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Belmont City Council Denies CSUS Application

Councilmember Christine Wozniak: "This is the most controversial issue I've had in my five years on Council."

In a 3-2 vote, Belmont City Council denied the application of Crystal Springs Uplands School (CSUS) to build a middle school campus on Davis Drive Tuesday night.

"We are very disappointed in the City Council's decision, but would like to thank the Belmont community for its overwhelming support of our school," said a representative of CSUS.

The singular motion that brought the project to an abrupt halt centered around the General Plan Amendment, which would have allowed the city to rezone the Davis Drive office park property that is currently designated as industrial, to commercial to accommodate the school campus.

Councilmembers Warden, Wozniak and Feierbach voted "yes" on the motion to deny the application; Councilmembers Leiberman and Braunstein voted "no" on the motion.

"We need more commercial property in our community, not more schools," said Councilmember Christine Wozniak.

The motion was made by Feierbach after more than two hours of discussion and public comment. Approximately 15 members addressed the council; most were in favor of the project.

Wozniak said that changing the city's General Plan to allow for the school to take the place of the former commercial buildings would make it easier to change again.

"I don't believe in changing the General Plan for one applicant, because when we make that change, we are changing the vision for our community," said Wozniak.

Mayor Dave Warden was also against changing the General Plan, but said he struggled with his decision.

"I want to do the right thing, but there's no right answer here. It's a land use issue, it's a planning issue. I have to draw on my knowledge of the community, and this comes down to putting a middle school in the middle of a business park," said Warden.

After nearly two-and-a-half hours of discussion and public comment  Councilmember Feierbach made a motion.

"I move that we direct staff to prepare a resolution to deny the application for a General Plan amendment," said Feierbach, which essentially made any discussion of the other four project entitlements moot since the rezoning of the property was the cornerstone of the entire application.

Feierbach read from a prepared statement prior to making the motion, in which she outlined her reasoning for not supporting the application. Her reasons included loss of tax revenue and increased traffic on Ralston Avenue.

"I was enthusiastic about the project in the beginning, but then started looking at all of these other things," said Feierbach.

She added that the mailers sent out by CSUS and the discussions that took place on Belmont Patch also turned her away from the project.

"I couldn't recover from it," she said.

Councilmembers Warren Lieberman and David Braunstein each said they still had some reservations about the project, but were open to further discussion.

Lieberman said he thought the General Plan Amendment should be considered in close alignment with the project's Development Agreement, which outlines the legal and monetary aspects of the application. Part of the Development Agreement included a one time payment of $1 million to the city, and $250,000 per year to offset the loss of property taxes.

"The positive incremental revenue that would be generated from CSUS would allow us to take on projects we might not otherwise be able to do, such as turf the Belmont Sports Complex," said Lieberman.

And David Braunstein stressed the weight of the issue on council.

"You have no idea how seriously we take this issue and how many hours we've put into it. Your input is not lost on us," Braunstein said to the audience and the applicant.

"At the end of the day, I can see where it would make sense to allow CSUS to come to Belmont. With businesses on Davis Drive and CSUS, we can get into a win-win situation," added Braunstein.

Mayor Dave Warden said he had received more than 350 emails and dozens of phone calls about the project.

"At the end of the day, both sides have compelling reasons for being for or against the project. And I've tried to weigh them, but I have to justify my decision, and it is my decision. This has been a torturous process for me," said Warden.

ronny October 25, 2012 at 05:17 PM
You've met the enemy and it is yourselves. Belmont needs better citizens, not better government.
ronny October 25, 2012 at 05:20 PM
Amy Richards disinfranchised the base she was trying to win over with bullying tactics and bad decision making. She is out of touch, not the Belmont CC. But that is par to the course when you think your big bucks can buy off anything.
ronny October 25, 2012 at 05:21 PM
Thanks ADC!
Annie October 25, 2012 at 05:38 PM
Thank you Ronny for contributing to School-Force.
Emma W. October 25, 2012 at 05:56 PM
LJ, the fact is that most people stop giving to schoolforce once their kids graduate. Warren Lieberman isn't on the donor list either - you didn't call him out for some reason. David Braunstein contributed <$499 and I would guess that he didn't contribute before his kids enrolled in the schools.
Jay Wilson October 25, 2012 at 06:11 PM
That's pretty dang low - calling folks out by name who haven't donated "enough" by your standards. You don't know these people's situations. Try commenting like you're face to face w/ the person(s). The CSUS advocates are making some decent points, but try showing a little class while you're at it & maybe you'll help your case. You can't blame a couple of people on a blog for this not passing. And I really don't think the decision is nearly as dire for Belmont as folks are making it out. How many property tax increases for the schools have we voted on in the past 20 years? There's new one's on next months ballot & they don't seem to be helping much. Maybe the real problem w/ public school funding lies beyond the gov't of Belmont.
Concerned Belmont Taxpayer October 25, 2012 at 06:37 PM
Ronny, were you and I at the same meetings? I attended or watched everyone of them. I don't remember meeting you at the two meetings which were held last May/June on Davis Drive. My niece was visiting from out of state and I brought her to the meeting. We met with Amy C. Richards, and she was very kind to my niece. My niece wants to be a teacher when she grows up and is currently in 7th grade. She has a talent for languages. She is fluent in Spanish, Portuguese and is learning Mandarin. She was translating the Chinese signs for me when we were in San Francisco.....U see some families value education Ronny whether it is public, private, or charter schools. Education changes peoples lives Ronny...Education transforms people's lives....We are on the verge of an educational revolution in this country Ronny and Belmont had a chance to be part of it..The neuro-science is there....CSUS understands these issues, they are innovative and understand how children learn. This decision was not only a major blow to Belmont, but to the entire state of CA. BTW, Amy Richards did a fantastic job at everyone of the meetings. She was very professional, answered all questions and did a very thorough job in explaining the CSUS proposal. She promised over and over that CSUS wanted to be a good neighbor...They were very organized and had all their ducks in a row...I don't recall any bullying behavior at any of the meetings....Look at the videos...you can see for yourself...
Jeff Selman October 25, 2012 at 06:42 PM
Jay - To clarify some misinformation in your post. The residents of the Belmont Redwood Shores School District have approved a total of two parcel taxes. The first of these is set to expire in the 2015-16 school year. That is the first year that the district will have insufficient funds to pay teacher salaries unless additional money is raised. Failing that, teachers will need to be laid off and salaries reduced through furlough days. The budget for that year needs to be filed with the County at the end of this school year. Property taxes are set under Proposition 13 and other than annual increases capped at 2% as allowed by that proposition, have been fixed since 1978. I presume that the measures on next month's ballot to which you are referring are Propositions 30 and 38. These are not property taxes. These taxes go to the state and are controlled by Sacramento. The BRSSD, as a basic aid district, receives its funding from local property taxes and not from state money which will be raised by either of those propositions (i.e., BRSSD gets none of the money from those propositions). In fact, as a basic aid district, the BRSSD pays money back to the state; not vice versa. However, Sacramento cannot touch parcel taxes levied by the BRSSD, so that money stays local. All of this will be discussed in greater detail at tonight's 7 pm meeting at Fox. I again encourage people attending to become educated on the facts and engaged in the process.
Elle Lake October 25, 2012 at 08:30 PM
Elle, I'm so grateful I'm retired from teaching. I would hate to have contact with a family with the type of values you express. I feel sorry for any children you may have that would be taught the kind of anger and hate you spew. I'm also grateful you don't live in my neighborhood.
Andrew Peceimer October 25, 2012 at 08:46 PM
Wake up Belmont residents! Council members Warden, Wozniak and Feierbach voted to not allow a world class school to come to Belmont. Their no growth vote killed new jobs, tax revenue, and futher educational opportunities. The property that was to be developed has been vacant for over 3 years. Now no new jobs for construction workers,new materials to be purchased and teaching jobs. Too bad the council does not feel the pain of being unemployed. I suggest Belmont residents tie the council's free health care benefits and salary to job growth. If the neighbor Ralson middle school wanted to expand and use the property I bet the council would have approved the use. God forbid we allow a private company to hire new workers and teachers. We need some new council memebers in Belmont.
Ron October 25, 2012 at 10:03 PM
Good luck getting me to vote to increase any local tax or approve any bond issue. The city had a golden opportunity to increase substantially the money in its coffers. But three of them voted against it. One even voted against it because she got her feelings hurt on a blog. She would rather make the entire city of Belmont suffer in order to penalize those Who did not agree with her. That's Narcissism, not leadership. And the same councilwoman was upset that CS US would even advocate in support of its own position. That doesn't make sense at all. That incompetence on her part. She has let power corrupt her. And the other two council members who voted against the project? Their responses have been non sequiturs.
Annie October 25, 2012 at 11:13 PM
Councilmember Christine Wozniak: "This is the most controversial issue I've had in my five years on Council." I am sure she is surprised that people in the community are tired of empty buildings on Davis Dr. and El Camino,. Yes, Five Guys is moving into the U Buffet building, but it still has available space, the same with Block Buster. I know that people come to Belmont to shop at the Dollar Store and Safeway. We don't have a downtown, and after this situation with CSUS, I don't even know who would want to apply for a business license. According to what I have read Christine was very into this project, it was green and a top notch school and thought it was a good fit for Belmont. Just because she changed her mind, she was shocked that others still thought it was a good idea. Christine and Coralin's questioning about the school during the 2 city council meeting's I watched surprised me. Their voice's were nasty, condesending, accusing, very emotional. Not something I would expect from professionals. Watch the tapes if you don't agree with me. Not a freindly enviorment to attract business. They let the bird in the hand get away, waiting for 2 in the tree, (they may fly away)
ronny October 26, 2012 at 12:35 AM
LJ, You have no idea how much I gave unless you have hacked this site and actually know who I am. And you don't know how anyone contributed because school force's list is not accurate.
Concerned Belmont Taxpayer October 26, 2012 at 01:22 AM
This whole CSUS debacle is crazy. The more I think of this the more insane it seems. Many towns would have killed for a school like CSUS to come into their community. We could have made it work out....What is the threshold to open a business in Belmont? That it has to benefit every child in Belmont? We screwed up....Is there anyway we can get this school to reconsider? I am serious. WE NEED TO BEG FOR THEIR FORGIVENESS AND GET THEM TO COME BACK....Go Giants!
ronny October 26, 2012 at 04:14 AM
Not every child. Just more than 0.04% of the school children of Belmont. Nobody screwed up. You are the vocal minority. Face it. Get on with your life.
ronny October 26, 2012 at 04:23 AM
Uh Annie, last I looked Blockbuster got their business blown away by Netflix because they refused to move to online distribution and kept their antiquated retail stores. Kind of like you proponants refusing to think that taxable businesses could move into this business park, and looking backward, not forward and not realizing that the future actually looks bright for our area. Kind of like living your life in a Blockbuster world.
Joan S. Dentler (Editor) October 26, 2012 at 04:42 AM
LJ and others in this comment stream: To clarify the above statement on those who did or did not donate to School-Force, Councilwoman Coralin Feierbach has contributed to S-F for the past three years. I have confirmed this information. (Parents/families who donate are listed separately from businesses or individual contributors who do not have children in the district.)
Annie October 26, 2012 at 06:23 AM
Uh Ronnie, this has nothing to do with Block Buster. It is an empty building. A business is not occupying this building.You made you own point. The building is empty, not a taxable buisness. Two buildings at the entrance to our city, with vacancy signs. So far, I don't see a taxable business on the site, right on El Camino for everyone to observe. Welcome to Belmont.
Katherine Uhley October 27, 2012 at 01:35 AM
Quite the contrary - I am extremely proud that the Belmont City Council voted as they did, and am proud that Belmont has the representation it does.
Katherine Uhley October 27, 2012 at 01:37 AM
I completely concur Ms. Ladcani.
Andrew Peceimer October 28, 2012 at 12:52 AM
Annie, Are you aware of the empty builidng on El Camino where Blockbuster used to occupy? I spoke with an agent involved and he said that Chase Bank wanted to open a branch there but the city of Belmont was not very friendly. Then a paint store wanted to occupy the property and the city was again not very helpful. The next tenant interested was Panera Bread but according to the agent they city of Belmont denied the used based on parking. Wouldn't be great if the City of Belmont and its council was more business friendly?
Annie October 28, 2012 at 03:04 AM
It won't change with the current city council. Belmont doesn't have a downtown, you go to Safeway to buy your groceries, Walgreen's, for what you need, Carlmont Shopping Center is downtown to most people. People will vote for the statusquo. The train station has a clock. Who cares. As long as nothing major is happening, people go on with their lives. They will vote for the incumbents. Time for a change. It will take work, we will see what happens next election,
Concerned Belmont Taxpayer November 16, 2012 at 05:41 PM
Here is the latest news on the CSUS debacle. Here is an excerpt in today's 11/16/2012 San Mateo Daily Journal. " On the heels of the city of Belmont’s rejection of Crystal Springs Uplands School’s expansion from its Hillsborough high school, San Mateo Vice Mayor David Lim has informally offered the school support in thinking of a location in this city. “I always thought schools are a good thing in a community,” Lim said Officials from the school, who ha sought a middle school on Davis Drive in Belmont, said they are “looking at every option and will leave no stone unturned.” We need new people voted on the Belmont City Council in 2013, who represent the needs of hardworking families in Belmont. I wish I had known this before I bought my house in Belmont. They do not represent hardworking families with children and are hurting our property values. Their lack of vision and leadership has hurt the BRSSD as well. Dave Warden, and Coralin Feierbach do not deserve to be re-elected in 2013.
Ron November 16, 2012 at 06:08 PM
Greg, Amen to your conclusion. Of course San Mateo is now going to aggressively help CSUS. They understand how valuable an addition it would be. It's only our "boo hoo hoo, comments contrary to my own opinion hurt my feelings so much that I will vindictively vote against this great project" council that won't acknowledge it.
Concerned Belmont Taxpayer November 16, 2012 at 06:20 PM
Ron, honestly they are too inept to even begin to understand the damage they have done to Belmont's reputation. Our only hope as a city is that the hard working families in Belmont finally wake up.
Ron November 16, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Greg, for sure they are inept. However I think this goes deeper. I think the council members who voted against the project are just narcissists who think the only opinion that matters are their own. They don't really care for any input unless it reflects their own opinions. What else can explain the crybaby council member who pouted like a spoiled baby when others expressed views different from hers? And the effrontery she displayed that CSUS would actually advocate on their own behalf!
Concerned Belmont Taxpayer November 16, 2012 at 07:31 PM
Ron, well said. They are small-minded, NIMBYs, who masquerade as Democratic progressives. Absolutely, they could care less how their constituency feels. King David and Queen Coraline need to be shown the door. They are out of touch with reality. It is up to the young families in Belmont, who care about education, to vote them out next November 2013. They are ruining Belmont.
Justin November 16, 2012 at 07:51 PM
You folks are being a bit dramatic. It wasn't a "debacle" at all. It was a decision. Just like in our recent election, some people are happy and some aren't. I truly hope all you whiners WILL run for council. San Mateo has a lot more propery that is more appropriate. Probably near Bay Meadows. Keep in mind Hillsborough (where CSUS) wouldn't allow expansion, and neither did we. It had nothing to do with being for or against education. And it's not the demise of anything, and people who opposed this are not NIMBYS! Grow up!
Ron November 16, 2012 at 07:57 PM
It was a decision made on emotion, and not on facts or what would benefit Belmont. The city lost a great deal of revenue. Next time the city asks for a revenue measure or increases fees because they don't have the money, I'm sure you won't mind if I pass the increase to you, okay?
Concerned Belmont Taxpayer November 16, 2012 at 08:33 PM
Justin, you can not run a city on a no-growth at any cost agenda. Belmont is dying. Just drive around El Camino and Ralston and you will see empty buildings. The Belmont City Council has a strong track record of being anti-education and anti-child during the past 12 years. Just look at their NIMBY voting record. Now due to the City of Belmont's incompetence San Mateo will have a nationally recognized middle school. Also, please update us on the status of Davis Drive. Has it been purchased yet? Or is it the property tax that Cengage owes on Davis Drive being adjusted downwards by $6,000,000, which will mean less money for the BRSSD? Please answer the questions. I would bet the current year taxes reflect the write down so the community (schools, city and fire etc) will all be getting about 30% less than last year. Maybe you want to personally fund the difference.

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