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July 13, 2014

Comments

Joe

I'm pasting Burlingame Hills Parents comment on the original thread here in hopes of saving us all a lot of paging down to see the new stuff......

Dear EPC, the school will go up, it's just a matter of how long you want a half-finished building sitting there, and how much school district money you want to waste on a lawsuit. Draining the BSD of funds that could be spent on education, and delaying the opening of a school that will benefit so many children, it pretty shameful. The BSD's revised traffic plan was fine, but it's clear you all just don't want the school to open. It'll happen in a few years. It will be great to eventually send my kids to Hoover, but it's a shame that we'll lose three years because of a bunch of NIMBY's.

It's not like the idea of a school on the site was invented out of thin air. Perhaps you should have considered this when you purchased your homes right next to a huge institutional site.

locavore

I have children at several Burlingame Schools and unfortunately, I believe many parents of Burlingame schoolchildren are grossly mis-understanding the situation and where the blame really rests. The BSD made a huge mistake by not following due process, especially when ample opportunities were presented. One of the above posters was incorrect in saying that the two "choices" in terms of environmental compliance are an EIR or a negative declaration. BSD decided upon something in between, called a Mitigated Negative Declaration, where attempts are made to recognize potentially significant environmental impacts, but is supposed to provide sufficient evidence that the impacts are sufficiently mitigated.

Given the potential traffic and parking environmental impacts, especially when you are talking about expanded buildings/more children and the issues raised from an earlier International School proposal, there should should have been automatic EIR, in the spirit of following due process and leaving no stone unturned as far as environmental impacts and complete, thoughtful studies with site specific analysis. An EIR would also discuss reasonable alternatives, including doing more expansion at other schools (taller multi story buildings). BSD did not exactly fully advertise the ability for the public to comment and demonstrated quite a bit of steamroll behavior (including continuing construction during a CEQA challenge AND after the scathing preliminary ruling, which eventually resulted in an injunction to stop construction). If BSD had followed due process and there are still neighbors suing, it would be solely be on the merits of the EIR's evidence and conclusions. If the EIR was properly done and the conclusion that a school could be opened and expanded there with sufficiently mitigating factors or offsetting public benefits (something which the BSD did NOT argue-- this was quite surprising) and provided solid evidence of the conclusions (traffic or parking studies, proper drop off procedures, noise simulations, etc), any legal action would most likely have resulted in a victorious BSD. Other than an appeals case, which would have been very difficult given the thoroughness of the San Mateo County Courts and assigned Judge, that would have been the end of the story and you would have another school.

From my reading of the ruling, it appears the Court is taking the parking and traffic issue extremely seriously and is actually setting precedent with regard to interpretation (on parking specifically), a staggering concept, and points to how badly BSD screwed up. This case will likely be cited in other CEQA rulings concerning the potential environmental impacts of parking.

Instead of following the law, BSD filed an insufficient environmental report, provided insufficient evidence as to mitigating environmental impacts, insufficiently analyzed feasible alternatives, insufficiently disclosed the opportunity for community input, insufficiently argued for the public benefits (under CEQA, this is particularly important) which would have had tremendous overriding considerations, and insufficiently demonstrated the desire/will for due process by beginning construction during a valid/strong CEQA challenge (extremely irresponsible) and deciding to further continue construction after the preliminary ruling, which only served to make matters much worse. As a parent, I am extremely angry with BSD's actions and complete disregard for the law, which has only wasted money. It could have been much easier with an EIR from the beginning (before breaking ground), with potentially only one lawsuit and a most likely win for BSD (assuming sufficient evidence provided on conclusions) instead of 2-3 lawsuits. The BSD trustees need to closely examine the decision points made by BSD and hold those making those decisions accountable. Had CEQA compliance been a foremost priority from the beginning, in my estimation, the School would have probably gotten built (though would likely have been smaller). If the EIR had insufficient evidence on mitigating environmental impacts, construction wouldn't have even started, only legal fees would have been spent instead of the $7 million+ and a half-built building with no current alternative use. BSD could have walked away before one piece of construction equipment ever set foot on the site and BSD could have resold at a profit.

Jennifer

Don't know enough about this issue to comment, but have an interesting tidbit of historical information. It turns out that in an early period of time, Hoover School was indeed (also) used for Hillsborough children living in the Summit/Forestview area of that city. I'm not sure of the years, but the Hillsborough resident who mentioned this to me is 92, apparently grew up in that vicinity of Hillsborough, and attended Hoover, so it was likely when that school first opened.

Joe

It looks like the Daily Journal is having some website issues which are causing the links to not work. I'll keep an eye on it to ensure we have the proper links when they come back up.

EPC

I'm so sick of the comments calling the neighbors a bunch of NIMBY's and making it seem like they were the only ones that wanted the outcome from the lawsuit. Burlingame Hills families should be thanking them for doing exactly what Burlingame Hills wanted. Look at this flyer, posted right before BSD took action back in Dec. 2012:
“Hoover School Traffic Plan Stirs Controversy in Burlingame Hills

More than 1,200 residents of the community immediately adjacent to the school were never notified about this plan that will:

Clog our narrow, winding streets (Canyon and Summit) on weekday mornings and afternoons and make it impossible for emergency vehicles to get by. There will be a school board to vote tonight (Tuesday) on this controversial traffic plan
Voice your concerns!

Attend tonight’s meeting*
7pm at the Burlingame School District Office, 1825 Trousdale Drive
OR
Write to the school board president michaeldonaldbarber@gmail.com

Burlingame Hills will be affected by this decision for generations to come. Please do what you can to encourage the school board to delay a decision so they can get more input from the community and conduct a more thorough study of the traffic situation. Please act today. Tomorrow will be too late

*If you attend the school board meeting, you may want to bring a book to read until the plan is discussed.
For more information, visit www.burlingamehills.org. This flyer is sponsored and produced by the Burlingame Hills Improvement Association, Serving the Hills since 1959. steve@burlingamehills.org”

Burlingame Hills should be thanking those neighbors and the Judge for doing exactly what they wanted - delay the project so more study can be done!

Get Real!

Keep repeating it until they believe you. I live near a school with 350 students and yes the street is a mess for a few minutes in the morning and a few in the evening. My guess is some of these students will move to Hoover when it opens and our neighborhood will have less cars to deal with. An emergency vehicle would not be able to get through. So some of the other schools are no different and its time that the NIMBY Hoover neighbors share a bit of the pain required to educate our kids.

So you can keep repeating the same empty arguments until the cows come home but at the end, it is NIMBY and some of the opponents have admitted as much. If you expect anyone to believe that you're doing this to protect the Buringame Hill residents or the students, you are delusional. Lets call a NIMBY a NIMBY and stop pretending otherwise.

EPC

Whatever you say, but so far you've added nothing to the conversation that shows any intelligent understanding of the traffic issue. Good thing the judge was looking out for the best interests of the community. Will be interesting to see if the judge awards the almost million dollars in attorney's fees the neighbors are requesting the school district to pay. Suppose that money could been better spent on ways to fix the problem in the first place. What a waste of taxpayer money.

Get Real!

We finally agree. Yes, these neighbors have cost the taxpayers dearly.

Mom

I can only tell you one thing. The minute this becomes about money and attorney's fees and not traffic it will get really, really ugly. The Alliance has gotten a pass so far because people appreciate the concern but that will disappear in an instant if a million dollars gets sucked out of BSD in addition to the costs of the delays.

EPC

This whole mess is on BSD. If they had done an EIR to begin with, like they had the opportunity to do, there would have been no lawsuit. They took a gamble they had no business taking.

Get Real!

Here we go again:
1. The BSD messed up
2. They built into the parking lot
3. Streets are narrow
4. Unsafe

And here I go again:
1. Get over it
2. Schools have an impact on their neighborhood but we have to have schools.
3. These people do not want a school in their back yard and will use any and all options to keep it from opening. This includes very expensive lawsuits.
4. The kids that would have gone to Hoover are right now clogging up streets in other neighborhoods. Why should they carry the burden?
5. If we keep punishing the District for their mistakes, the only losers are taxpayers and students. The winners: NIMBY neighbors!

So lets ignore the nattering nabobs of NIMBY'ism and get the school built. Lets sit down and find a solution that acknowledges that there will be traffic but that it can be mitigated. We need to accept that some will not be happy and do what's right for the community at large and lets not spend any more on legal fees that could go to education. Oh and sorry to repeat myself but just trying to keep up.

Joe

The Daily Journal site was down most of yesterday, but it's back up and the link in Lorne's comment is working. We learn from it that:

Last week, the Burlingame Elementary School District filed an appeal in the state appellate court to San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Marie Weiner’s May ruling in favor of the Alliance for Responsible Neighborhood Planning. The alliance sued the district stating it needs to prepare a full EIR on traffic impacts for the entire property, which means all construction must be stopped until this is done.

“We’re going to try to get an expedited calendar to get it on the docket as soon as possible,” Superintendent Maggie MacIsaac said. “That would be the most immediate thing to do.”

Joe

Here is some of the financial details from today's Daily Journal article:

The breakdown is $995,467 for attorneys’ fees, while there are $1,015 additional expenses. For work on the merits of the instant action, including the initial complaint, the ex parte application for a temporary restraining order, the motion for preliminary injunction and response to the district’s motion to modify the final injunction, petitioners seek a lodestar fee — the fee come up with by multiplying the number of hours reasonably spent by trial counsel by a reasonable hourly rate — of $557,548. Petitioners are also seeking $19,758 for time preparing this motion.

“An award of fees and expenses is warranted … because petitioners succeeded in enforcing an important right that significantly benefited the general public and/or a large class of persons, and the necessity and financial burden of private enforcement are such as to make the award appropriate,” according to the motion filed by the alliance’s attorney Kevin Haroff on Tuesday. “Petitioners enforced the public’s right to have the district comply with the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act.”

The petitioners are also seeking an additional $418,161 — found by multiplying the attorneys’ fees by 1.75 — since the significance of the issues raised by the litigation resulted in commentary on local social media websites repeating inflammatory statements about the petitioners and counsel being “selfish” and “NIMBY” advocates. The media scrutiny and public commentary made prosecuting the litigation more challenging, but also the substantial and beneficial impact the litigation has had within the community. Petitioners are not requesting a multiplier to enhance the fees awarded for the work done in preparing the motion, according to the motion.

The full article is here:

http://www.smdailyjournal.com/articles/lnews/2014-07-18/school-district-could-pay-nearly-1m-in-legal-fees-judge-to-consider-hoover-elementary-school-petitioners-request-in-august/1776425126813.html

commonsense

Four Questions: 1) What is the tally on the legal fees (to date) spent by the BSD. 2) Why has BSD retained a new law firm for the appeal -- one of the largest in the country. ($$$) 3) What are the anticipated fees for the appeal? 4) Final question: what is the cost of a Full Environmental Impact Report and traffic study for the project?

Not a Lawyer

2) Looks like they figured out that they need to spend the same amount of money as the Hillsboroughites on a better law firm if they are going to have a chance. Just a guess.

Bruce Dickinson

Get Real, it's time you had a reality check. You do realize that the unfounded accusations of NIMBY-ism in the press are causing the plaintiffs to seek an additional $420,000 dollars (and it could have been higher):

" since the significance of the issues raised by the litigation resulted in commentary on local social media websites repeating inflammatory statements about the petitioners and counsel being “selfish” and “NIMBY” advocates. The media scrutiny and public commentary made prosecuting the litigation more challenging, but also the substantial and beneficial impact the litigation has had within the community. "

So Bruce Dickinson thanks you for your contribution to increasing the legal fees sought (which admittedly could have been more). Instead, people should just let the law and CEQA review process play out. It is after all, the law, and up to this point, it appears that the law has been violated. If the BSD loses the appeal, will be pretty clear that those accusing others of NIMBYism will also be responsible for increased costs, so hopefully you remember this at school donation time to make up for the lost dough. Bruce Dickinson will match your donation and multiply it by 20x as a goodwill gesture.

Andrew

FYI, I paid for a mailer opposing the school bonds for a number of reasons such as not trusting the current school board members and using part of the money to buy computers that typically last 3 to 5 years with 20 years payments.

After the school board won the election with the passing of the bond Board Members Davina Drabkin and Michael Barber wanted to get even with me. The wrote letters to the Fair Political Practices to have me investigated. They have no tolerance for an opposing view. Sounds like Obama's IRS...I kid you not.

I would not be surprised with any legal or illegal actions they would take against those who opposed the Hoover School development.

We need new school board members.

Neighbor

So Bruce, we just cower in fear that they may sue the District for what we say on The Voice? Wow! This just seems so wrong. The new PR strategy is shut up or I'll sue the schools. Utterly disgusting!

Bruce what happened to free speech?

Bruce Dickinson

Neighbor, trust me Bruce Dickinson is pro-free speech, yes, very pro-free speech but in my opinion always best to use facts and accurate description of circumstances to bolster your arguments, as these become quite important when dealing with environmental laws.

There should never be any fear about speaking your mind, as this is protected by the 1st amendment by our great Constitution. In the case of Hoover, as others have stated, much better to show facts over emotion as facts almost always win. Some of the assertions as to where the blame rests, in my mind do not appear to be based on fact. The courts and the presentation of facts and evidence will determine where the fault rests, which is another strength of our Constitution: to wit, establishing an independent court system to act as the ultimate arbiter, as it were, when there is a dispute.

EPC

Some really good points raised here. For those who are interested in the facts, start with reading the judge's 45-page decision which, among other things, shows the inadequacy of the original traffic study. And, if you read that traffic study, you will also see that the traffic engineers recommended that BSD implement certain mitigation measures, including a parking management plan, to alleviate the problem, which BSD refused to adopt. As of April. 2014, BSD spent over $300k in legal fees on the lawsuit and has budgeted $225k for an EIR. It has also budgeted over $1 million for off-site street improvements partnering with the city of Burlingame.

Get Real!

Bruce-I read many a post on this thread that vilified the district staff, the trustees and the architect. Truly inflammatory and devoid of any facts to prove their allegations of conspiracies and collusion. Mine was just an effort to balance the scales when I read the character assassinations and when some of the regulars, that now point fingers, joined in. Mine was an effort to change the discourse. They were called liars, corrupt, and dishonest which are much stronger than NIMBY. Go back and read.

Yes, the School District made a mistake. Yes, we should hold them accountable but now lets get together and get this school opened 'cause tax dollars are a waistin'.

So much outrage, so few candidates.......

andrew

Get Real,

Since you seem very well educated on this school expansion matter can you answer the following?

1. Why did the judge rule against BSD?
2. Could the BSD have done the EIR before purchasing the property?
3. Why did BSD not just expand on the existing schools instead of purchasing the Hoover site?
4. What was the original budget for Hoover to be purchased and built?
5. How much total money has been spent?

Please let us know. Thank you.

holyroller@hotwire.com

I agree with you Andrew.
What the "Pro Hoover School People" are not comprehending is the "Big Picture."
That is:
If Powerful Government Organizations are allowed to continue to "Cherry Pick" laws and regulations regarding the spending of Tax Payer Monies, due to Popular Political Agendas, where will it stop?
School District Officials are responsible for this.
The entire Board should resign, be fired and held accountable for this misuse of public trust.
Everybody looses.
Everybody learns.

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