Sunday, May 18, 2014

Burlingame’s Hoover Elementary Upheaval

As Burlingame hoped to alleviate its shortage of space in its elementary schools caused by rapidly growing enrollment, the San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Marie Weiner put a halt to this plan and ordered a full environmental impact report. The plan was to reopen the Hoover Elementary closed in 1979. The Burlingame Elementary re-purchased the school in 2010 and planned to open in this year. However, the lawsuit was filed by local residents who worried about the impact of the school on the traffic. The judge ruled that the construction of the Hoover Elementary must be halted until the environmental impact of the school is thoroughly researched. You can read more about the ruling in the Daily Journal article of May 9, 2014.

Who is right? School opponents or school supporters? The Hoover school was originally opened in 1931 and closed in 1979. Did neighborhood experienced traffic problems then (weren’t cars much larger then, thus taking more spaceJ)? How about the benefits for the city or the neighborhood? It happened that the Canyon Rd area that would be most affected by the school opening is the area where home prices are lagging in contrast with the remainder of Burlingame where home prices have dramatically increased during the last two years, well above pre-real estate crisis levels. Analyzing the data, one could say that home prices in this area has even stagnated. One might think that the new school could reverse the trend.

There will be many more losers of the recent decision independent of the results of environmental studies. The cost renovations and new equipment of $13 M were supposed to be paid by Measure D, a $56 M bond measure passed by Burlingame voters in November 2012. It seems that the 2012 voting was a better time to disagree with the project. How much money is going to be spent for the litigation? And if at the end, the decision will be made to go ahead and open the school, where will the money to open the school come from? Will we need another bond to pay for it? Independent on the final decision, everyone in Burlingame will lose financially (less or more dependent on the length of the litigation and the final decision). Of course, local residents who filed the lawsuit used their rights to challenge the project. The Burlingame Elementary School District failed in its duty to properly research the school impact on the neighborhood traffic. The District should have responded to neighbors’ concerns about traffic impact and address it in appropriate manner averting a full environmental investigation and its unknown consequences.