Earlier this week, the San Carlos School District sent a letter to the City asking that they consider a land swap. I strongly support this idea in principle and believe that it can benefit the school district’s effort to meet our growing enrollment challenge and continue to provide a high quality education for our children. This land swap also brings the benefit to our community of adding sorely needed park and field space on the upper Tierra Linda site.  

We live in a city that supports its schools and parks.  Many families continue to move to San Carlos for just that reason.  In fact, we anticipate enrollment to grow in our schools by several hundred students in the coming years.  That is why the school district has worked diligently over the past couple of years to develop a Facilities Master Plan (FMP) to update our facilities and prepare for that growth.   

The FMP includes a plan to relocate Charter Learning Center (CLC) to make room for a  4th-5th grade school on the Tierra Linda campus, so about a year ago the School Board directed the District to search for new land to move CLC.    

Land is at a premium in San Carlos, particularly when looking for a four acre parcel to build a new school. After a significant search, it was determined that the best option was the city-owned parcel on Crestview. Further, we felt that a land swap with the City would benefit both entities (the city and the school district) as well as the community as a whole. The District is proposing to swap approximately four acres of land on the upper Tierra Linda Campus for a roughly  equivalent amount of land on Crestview.  The Tierra Linda property could be used by the City to add needed field and park space. In addition, it is likely that some additional, albeit smaller field space could be created on the Crestview site. While we have to work out details with the City, I believe that this land swap can be a significant benefit for our schools and city.  

What happens if we are unsuccessful in negotiating a deal to swap the two parcels?   The District needs to meet our growing enrollment.  We can not continue to cram more students on our existing facilities.  We have to build capacity.  If a land swap is not possible, we are left with looking at existing campuses to relocate Charter Learning Center. We have essentially three options, all of which have their drawbacks. 

Move Charter to Arundel:  The District owns the tennis courts above the school which could serve as a site for CLC.

Arundel is already our biggest elementary school in terms of enrollment with more than 500 students. Traffic around campus is challenging and adding 300- 400 students would make it far worse. 

Access to the campus is not great and we would have to look at improving traffic circulation to make putting CLC on the Arundel campus possible.  

Finally, we would lose tennis courts for use by the whole community. 

Move Charter to Upper Tierra Linda: There certainly is space on the TL campus, but adding 300-400 students will greatly impact traffic.  

We only have one entrance to a campus (Tierra Linda and Charter Learning Center) that already houses nearly 1000 students.  

Add to the mix that Carlmont High School just across the street already has over 2000 students and is expected to grow even more in the coming years creating a traffic nightmare.

Building on upper TL also means losing forever over four acres of land that could be developed as recreational space for the City and its citizens.  

Move Charter to Heather:  As the District’s second biggest site, Heather certainly is large enough to house a second school.  

Traffic would be significantly increased and we only have one entrance to the school, so we would need to look at improving circulation to make it work.  

Further, some of the best field space in our City is at the Heather campus and adding Charter would absolutely impact that field. 

I understand that placing Charter on the Crestview site will impact those residents in the immediate area.  There will be some increased traffic.  But it is important to remember that the City is also entertaining an offer to develop that site with condos.  So we stand to lose that space regardless.  The difference will be whether a school is built on that site, and more usable open space is created or more development will occur and we will have to build on an existing campus, exacerbating traffic, and reducing field space.  The City has already approved development of the Transit Village, would like to develop Wheeler Plaza, and could develop the Crestview site.  These developments will likely bring more families and school age kids to San Carlos to our already impacted schools and we will have less open space.      

Let me be clear that I am not someone who opposes development in San Carlos.  There are positive aspects that can improve our City. However, we have to be smart about development.  We can’t do it just for developments sake, we have to think about what will bring the most benefit to the community.  In this case, I strongly believe that a land swap is the best choice.  It provides a tremendous opportunity for the District and City to work together for the benefit of the community.