Opening arguments were heard in a lawsuit by the Alliance for Responsible Neighborhood Planning against the Burlingame Elementary School District yesterday over traffic and parking concerns surrounding the reopening of Hoover Elementary School.
At the San Mateo County Superior Court in Redwood City, Kevin Haroff, representing the alliance, argued that the approval of the project was invalid since there wasn’t a sufficient Environmental Impact Report done. He stated that neighbors worry reopening the school may cause major traffic and parking issues under the current plan.
He said the district failed to address traffic impacts in its December 2012 mitigated negative declaration study and review. He also said the district committed a California Environmental Quality Act violation by dismissing community concerns about traffic. Haroff cited an October 2012 letter from the town of Hillsborough stating their concerns about the rebuilding being ignored.
“A full EIR is necessary,” Haroff said. “There are more suitable alternatives to avoid impacts in the first place. They would be in a better position to provide for the needs of the students without negative impacts.”
Growing enrollment in the Burlingame Elementary School District resulted in the purchase of the previously-closed Hoover Elementary School on Summit Road in 2010. Since then, the district has been working on plans to renovate the building to meet current standards. The plan is to open Hoover for the 2014-15 school year.
The school district’s attorney, Stan Barankiewicz, said the traffic engineer’s plan for the area is enough to show that the 93 expected cars driving to the school during the peak hour would not cause traffic issues.
The current plan calls for two 8-foot-wide curbside bays to be created for pickup and dropoff along the west side of Summit Drive adjacent to the school providing enough curb space for 15 cars, according to a staff report. In addition, the existing school site curb would be shifted west to provide for the bays and two 10-foot-wide vehicle travel lanes, which will increase the width of Summit Drive to 17 feet in some areas.
“It will greatly harm the education of students if we are not able to go forward,” Barankiewicz said yesterday. “There are very few petitioners who are crying ‘the sky is falling’ because they do not want the school rebuilt. They lack expert opinion backing their claims.”
Christine Fitzgerald, one of the petitioners in the case and member of the alliance, said the district incorrectly made it appear as if those who objected to the project were a small group of people exclusively from Hillsborough. She noted that there were also a good deal of objectors from Burlingame.
Barankiewicz went on to say that the petitioners should have participated in the public hearings prior to Nov. 13, 2012 if they wanted to have input in the process.
Judge Marie Weiner, who will decide the case, brought up her own concerns about lack of access to the school other than by car because of the lack of sidewalks, back entrance and bike lanes leading up to the school.
“Are the circumstances such that every parent will drive their kids?” Weiner asked Barankiewicz.
Hoover was founded in 1931, closed in 1979 and repurchased by the district for $4.8 million in 2010. Superintendent Maggie MacIsaac estimated the costs for renovations and new equipment will be about $13 million. Measure D, a $56 million bond measure passed by voters in November 2012 will cover most of the costs.
Some residents who live near the school felt the approval should be postponed to allow for more discussion and possible changes to the traffic plan, which led to the lawsuit filed in January.
Judge Weiner will render her final written decision on the case within about 60 days. The preliminary injunction, that prevents construction from being done on the road leading up to the school, is still in effect until Weiner issues a decision. The injunction was to have blocked the removal of at least one tree on the property, but the tree was already cut down.
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