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Letter to the Editor: Five Points in Opposition of CSUS Project

Belmont residents Evelyn and Gordon Seely give five reasons for their opposition to the proposal by Crystal Springs Uplands School to build a middle school on Davis Drive. To submit a 'Letter to the Editor' email joan.dentler@patch.com.

 

Dear Editor: 

We are opposed to the proposal of Crystal Springs Uplands School to relocate their middle school to Belmont for the following reasons:

  1.  The most glaring, insolvable problem with the CSUS proposal is the serious impact it would have on the traffic patterns on Ralston Avenue.  There is simply no mitigation of that reality.  Could anyone who travels Ralston in the morning be convinced otherwise?  Simply changing the time for the beginning of the school day will not cause the additional cars needed to transport CSUS students to school to become invisible or disappear. 

2.  Hardly less serious is the proposal to re-zone what is already the small amount of Belmont property devoted to industrial/commercial pursuits.  Were that not enough, imagine the harmful impact on the remaining commercial activities on Davis Drive that would result from a mixed, in effect, spot zoning decision.  No reputable planner would conceive such a situation.  The Belmont Planning Commission voted the proposal down 6 to 1.   

3.  What CSUS proposes to give  to the City of Belmont in the form of an in lieu payment in any given year can be taken away by CSUS in any following year.  As a non-profit corporation devoted to K-12 education, CSUS has constitutional protection from taxation--the result of a referendum in 1952 and an initiative in 1958--that no court in the world can take away from them.  Their in lieu payment would always be simply a freely-offered gift that could always be canceled.  Beyond that, an in lieu gift to the City of Belmont would leave other agencies such as the Belmont Library, Belmont-Redwood Shores School District, and the Sequoia High School District out in the cold, whereas they now benefit from taxes levies on the Davis Drive property. 

4.  The feelings of Belmont citizens whose homes would be impacted by the CSUS development deserve decent respect; many of the homeowners directly affected by allowing CSUS to build their campus are opposed.  No one legitimately can use the argument that somehow those homeowners should have know when they purchased their residences that another school would be built on what has been designated as commercial property. 

5.  The campaign by CSUS to bring their middle school to Belmont and to divide their educational operation between two sites strikes some Belmont citizens as too zealous and out of proportion for the declared goal.  Has Belmont ever seen such an expensive public relations effort accompanied by what some have termed "bribes"?  Is the ultimate goal of CSUS  in the future to move its entire school to Belmont and sell the extremely valuable Hillsborough property?  Is a bifurcated school a realistic concept?  A member of the Council might ask the school spokesperson that question Tuesday night. 

Sincerely yours, 

Gordon and Evelyn Seely

Belmont96 September 09, 2012 at 08:11 PM
Well stated!
Annie September 09, 2012 at 09:41 PM
When it is election time, my mailbox is full of local issues and candidates running for office. What is the difference? Crystal has stated what they will do and are able to do for this community. The school is trying to educate the community about what they plan to do with this school and what they will do for Belmont. Crystal is trying to let everyone in the community know what their intentions are, instead of just the few people opposed to this happening.
Charles Stone September 10, 2012 at 12:48 AM
Amen, Annie. The idea that a binding agreement cannot be enforced is ludicrous and irresponsible to spread. Binding development agreements are entered into all the time. Perhaps the Seelys can cite to a legal opinion to support their position that the payments would be considered a free gift.
Charles Stone September 10, 2012 at 01:26 AM
To be even more precise maybe someone can explain why the city's willingness to change the zoning wouldn't constitute adequate consideration for an enforceable agreement?
Justin September 10, 2012 at 02:28 AM
Ask yourself: would I be for this project if they were not offering money? Me thinks not.
Charles Stone September 10, 2012 at 03:16 AM
"CSUS can cry poor at any time." A version of an oft repeated argument of opponents. Are you saying that the development agreement couldn't be enforced? If so, why not? It seems to be that a binding development agreement would require CSUS to keep paying as they'd agreed to. Development agreements like this are regularly entered into. And I've heard the argument that it will not be enforceable because CSUS is not for profit. But I've looked high and low and can find no instances where a not for profit or non profit was excused from performance of a binding agreement simply because of their status as a not for profit or non profit. If anyone has a link to such an instance (or case law supporting the argument,) I'd love to see it asap.
Charles Stone September 10, 2012 at 03:19 AM
Would support it if they weren't offering money? Well, to me, that's sort of irrelevant. I'm really not sure. But, I don't have to spend a lot of time wondering about that because they ARE offering money (a ton.) What I do know is that with the amount of money they offering together with the positive benefits of replacing an older underutilized property with a newer, more environmentally friendly project and a field that allows for some community use, it sure seems like a good deal. Yes, the City receives the $ and doesn't HAVE to accept CSUS' recommendation that they dole amount amounts to make the school districts whole (and then some.) Yes, that's true. I would be shocked if City Council did that though and Ms. Feierbach has already gone on record saying that if the project had 3 yes votes she would vote to pass through the $. It would seem that the City Council and CSUS could place in the agreement a clause that would require a set percentage of the yearly payments to go to each of the taxing agencies that would lose money as a result of the rezoning. In fact, the City is in the unique and enviable position of being able to procure not only more money for itself, but for other recipients of tax revenue from the properties (such as BRSSD.) I'm not 100% certain of that and if it's not the case I'd love for someone to tell me why not.
Aaron September 10, 2012 at 04:36 PM
I have issue with most of this "letter", but the silliest is #5. "Is a bifurcated school a realistic concept?" Really? Splitting Middle school and High School locations doesn't sound realistic? Did you proof read this? Did you know this is a school coming here? This is not a sewage plant or an oil refinery. Evelyn and Gordon, you really think some anonymous corporation would be a better use of this space and not impact traffic or cause noise from construction improvements. I'm sure your homes are nearby and you don't want the disturbance, but it will be temporary and they will be during the permitted construction times. I keep coming back to, it's a school! You know for kids to learn at... I can think of no better use for any space than the education of children.

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