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School District: Lawsuit May Delay Edna Maguire Project

As settlement negotiations have stalled, district officials say campus reconstruction could be bumped by a full year if delay continues much longer.

officials said this week they are concerned that the lawsuit filed in July by a group Alto residents over the of the campus could delay that project by a full year, as settlement negotiations between the parties appear to have stalled.

“We’re concerned that getting stuck in litigation will affect the timeline of the project,” district Superintendent Paul Johnson said Thursday. “As time progresses, we’re getting close to a point of no return.”

Johnson declined to say specifically when the project’s timeline would be in jeopardy. The project is scheduled to go out to bid in spring of 2012, followed by a ending in the fall of 2013. Because the project involves the creation of a temporary campus nearby during the summer, a delay would likely force the district to delay it by a full year because the temporary campus can’t be created during the school year, according to Pete Norgaard, program manager for district construction consultant Van Pelt Construction Services.

“If you miss the window you don’t miss it by three months, you miss it by a calendar year,” Norgaard told the school board at its meeting Wednesday night.

“You miss it big,” added board member Steve Sell.

Such a delay could push up the costs of the project on a number of fronts, district officials said, from the cost of materials to possible changes in the currently depressed bidding climate for contractors.

The project, which expands the Edna Maguire campus from approximately 51,000 square feet of buildings to more than 78,000, is meant to both replace a 54-year-old campus and accommodate an increasing enrollment. It is part of the district-wide modernization plan, being paid for through Measure C, the $59.8 million bond measure approved by voters in November 2009.

The lawsuit was filed July 14 (pdf attached at right) in Marin Superior Court by a group of Edna neighbors who alleged the district’s environmental review process for project didn’t sufficiently address their concerns over issues like parking, traffic and the aesthetics of the proposed new campus. The lawsuit claimed the district’s environmental review of the project was in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

The neighbors asked the court to order the district to void its adoption of the environmental review documents and direct it to either revise those documents or to expand the scope of the review to an environmental impact report (EIR), a broader and more expensive process. The neighbors also asked the court to order the district to pay their attorney’ fees and all related expenses.

When asked by meeting attendees Wednesday night about the status of the litigation, Johnson said, “We are in settlement negotiations, and if there’s not a pretty rapid solution, it will be delayed at least a year and that will be very expensive to taxpayers.”

The neighbors’ attorney, Kathryn Oehlschlager of Barg Coffin Lewis & Trapp in San Francisco, declined to comment this week about a possible delay to the Edna Maguire project, as did Anne Gates, one of the residents who filed the lawsuit.

Norgaard and Tim Ryan, the district’s director of maintenance and operations, were asked by the Scott Valley Homeowners’ Association to make a presentation about the project to the group last month. When they concluded, the litigants made their own presentation.

On the heels of the presentations, several Scott Valley residents, including the association’s president Francine Millman, sent the district letters of concern about the project. In her letter, Millman said the organization was uneasy about a number of aspects of the plan, most of which were mentioned in the lawsuit.

District officials contend that the project was subject to an exhaustive public input process and that the environmental documents prepared for the project were appropriate. Norgaard said the project’s regulatory documents are expected back from the state Department of General Services for approval, the last major step before the project goers out to bid.

“We just have to have that proverbial green light,” he said.

Claire November 11, 2011 at 08:59 PM
I go to that school 5th grade i can't wait tosee it when Edna is finished. I will miss the fun activities at that school my teachers will be missed too!
Claire November 11, 2011 at 08:59 PM
I can't wait to see the school
Patrick O'Neil November 11, 2011 at 10:32 PM
Here Here MV Resident. This school upgrade is about improved facilities and the education of local children. Its not about the view from your guest bedroom. The citizens have spoken, dollars are set aside and this is going to happen. Step aside.
Desert Rat November 11, 2011 at 11:08 PM
One idea would be to build the new Edna school on the current sewage plant site, and build the new sewage plant at the current Edna site. Or, perhaps some low-income housing? A new sports bar? Soccer stadium? Half-way house? Freeway onramp? These selfish NIMBYs have no idea how good they have it. Shame on them.
Catherine November 12, 2011 at 01:17 AM
Reckless and selfish obstructionism. Please re-think your positions, neighbors.
Debbie G. November 12, 2011 at 06:43 AM
Please, please, please neighbors rethink your position for the school, for the children, for this community and for the value of your home. We beg you.
rich November 12, 2011 at 06:45 AM
Dear litigants: Please try to to look past your objections and settle this lawsuit. The Mill Valley Scool District is strapped and you are going to be responsible for tremendous extra costs to build the school. Thousands of families and kids will benefit from the new school. Just get over it and move on. The plan is fine if not perfect.
rich November 12, 2011 at 06:52 AM
Oh-by the way the Scott Valley HOA is a barely extant entity whose sole purpose appears to be publishing a 5 page newsletter each year discussing topics such as the coyotes in the hills and dispensing opprobrium at anything potentially upseting the status quo. The HOA cannot claim to speak for the neighborhood. Membership is optional and few care about it because it doesn't do anything. We live in Scott Valley. Finally, the new school will have minimum impact on Scott Valley anyway.
Patrick November 12, 2011 at 06:22 PM
Yet another reason I moved my family to Mendocino county. A project like this would be 100% embraced by the other Marin escapees who live in this beautiful county. I went to summer school at Alto in the 1970's. The school should refect the rise of the Alto bowl area from crappy neighborhood to what it is today. Get on with it.
Patrick November 12, 2011 at 06:24 PM
Oh BTW. Re-open the Alto tunnel too.
Amyland November 14, 2011 at 06:46 PM
Amyland November 14, 2011 at 06:47 PM
Amyland November 14, 2011 at 07:04 PM
I want to thank the Mt. Carmel CYO Board for taking the time to write this eloquent letter. As a Mill Valley resident, mother of 2 children at Strawberry Point School, and Health and Fitness Professional, it saddened me greatly to learn of the children who won't be playing basketball this year because of a lack of facilities -- NOT A LACK OF VOLUNTEERS. I wonder if the neighbors of Edna ever speed up or down my street, Strawberry Drive -- home to an elementary school and rec center serving thousands of kids -- gunning for the green light at Tiburon, trying to reach their tennis lesson on time. . .it's disgusting. The speeding I see in Marin is an offshoot of the me-first ethos that permeates so much of this county. Most of the speeders on my street are NOT dropping kids off at school -- these are families who are caretakers of our community. The same families who would respectfully drive past a Lomita house on their way to drop a child off at basketball practice at Edna. Safety concerns? Most of us parents have already schooled our children on the art of defensive walking and riding in this town. Yes, name yourselves, you upset and narrow-minded "neighbors of Edna." Afraid of real dialogue? What a waste of money in a time of stretched resources. Maybe these folks have forgotten they live in a city with other people, and not in some semi-rural community where they can avoid others.
Desert Rat November 15, 2011 at 12:16 AM
Amyland, the litigants are public information. Alicia Halloran - 73 Lomita Anne Gates and Todd Gates - 75 Lomita Larry French - 77 Lomita
MarinT November 15, 2011 at 05:12 AM
What is less well known is that the neighborhood issues have zero to do with CYO use of District Facilities. Concerns rise with non-school, non-CYO use of school facilities. Other sane concerns: Safety. Safe Routes. Parking. Lighting. Traffic. CYO BBall is not on the list. Everyone can now go home. Take a breath.
NPG November 15, 2011 at 03:33 PM
You should be a spokesperson for MAXIMIZE POPULATION
Magoo November 15, 2011 at 06:03 PM
You don't live in a "city". You live in an unincorporated area of Marin County, the Strawberry Recreation District.
LPH November 15, 2011 at 06:50 PM
Shocking and dismaying. How can three families hold up a project that was vetted for 2-1/2 years in the community and passed with an overwhelming 67% yes vote in 2009? How is our school district paying for the costs associated with this lawsuit? Tax dollars that were to be used to rebuild a school? My understanding from others in the neighborhood is that all issues were addressed...safety, parking, lighting, traffic. I find it hard to breathe knowing that I am paying for a lawsuit that serves the interest of three families. Shame.
MarinT November 15, 2011 at 07:40 PM
The parent and community opinions on this vary greatly. There are legitimate concerns expressed from every demographic.
MarinT November 15, 2011 at 09:31 PM
And hello to Amyland: http://www.welcometoamyland.com
LPH November 15, 2011 at 10:30 PM
There are always concerns. Fact is, though, that the community agreed to commit tax dollars to modernizing and rebuilding schools, and the district met with the neighborhood and came to an agreement. The state is already taking money away from our kids and our public schools, and this lawsuit does, too. The lawsuit affects kids and taxpayers and benefits only those who are suing.
MarinT November 16, 2011 at 03:40 AM
Incorrect on many levels. How does a non-dangerous traffic plan benefit only neighbors? How does clarity on what sized construction vehicle can travel to the rebuild site during pick-up and drop-off times benefit only neighbors? I suggest there are long-term interests to the community to getting certain things right - things different than the over all design of the buildings. This obligation, it appears, falls now to those most aware of the problems.
Magoo November 16, 2011 at 06:24 AM
The main purpose to get the school built is to educate children, not self-absorbing parents who want to see if their child has the makings of being a Globetrotter.
Rich November 16, 2011 at 10:42 AM
Perhaps all 3 identified litigants, who happen to be adjacent neighbors, who live directly across the street from the school, should have considered these issues prior to purchasing said properties?!
LPH November 16, 2011 at 03:42 PM
The school district and construction management team have to comply with an exhaustive list of federal and state safety laws pertaining to construction at a school site. Two separate groups of independent citizens evaluated and made the final decision on a construction management firm. Another set of unbiased citizens currently oversees the process. It is difficult to imagine what the litigants hope to gain from the lawsuit, but clearly there is a personal agenda and personal gain involved.
SoMarin November 16, 2011 at 08:12 PM
Neighbors had courage and took up this community effort. They headline the Non-Profit bringing the suit but they represent many people who are not neighbors. According to the SVHOA letter the rift is not about the design, style, placement, or size of any buildings. Take the SVHOA letter, pencil-in all the suggested changes, and not a single building is changed. At max, the only physical change the school would make = making a TBD / field into parking, then making a front parking lot a field = benefit to kids walking to school. These changes do not impact any programs or MVSD’s mission to educate kids. Many are very concerned about the safe traffic flow at the school - including people active in local bike coalitions. Let’s support reliance on authority up until the point an actual problem (important) goes uncorrected: remember ‘Question Authority’? The neighbors asked for 60 days to present the concerns/ideas to the MVSD Board prior to final approval. The Board declined and a suit was filed. The safely issues are real. The MVSD faces difficulty with this suit, not to mention the expense. If the MVSD makes changes to what are now Just Drawings there may be a settlement and, bonus, the school gets built, on time, as designed, for the expected cost, and order is restored. Get ‘er Done MVSD.
Susan Cluff November 17, 2011 at 12:05 AM
Back in 1998, one of the reasons given for the second school modernization bond was that Edna Maguire couldn't support 500-600 students unless major traffic and site changes were made. Many students still cannot walk or bike safely to school, neighbors concerns about traffic/safety need to be addressed, and MVSD should work with City/County on making real improvements pronto -- if not now, when?
MV is Home November 17, 2011 at 09:50 PM
SoMarin, you have come out and represented your issue and tied it to kids walking to school? "making a front parking lot a field = benefit to kids walking to school" I am saddened that you would make such a self serving statement and then tie it to the kids. Say it... I want to further improve the view from my front yard. That is easy to understand and if you wanted that, you had every opportunity to buy a house somewhere else. Edna has been there for years and will continue to in its current incarnation or as the beautiful and functional new school that is planned. Susan. Back in 1998 the bike path to Edna was not in the great shape it is now. My young children many times have walked or biked safely to Edna. If your point is child safety, please be direct with your issue for the benefit of all. If the real point is traffic and site, read the planning documents and help us all understand specifics in regard to your concern.
Desert Rat November 18, 2011 at 01:48 AM
Few more things to consider: The people suing the school district live in homes all built before the school, however, they bought those houses after the school was built. Did the original owners sue the school district because a school was being built across the street? How much was their life impacted by more traffic? Aesthetics? When you buy a house in the county (vs. city) the house is going to have drawbacks when it comes to roads/traffic. In the county you pay less tax and the county in turn spends less on roads, and it's apparent. There are pros and cons to living in the county vs. MV proper, and anyone buying a house in the county should be aware of those pros and cons. There were (still?) some pretty difficult characters running the MV School District when they were taking the community through the planning process, and I wouldn't be surprised if they rubbed these litigants the wrong way, as they did with lots of people in the community. The litigants should look past the personalities or their treatment and realize who their really suing - the children and families of Mill Valley. Time to move on...
SoMarin November 20, 2011 at 09:07 AM
I'm in Tam Valley. I'm not a neighbor. I do drive / bike my kids to school. I think the scene is dangerous now. The plan is to add more cars, kids and bikes to that same congested elbow in Lomita. It is at a max capacity now. (Principal Zimmer recently sent out a letter describing what a harm it is to a school to have a DEATH via accident and describing some bad parent driving - You should read a copy of it.) Ms. Zimmer made an effort to tame behavior as the cure - but the problem is design/structural too. Take a whiteboard and map it out yourself - Two crosswalks in a "v" shape – a bike path used by commuters spouting from between 82 and 80 Lomita and onto Lomita, driveways for an 18 car parking lot also wedged between 82 and 80 Lomita, an exit driveway for the main parking lot at 80 Lomita, and an entrance to the main parking lot near the Edna / Ring Mountain border. Under the plan, most cars will enter Edna having to cross two crosswalks, both the Northbound and Southbound bike paths, make a left turn across incoming traffic coming from Meadow to Edna then cross a sidewalk to get into the parking lot. That's a bad bad design - it needs to be changed. I don't care if Al Bundy was bringing a suit - the problem = the facts on the ground. It is flawed. There is no cover for MVSD on this. It is a clear and obvious problem.


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