The Belmont Planning Commission will discuss the zoning and envrionmental aspects Tuesday night of a proposal by Crystal Springs Uplands School (CSUS) to relocate its middle school campus to Davis Drive.
The Mitigated Negative Declaration is the document by which the city reviews the aesthetic and environmental impact of the project with regards to grading, construction and occupancy. The document is in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
The proposal calls for a 52,000 square-foot campus facing the canyon on what is currently occupied by 84,000 square feet of office and warehouse space.
"This site is particularly exciting for us," said CSUS head of school Amy Richards at a community meeting last Wednesday evening. "It is the manifestation of our school's vision of what young people need to succeed in an academic setting."
Richards explained that the school's current Hillsborough campus, which educates students in grades 6-12, is maxed out on space and there is no room for growth in the residential neighborhood in which it is located. "We are landlocked on our current campus," she said.
She said the school would like to be able to accommodate more students. "We want to grow from graduating 60 seniors to 85 students every year," Richards said.
Crystal Springs Uplands School is known for its high academic standards. Students come from all around the Bay Area to attend the school, which costs $33,000 per year.
The proposal for Davis Drive calls for a middle school (grades 6-8) for up to 246 students. The campus would include three structures on approximately seven acres: a main academic center; a cafe; and a gymnasium. A turfed soccer field is also included in the first phase of the project. Future development on the site calls for a swimming pool.
Richards said that she hopes to work out a agreement with the city to allow local sports teams to use the school's soccer field in the evening and during the summer months. "We would like to be a good neighbor to Belmont," she said.
Crystal Springs administrators and architect Chris Linn said they were drawn to the site because of its potential for utilizing natural light, views, space, and the potential for designing a state-of-the-art learning environment.
"This is a fabulous site," said Linn of BOORA Architects. "With the canyon and the views, this is one of the most exciting sites in terms of potential that I have ever had the opportunity to work on."
Linn described the project in detail, showing schematics of what each building would look like, including materials used and various mitigation factors to deal with noise, light and traffic.
Several members of the community raised concerns over the additional traffic a new school would bring, specifically on Ralston Avenue during peak driving times.
"I know all the school start times," said Sharon Thompson a Belmont resident who lives in the neighborhood close to the proposed project. "With 450 students at , and almost 1,000 at , plus the kids who are driving to Carlmont and Notre Dame high schools, everyone will all converge at the same time on Ralston Avenue. And that also adds extra stress and pressure on the Belmont Police Department," said Thompson.
Amy Richards and Jen Renk, the attorney for the project addressed traffic issues stating that the school would have a start time of 7:45 a.m., allowing parents to drop off their children prior to the peak traffic flow. They added that school dismissal time would be at 2:45 p.m., thus not impacting the 4-6 p.m. traffic. They estimated the school would add approximately 100 car trips a day to the Ralston Avenue corridor.
Belmont Heights resident Joe Brennan raised concerns over noise. "I've lived here for 34 years and I am 1,134 feet across the canyon from Davis Drive, and despite what the architect says about the noise mitigation, it still concerns me. The noise would shatter the serenity of the canyon," said Brennan.
Chris Linn the architect, said the school would comply the city's noise ordinances and would take extra steps to mitigate additional noise caused by school events.
As a 5013c tax-exempt institution, the school would not provide any tax benefits to the city.
The project must be approved by both the Belmont Planning Commission and the . If approved, construction would begin in January 2013 with completion by the beginning of the school year in August 2014.