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OP-ED: Land swap: A win for San Carlos
March 28, 2014, 05:00 AM By Adam Rak

Adam Rak

Last week, the San Carlos Elementary School District sent a letter to the city of San Carlos asking that it consider a land swap. I strongly support this idea in principle and believe it can benefit the school district’s effort to meet our growing enrollment challenge and continue to provide a high quality education for our children. This land swap also brings the benefit to our community of adding sorely needed field space.

We live in a city that supports its schools and parks. Many families move to San Carlos for just that reason. In fact, we anticipate enrollment growth in our schools by several hundred students in the coming years. That is why the school district has worked diligently over the past few years to develop a Facilities Master Plan (FMP) to update our facilities and prepare for that growth.

The FMP includes a plan to relocate Charter Learning Center (CLC) to make room for a fourth-, fifth-grade school on the Tierra Linda campus. About a year ago, the school board directed the district to search for new land to move CLC. Land is at a premium in San Carlos, particularly when looking for a 4-acre parcel suitable for a new school. After a significant search, it was determined that the best option is the city-owned parcel on Crestview Drive near Marigold Lane. The district is proposing to swap approximately 4 acres of land on the upper Tierra Linda (TL) campus for a roughly equivalent amount of land on Crestview. The Tierra Linda property could in turn be used by the city to add needed field and park space. While we have to work out details with the city, I believe that this land swap can provide a significant benefit for all of San Carlos.

What happens if we are unsuccessful in negotiating a deal to swap the two parcels? The district needs to meet its growing enrollment. We cannot continue to cram more students into our existing schools. We have to expand the capacity of our facilities. If a land swap is not possible, we are left to look at three of our existing campuses for the solution.

We could move CLC to Arundel or Heather or add a third school to Tierra Linda. Each option would mean increased traffic and the loss of either field space or in the case of Arundel, tennis courts.

As an example, there is available land at TL, but adding 400 students there will greatly impact traffic. We only have one entrance to a two school (Tierra Linda and Charter Learning Center) campus that already houses about 1,000 students. Add Carlmont High School to the mix, which is expected to grow by several hundred more than its current 2,000-student population, and you have the potential for a traffic nightmare. Building on upper TL would also mean losing forever four acres of land that could be developed as recreational space for the city and its citizens.

I understand that placing Charter on Crestview Drive will impact those residents in the immediate area. There will be some increased traffic and noise. But it is important to remember that the city is also entertaining an offer to develop that site with townhouses. So we stand to lose that space regardless. The difference will be whether a school is built on that site, and more usable open space is created or more development will occur and we will have to build on an existing campus, exacerbating traffic and reducing precious field space. The city has already approved development of the Transit Village, would like to develop Wheeler Plaza and could develop the Crestview site. These developments will likely bring more families and school-age kids to our already impacted schools.

I don’t oppose development in San Carlos. There are positive aspects that can improve our city. However, we have to be smart about development. We have to think about what will bring the most benefit to the community. There is no perfect solution, but the proposed land swap is the best current option we have, and it provides a tremendous opportunity for the district and the city to work together for the benefit of the entire community.

Adam Rak is president of the San Carlos Elementary School District Board of Trustees. 



Tags: school, space, carlos, district, there, tierra,

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