Further environmental review may be needed for the Burlingame Elementary School District to reopen Hoover Elementary School, according to a judge’s tentative ruling this week.
San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Marie Weiner tentatively ruled Wednesday in favor of the Alliance for Responsible Neighborhood Planning that sued the district, stating it needs to prepare a full Environmental Impact Report on traffic impacts.
Superintendent Maggie MacIsaac said the district is hesitant to respond to anything formally at this time because the ruling is tentative.
“When she [the judge] issues a statement of decision, we’ll know more of the details of the decision,” she said. “We’re hopeful because of our traffic analysis and throughout the whole process, we’ve been more than open to making sure to work with neighbors to meet their needs. We hope they will take into consideration that we’re excited to open the school.”
The school is currently under construction and slated to open for the 2014-15 school year, but MacIsaac said keeping that schedule depends on the details of the official ruling.
In contrast, Christine Fitzgerald, one of the petitioners in the case and member of the alliance, was pleased with the decision.
“We’re thrilled obviously because it’s what we’ve been saying all along that they [the district] need to do an EIR because their traffic study was completely inadequate,” she said. “Hopefully they’ll look at the project and come up with a different plan.”
An EIR is required under the California Environmental Quality Act for at least traffic and parking impacts on this proposed project, the ruling stated.
Opening arguments in San Mateo County Superior Court against the district over traffic and parking concerns surrounding the reopening of Hoover Elementary School were heard July 29.
Growing enrollment in the Burlingame Elementary School District resulted in the purchase of the previously-closed Hoover Elementary School on Summit Drive in 2010. Since then, the district has been working on plans to renovate the building to meet current standards.
At the July hearing, the alliance’s attorney Kevin Haroff 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 CEQA 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.
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. 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.
Some residents who live near the school felt the plan should be postponed to allow for more discussion and possible changes to the traffic plan, which led to the lawsuit filed in January. The court denied the claim that there was a violation of CEQA for not adequately responding to these concerns.
Hoover was founded in 1931, closed in 1979 and repurchased by the district for $4.8 million in 2010. 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.
The court will be issuing a subsequent proposed statement of decision.
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