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Schools and Land Use in San Carlos.

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A Common Misconception.

When it comes to commercial building development in San Carlos, the Building and Planning Divisions of San Carlos are intimately involved in the every step of the process. From the initial conceptual design and environmental impact report (EIR) all the way through implementation and construction of the project, you can rest assured that both Divisions carry significant influence in how the development will ultimately turn out.

For every major commercial development that is currently under construction or in the planning phases for construction (Wheeler Plaza, Transit Village, Landmark Hotel, etc..), that’s exactly how the process works. But there’s one class of development that is the exception to this rule, and it creates lots of confusion in the community who owns oversees it – schools.

Because the development of new schools is governed at the state level, the City has very little involvement into where schools can be built, and what they ultimately look like.  Unfortunately, the City becomes the punching bag when unpopular decisions are made in this area, when in reality it’s entirely out of their hands.

Recently, the Sequoia Union High School District made some significant waves in the local community by announcing its intent to build two “magnet” high schools within its boundaries. These two schools would be of much smaller scale than the existing campuses in the District, with each holding only 300-400 students — less than 1/4 of the enrollment of any other school in the district, and a far smaller physical footprint since neither school needs the additional space for athletic facilities.

The District moved forward and closed on two properties targeted for these magnet campuses.  The first is at 153 Jefferson Avenue in Menlo Park, and the second plot is at 535 Old County Road in the Greater East Side Neighborhood of San Carlos.

The controversy arises not from the fact that the District has chosen to build the two campuses. They are battling the same over-capacity concerns that literally every school district on the Peninsula is right now. The concern is over the location of the school – specifically, the proposed San Carlos magnet school. Anyone who knows San Carlos traffic patterns is keenly aware that the multiple intersections of Holly Street at both El Camino Real and Old County Road already get extremely congested during peak hours. Adding a 400-student school right at this intersection is going to pose some significant traffic challenges.

To make matters worse for GESC residents, it comes on the heels of battles that were fought over the Transit Village, the Landmark Hotel, and the Holly Street re-striping. This must have a certain “deja-vu” feeling to it, and I’m quite certain they feel that they are on the defense yet again.

The Future Of Laureola Park?

Of equal concern with the San Carlos location is the fact that it is adjacent to Laureola Park, which has prompted fears from the community that the magnet school will eventually absorb this coveted neighborhood park for its own use.

While the City of San Carlos has very little impact on the development of schools, it does have the ultimate control and authority over what can be done with its parks, a fact that the City recently reassured its citizens of in an online letter.  It also used this opportunity to provide citizens with the proper conduit to voice their opinions about the proposed magnet school development.

So the bottom line is that while the City has very little control over the magnet school that is being proposed, it does have ultimate authority over Laureola Park.  And as of now, it’s not going anywhere.

Here is the letter from the City of San Carlos in its entirety:

Most projects and land use decisions in San Carlos require City approval. As such, residents are used to sharing their comments and concerns about such proposals with their elected City Council members and the City Staff. One of the few exceptions to this City land use control is the planning and building of public schools. The State agencies listed at the bottom of the page oversee all public school projects and both the High School District and San Carlos Elementary School District are exempted by the State from any local land use control and oversight.

The decision to locate a new magnet high school in San Carlos is under the sole jurisdiction of the Sequoia Union High School District Board.  The City has had very little involvement with the specifics of the proposed 300-400 student magnet high school that the District is considering locating on Old County Road near Laureola Park and the Cal Train Station.  The City staff has offered to meet with District Staff to discuss their proposed new school and any potential sites and alternatives in San Carlos.

While the City is interested in hearing from our community about how they feel about what’s being proposed, the City does not have the ability to approve or reject the project.  There has also been a lot of talk in the community that the District will take or use Laureola Park as part of the school. This has not been proposed by the District to date nor has the City considered this. The park is the sole responsibility of the City and its City Council members and any future proposals to use the park in conjunction with a high school would be discussed and considered by the City Council with the public before any changes could take place with regard to the park. While the District can build a school without the City being involved, they cannot take or use a City park without the City’s consent.

Early next year the City will use the Shape San Carlos open online town hall forum to provide residents with the opportunity to share their views on the High School District’s proposed plans.

In the meantime, if you’d like to share your thoughts with your elected High School Board members their contact information is as follows:

Allen Weiner, President
[email protected]
650-724-5892

Olivia Martinez, Vice President
[email protected]
650-323-7311

Chris Thomsen
[email protected]
650-736-7569

Carrie Du Bois
[email protected]
650-766-9069

Alan Sarver
[email protected]
650-592-6129

State Agencies:

California Department of Education
916-319-0800
http://www.cde.ca.gov/index.asp

Office of Public School Construction
916-376-1771
http://www.dgs.ca.gov/opsc/Home.aspx

Division of the State Architect
916-445-8100
http://www.dgs.ca.gov/dsa/home.aspx

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Measure P Ballots Arrive in San Carlos Mailboxes.

Ballot Box

It’s Time to Vote.

San Carlos homeowners this past week got one of those familiar red, white and blue over-sized envelopes stamped “Official Ballot” in their mailbox.  You’re probably more accustomed to getting these in the fall for a November election, but the one you just received is for a special mail-only ballot for the San Carlos School Parcel Tax renewal; aka Measure P.

As I first wrote about this topic on the blog back in February, the San Carlos School District is facing the imminent expiration of Measure B, the $78/year parcel tax that you’ve been paying for the past half-decade. Rather than “going back to the well” again in a few years when its counterpart Measure A ($110/year parcel tax) is due to expire, the School District is asking voters now to a) extend the life of both measures for six years, and b) increase the bundled amount by $58/year to a total amount of $246.60 annually, starting this year.

Photo Apr 14, 7 27 03 AM

San Carlos homeowners have been very generous in the past with school parcel tax measures, since there is a direct correlation between the perception of the quality of a community’s school district, and the prices of the homes in that district.  In other words, the quality of the San Carlos School District in the eyes of home buyers is a big reason why home prices are so high in San Carlos. There are obviously other reasons why our house prices are sky-high, but there’s no argument that the schools play a major part.

Every time one of these school parcel tax measures has been brought up for a vote in San Carlos, there has been vigorous discussion both for and against the passage of these tax measures. From what I have gleaned so far from the various social media channels, Measure P will be no different in this respect. There have been some pretty strong and compelling opinions voiced both for and against this measure already, and it should only get more interesting as the May 5 deadline approaches.

So how will you vote on Measure P?  If you’re a San Carlos homeowner, register your vote in our special straw poll below — let’s see how accurate it turns out to be when the ballots are counted in just a few weeks.

San Carlos School Parcel Tax Measure P: How Will You Vote?

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Do you have strong opinion either way on Measure P? Feel free to leave a comment below.
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San Carlos School District to Issue Ballot Measure for Bundled, Increased School Tax.

February 4, 2015 San Carlos Schools 6 Comments
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Re-Ante the School Tax.

Facing the upcoming expiration in June of Measure B, the $78/yer parcel tax for San Carlos schools that has been in place since 2009, the San Carlos School District Board of Trustees has voted unanimously to put a new, bundled parcel tax on the ballot this Spring which will not only extend the timeline of both Measure B and Measure A funding, but will also increase the overall school tax that is levied per household.

In what will be a mail-only ballot, the school district will ask San Carlos homeowners to approve an extension of Measure B and increase that tax by 74%, or an additional $58 per year.  This revised tax will then be bundled with the  Measure A tax, the $110/year tax that was passed in 2011 and is set to expire in May of 2019.  The net result would be a combined new annual school tax of $246/year, which would then run through 2021.

According to this article in the Daily Journal, the District is optimistic that this revised tax will be embraced by the San Carlos community. Past history has shown that mail-only ballots of this sort tend to pass more often than not. The measure will require a full 2/3 majority to pass, and seniors will have the ability to opt out of paying the tax.  The funds will be prioritized “to attract and retain top-level educators, and implement curriculum that is focused on 21st century teaching methods”, according to the article.

If the tax initiative fails, it will cost the District over $720,000 in lost tax revenue, so a lot is on the line for the District.

What Do You Think?

Time for another White Oaks Blog poll — what do you think about the proposed school tax?  Will you vote in favor of it, or against it?  Feel free to cast your vote below. If you have more to say about it, make your opinion known in the comment section at the bottom of the post.

How Will You Vote on the Upcoming Combined School Parcel Tax?

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High School Proposal Pits San Carlos Neighbors Against High School District

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Education Showdown.

Despite the protests of a vocal San Carlos neighborhood group, the Sequoia Union High School District voted unanimously last week to proceed with the purchase of the industrial complex at 535 Old County Road with the intent of constructing a magnet high school. As reported a few weeks ago on this site, the District is looking to build two magnet high schools within its boundaries as a way to alleviate capacity constraints at its existing schools due to surging enrollment in the area. The other location that the District has purchased for the second magnet school is at 150 Jefferson Drive in Menlo Park. The District hopes that the schools will attract 300-400 students each, according to this article in the Mercury News.

The San Carlos location that has been chosen for the magnet school creates an obvious problem that must be sufficiently addressed by the District: Traffic and parking. On a normal day, the combined intersections where both Industrial Road and El Camino Real meet Holly Street are extremely congested, especially at peak commute times. A big question mark with this proposal is how to accommodate the ingress, egress, and parking needs of 400 students plus faculty without completely overwhelming the area with gridlock.

I know from firsthand experience that when there are baseball and soccer games at Laureola Park, parking and traffic can be extremely challenging, and the attendance at these kinds of events are only a fraction of what a high school will draw on a daily basis. So coming up with a viable solution for this problem should be at the top of the District’s list of priorities if this project indeed moves forward.

And therein lies the big question — whether or not the project will indeed proceed. Neighbors in affected areas of San Carlos are extremely well informed and organized and they have certainly been battle-tested recently, addressing local developments such as the new parking restrictions on Holly Street, the Landmark Hotel proposal, and the Transit Village. The residents don’t object to building a magnet school in San Carlos, or even in the greater eastside section — provided that it’s a sensible location. This particular location creates some real and serious issues that must be adequately addressed.

From the tone of the comments in the Mercury News article, these residents appear ready to dig in their heels on this one.  There is a petition posted on the Greater East San Carlos Neighborhood Association website which is seeking support to block the initiative.

What Do You Think?

What is your opinion of a proposed magnet high school at 535 Old County Road? Good idea, or ill-advised?  Register your vote in the poll below, or as always, voice your thoughts in the comment section.

Should a magnet high school be built at 535 Old County Road in San Carlos?

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A New High School in San Carlos?

San Carlos Dons

Magnet School Proposal.

When the topic of education comes up in San Carlos, there probably isn’t a bigger lightning rod than the high school situation – or lack thereof, right here in the City of Good Living.

For those of you relatively new to town, San Carlos once had its own high school, which was located where Highlands Park now stands on Melendy Drive. San Carlos High School at that time was the newest of the high schools in the District, but was closed in 1982 due to declining enrollment. The land was sold by the District to developers, and the land surrounding the athletic fields where the school used to reside was converted over to residential property. It was a decision that many San Carlos residents now regret in hindsight, especially now as the District grapples for solutions to solve its rapidly growing enrollment.

If there’s a single shortcoming that ever gets singled out with the otherwise excellent education track in San Carlos, its the lack of a high school.

The option to build another “full-size” high school with athletic fields anywhere on the Peninsula, let alone San Carlos, is virtually impossible due to the lack of the contiguous acreage required, and the restrictions on where such a facility could be built if the acreage was indeed available. This has made the notion of developing multiple smaller “magnet” schools a more feasible solution to the enrollment problem that the District now faces.  In other words, break the problem into smaller bites — not too different than what the San Carlos School District is doing with their “bridge school” solution for 4-5 grades.

The District has taken a definitive step to developing one of these “magnet” high schools right here in San Carlos by entering into contract to purchase the light industrial facility at 535 Old County Road, which is ironically adjacent to Laureola Park (the site of another San Carlos school that was regrettably closed years ago.)  Here is a map of the location:

The school would house approximately 400 total students, which is about 1/5 of the enrollment of either Sequoia or Carlmont High Schools — or, smaller than just the freshman class at either of these schools.   The contract for the purchase of the property has a 60-day contingency period built in to allow the District to complete its due diligence of the location, which involves determining compliance to the rigorous restrictions that are in place regarding where a school can be built today.   If everything checks out, the purchase can close as early as mid-January of 2015.

There’s a great article by Angela Swartz of the Daily Journal with more details about the proposal.  Click here for that article.
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San Carlos School Board Considers Renewing or Increasing Parcel Tax

October 21, 2014 San Carlos Schools 1 Comment
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Schools, Homes and Money.

Real estate and schools go hand in hand in San Carlos.  You can hardly have a discussion about one without the other popping up eventually.  The excellent reputation of the San Carlos School District is one of the primary reasons why home buyers seek out and insist upon living in San Carlos.  Consequently, it’s a big reason why our home prices are higher on average than adjacent cities.

That phenomenon has been particularly noticeable during the most recent technology boom, as droves of highly educated technology workers have relocated to Silicon Valley to take advantage of this unprecedented surge in the tech market.  Finding a community with an excellent school district and a reasonable commute to the valley is the holy grail for many home buyers as they scramble to find housing in a very tight Bay Area real estate market.

San Carlos residents have generally recognized the precarious balance between the quality of the school district and the relative price of housing, and have generously supplemented the district’s through a variety of financial avenues:

  • Measure A: $110.60/year parcel tax, passed by voters in 2011 (replaced Measure D)
  • Measure B: $78/year parcel tax, passed by voters in 2009
  • Measure E: $35 million bond measure passed by voters in 2005
  • Measure H:  $72 million bond measure passed by voters in 2012

In addition, the San Carlos School District enjoys the financial support of a very efficient and well organized education foundation that provided $2.45M to the district during their last fiscal cycle.

Measure B to Expire.

One of the aforementioned financial conduits, Measure B, is set to expire in June of 2015.  School administrators are currently discussing what should be done, if anything, to replace this imminently expiring source of funds.   Aside from just doing nothing and letting the Measure expire, which is very unlikely given that the Measure currently provides about $720,000 to the district every year, they are looking into several options to replace Measure B.

One option would be to simply extend the $78 parcel tax for another yet-to-be determined period of time.  Another path would be to combine the existing measures into a single tax going forward — and in a twist that would certainly test the generosity of San Carlos homeowners, use this inflection point to possibly increase the overall net parcel tax.   That will certainly be a lively discussion if the latter is the path of choice.    According to this article in the Daily Journal, the most likely method to decide the fate of Measure B would be special mail-only election sometime in the spring of 2015.

Time for a Poll.

So what are your thoughts?  Should the San Carlos School District renew the funding for Measure B?   Would you be open to an increase in your property tax if the measures are combined and increased?   Or, should nothing be done and let Measure B expire?   It’s an important topic, and one that will be discussed in much more detail as the District gets closer to decision time.    Register your vote in the White Oaks Blog poll below, or feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of this post.

What Should Be Done to Replace San Carlos Measure B Funding?

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Special Hearing Tonight: San Carlos Land Swap.

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Critical Juncture.

If you haven’t been keeping close tabs on the local news lately, the City of San Carlos and the San Carlos School District have struck a tentative deal to effectively “swap” two key parcels of their respectively owned properties in San Carlos.     Under the terms of the agreement, the School District would get the 4-acre plot of land on Crestview Drive known as North Crestview Park to build a new facility for the San Carlos Charter Learning Center (SCCLC).   In return, the City of San Carlos would receive the land at the top of Tierra Linda Middle School, which would likely be utilized as additional recreation space.

At their May 27, 2014 meeting, the City Council adopted Resolution 2014-053, initiating the process of abandoning the North Crestview site designation as a “Park” – a key requirement to enable the site to be developed.    At 7:00 tonight in the San Carlos City Council Chambers, the Council will hold a special meeting to hear and consider all public protests to this Resolution.  At the conclusion of tonight’s meeting, the Council is expected to vote to either accept or override the protest.   At least 4 of the Council members must vote to override the protest.

If the protest is overridden, the Resolution then goes on the November ballot for the voters of San Carlos to decide its fate.   If the protest is not overridden, the land swap effectively dies on the dais.  The meeting starts at 7:00 PM at the City Council Chambers at 600 Elm Street in San Carlos.

If you have a strong opinion one way or the other on this issue, obviously tonight is a golden opportunity to have your voice heard by the Council.   It should be a very interesting meeting regardless.
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Sequoia Union High School District Proposes Boundary Changes.

January 15, 2014 San Carlos Schools No Comments
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All 4 Schools Affected.

According to a news flash on their website this afternoon, the Sequoia Union High School District is proposing changes to the enrollment boundaries for each of their 4 public high schools which would be effective in the 2015-16 school year.   There was no explanation given on the site as to why the District is looking to make these changes, but one could likely assume that it has to do with balancing out the rapidly growing enrollment across the District.

The District has provided some high-level maps to outline the changes are proposing.  They can be found on this page — just click on the link for the changes proposed for each of the schools.  It’s a little bit hard to see exactly where the changes will take place from these maps, but they give you a general idea of what the District is thinking about.

Will it Impact San Carlos?

Yes.  The map associated with both Carlmont and Sequoia High Schools shows that the most significant proposed change is to San Carlos residents is re-zone the area that’s west of the Alameda and on the north side of Brittan Avenue (that currently feeds into Sequoia High School) and put it into Carlmont’s boundary.  See the circled area below:

Proposed Changes: Sequoia High School Boundary

Proposed Changes: Sequoia High School Boundary

One might have expected the opposite — to reduce the number of students going to Carlmont.  With all of the talk about how over crowded Carlmont is, this seems somewhat counter-intuitive.   But this underscores the dramatic growth that Sequoia High School has experienced over the past 5 years, and the measures the District needs to take to keep it balanced.

Meeting Tonight.

It’s late notice, but this topic is slated to be discussed at tonight’s District Meeting, which starts at 5:30 at the District Office at 480 James Street in Redwood City.   If you’re at all concerned about these proposed changes, it might be worthwhile to attend this meeting.

(Thanks to blog reader Nelson for the tip on this very important proposed change.)
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Are you ready to step up to the most comprehensive data available about the San Carlos Real Estate market? Then subscribe to the White Oaks Blog for free by clicking here. Be sure to follow the White Oaks Blog on Facebook at https://Facebook.com/WhiteOaksBlog , and on Twitter @WhiteOaksBlog.
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