parking structure on land the school already owns. These facilities would provide students state-of-the-art science laboratories, an enhanced library and media center and additional classroom space, as well as off-street parking.
The school first proposed the plan to the City in May 2007. For five years since then, the Academy of Our Lady of Peace has sought approval to evolve as an educational institution to remain competitive with other private high schools and public schools in the area. Approval was attained from the City of San Diego Developmental Services Department and affirmed by the Planning Commission in 2008, but later rescinded by City Council.
"With political interests seemingly taking precedence over the well being of San Diego's young women and jeopardizing the future of this historic institution, the school had no choice but to take the matter to court," Dalton said. "The proposed modernization plan is the only way the Academy of Our Lady of Peace can continue upholding its mission to meet the educational needs of its students, the future leaders of the San Diego community. The Academy asks only that it be treated fairly under the law."
The Academy is located in San Diego's North Park neighborhood and is the city's oldest high school. The private school is administered by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet.
Additional information is available at the Stay Educated San Diego website.
About Academy of Our Lady of Peace
The Academy of Our Lady of Peace curriculum develops young leaders guided by principles including dedication to "excellence tempered by gentleness, peace and joy," focus on service to the "dear neighbor," and commitment to furthering social justice. More than 5,000 young women have graduated under these principles since the school's founding. Collectively, they have contributed more than 24,000 hours of community services to the San Diego community. For more information on the Academy, visit www.aolp.org.
About Dalton & Tomich plc
Based in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Dalton & Tomich plc is a law firm specializing in providing guidance to leading religious organizations in land use and zoning matters, helping property owners in land use matters, and assisting businesses and financial institutions as legal counsel across the nation. Visit www.daltontomich.com.