Dear San Carlos City Council,
We write to you as San Carlos residents deeply concerned with the Sequoia Union High School District (SUHSD) plan to build a 400+ student high school at 535 Old County Road. Everyone agrees that the area can benefit from a new high school, but we are deeply troubled by the lack of transparency and due diligence in this process. We ask for your help – as our elected officials – to protect your residents’ interests.
As an initial matter, not a single person in our community was aware of the proposed site until the school district had already selected it and negotiated a sale. We were not told of the only public meeting on this proposal until just two days before the meeting. And we were given the wrong time. While we understand the SUHSD is a distinct entity, this makes our community wonder:
· Were you aware of the School District’s selection and negotiation?
· How could you not share this important development with the residents most impacted by it?
· Why was there no representation from City Council at the meeting before their vote?
This lack of communication makes it appear as if the plan was negotiated in secret to avoid addressing the community’s concerns.
The school district could not have selected a more controversial site for a school. This part of San Carlos is seeing rapid development with the new PAMF site, the planned Landmark Hotel, and the Transit Village project. We understand the importance of modernizing and adding these revenue-generating improvements to help our city, but this is clearly the wrong location for a school. The site is at an incredibly congested intersection, is directly across from the Caltrain tracks and is on a small lot with limited space for parking. Did your EIR studies for PAMF, the Landmark Hotel and the Transit Village take into account the traffic, noise and parking impacts of a school with 500+ students, teachers and staff?
San Carlos is the “City of Good Living.” We thought this implied respect for San Carlos’ residents and the spaces and values they hold dear. The current school board plan assumes that the city has agreed to give up Laureola Park – the sole park on the east side of San Carlos. Long-time residents and new homeowners alike love this park. Go there on any sunny day and you will see children running around, facilities being used for birthday parties, kids shooting baskets and toddlers playing on the jungle gyms. It is a fixture of the community, hosting well-attended little league games, kids soccer matches, community meetings and family BBQs. The school board made clear they intend to utilize the park as an extension of the high school. Over 490 households rely on this park. Where will our children play?
We need your help. The neighborhood has organized behind this cause. As of the date of this letter we received over 275 signatures to our petition at: www.SaveLaureolaPark.org. This number continues to increase as people become aware of this critical issue.
We implore you to take the following immediate action items:
1. Set up a community meeting to educate the community on what the city council knows regarding the proposed high school; what the city’s rights are with respect to Laureola Park; and what city council can do to help its residents with this issue.
2. Take a formal stance against the SUHSD’s plan to build a high school at 535 Old County Road.
3. Identify alternative, and more appropriate, sites that may be used for the proposed school. Perhaps there are ways to work with the SUHSD to develop one of these alternative sites (i.e., land swaps, etc.)
4. Notify every parent who has a child that attends the Pre-K and Creative Arts program at Laureola Park that a high school will be moving in next door.
5. If there is no way to stop the proposed school, then build a wall separating the park from the school and place formal restrictions on the park’s use. For example: it is exclusively meant for community use and not for the high school students; the baseball diamond is restricted to children 12 and under; and the jungle gyms are exclusively for children.
Our community looks forward to seeing your leadership in action.