With construction crews in the midst of rebuilding Edna Maguire Elementary School to the tune of more than $35 million, one area of the 11-acre campus remains undesignated.
If Wednesday night’s meeting on the future of the so-called “TBD Area” is any indication, there are more opinions about how it should be used – and groups ready and willing to raise money to make it happen – than its nearly 21,000 square feet can accommodate.
“We are truly neutral,” said Tim Ryan, the Mill Valley School District’s director of maintenance, in summarizing the district’s position that it is open to input since it doesn’t have the money to fund any use of the portion of the northeastern section of the new campus. “And we know we’re never going to make everyone in this room happy.”
“It’s an emotional issue for many, and an opportunity for others,” he added.
Both the latter and the former were clear from the outset.
Representatives from the Mill Valley Little League, Mill Valley Soccer Club and Southern Marin Lacrosse all said they hoped the area could be turned into a turf field that they could use for “tot” programs serving players under age 9.
Fred Quezada, a member of the little league’s board, said the program has grown from 650 to nearly 900 kids in just the past three years.
“We have a strong compulsion to support funding this field so that we don’t lose ground,” he said. “We’d like to see it happen.”
Jerry Labay, head of the soccer club’s board, spelled out a similar need for the field to accommodate growth.
“Finding field space for all these kids who want to play soccer is a challenge,” he said. “We’re very supportive of having a field there and we would get involved in fundraising for it.”
Several residents said they’d like to see the district eschew sports uses altogether and return the area, which is now home to Marin Day School’s interim campus, to a natural space where frogs can roam as they did prior to the interim campus’ creation. Edna parent Ronnie Sharpe recommended using the area as an outdoor classroom of sorts where students could learn about things like low maintenance gardening.
“I appreciate the growth for soccer and little league,” she said. “But it is still a school and it still services the school. It needs to take priority for all students and not just those who play soccer or softball. (Instead of) 'you can pave paradise and put up a parking lot,' reverse that and let’s get our paradise back.”
The new Edna campus will have more parking regardless of what the district decides to put in the TBD area. The old campus had 67 spaces, while the existing campus has 59. If the TBD area is turned into a field, the new campus will have 125 spaces, and 175 spaces if that area is utilized for more parking, according to district estimates.
Pete Norgaard of Van Pelt Construction Services, which is managing all of the district’s modernization projects, estimated that the money needed to turn the area into a parking lot or a sports field would be approximately $200,000 and $500,000, respectively.
The meeting morphed into a free-form discussion between those interested in using the field and Edna’s neighbors who were concerned about the field’s potential to add more traffic and parking problems to the area around the school.
Those neighbors have already dealt with the summer-long demolition of the old Edna Maguire campus. In August, the district halted the on-site grinding of asphalt and concrete on the basis of a flood of neighbor complaints that the dust and noise created by the work had become unbearable. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District received a number of complaints and sent inspectors to the Edna site several times but determined that no violations had occurred.
Several Edna neighbors made it clear that as the work continues and with Wednesday night’s discussion shifting to the future use of the TBD area, their priorities are clouded by a summer spent dealing with a massive amount of dust and noise.
“We have been sh** on all summer,” said Meg Pasquel, who lives across the street from Edna on Lomita Drive. “It rankles me when we are portrayed as though we don’t want what’s best for the these kids. We absolutely do.”
Neighbors have asked the district to conduct a traffic study of the potential impact of turning the TBD area into a sports field, one that would include field use at the adjacent Ring Mountain Day School campus, which several residents said also brings considerable weekend traffic to the area.
Ryan also pointed out that the district could decide, at least temporarily, to do nothing with the TBD area because of either lack of funding or concerns about neighborhood impact.
At the beginning of the meeting, Norgaard gave an update on the short- and long-term reconstruction plans at Edna Maguire. He said weather, specifically rain, will dictate if the project can be finished in time for the 2013-2014 school year. If rains pushes the timeline to the longer end of the district’s planned 15-to-18-month schedule, he said, the move from the interim campus to the new one would occur over the holiday break in December.
Norgaard, Ryan and Wally Gordon of DLM Architects plan to bring a recommendation on the TBD area to the district board at its Nov. 8 meeting, and will unveil that recommendation to the community at a meeting in the Edna Maguire interim multi-purpose room at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 7.
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