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Planners Say, No New High School: Advisory Vote Against The Proposed Magnet, Officials Said, The Initial Focus Is On Menlo Park

On a new magnet school old road San Carlos County Planning Commission decided not to stop the proposed move, but school officials say, at the same time, it will continue to work with the city to solve the recruitment problem with another device in the Menlo Park first.

The Sequoia Union High School District is working to purchase property at 150 Jefferson Ave. in Menlo Park with the intent of building another magnet campus to address increasing enrollment concerns near its southern border, simultaneous to its interest in building the school in San Carlos.

Superintendent Jim Lianides said establishing the Menlo Park school will be the district’s priority, since enrollment is occurring most rapidly in that region.

“The planning and subsequent development of the San Carlos site will be on a later timeline,” Lianides said in an email.

The decision to initially move forward with the Menlo Park school may provide the district more time to negotiate with San Carlos planning officials. Additional time to find a consensus may be necessary, in light of a unanimous 4-0 vote Tuesday night by Planning Commissioners against the district’s interest in building a 400-student magnet school at 535 Old County Road.

Commission chair David Silberman recused himself from voting, due to a possible conflict of interest. He works for the County Counsel’s Office, which represents the school district.

“We expect to continue our dialogue with city officials and the surrounding community prior to commencing the planning process,” said Lianides.

Discussions moving forward will circulate around San Carlos zoning regulations, as the Old County Road site is reserved for light residential or commercial development, and planners oppose the school construction because it does not fit the city’s general plan.

But the Planning Commission’s decision holds limited weight, as it is only advisory, and cannot block the district from moving forward with the school’s development.

The district can still build the school, because it is exempt from the city’s zoning regulations.

“We were disappointed by the vote of the Planning Commission as the current zoning in the area allows for schools through a conditional use permit,” Lianides said.

He said the district is facing increasing enrollment, and building a new school is necessary to house the influx of students. Both Carlmont and Sequoia high schools, the campuses nearest San Carlos, are expected to absorb another 700 students beyond this year’s enrollment,

“Both Carlmont High School and Sequoia High School face large enrollment increases and without an alternative site for students, these two schools will be further impacted,” said Lianides.

Planning Commissioner Shannon Bergman said she would like to see another high school built in San Carlos, but doubts that the Old County Road location is the right spot, citing concerns about how congested traffic may become in the region.

The area is expected to see the development of the San Carlos Transit Village, as well as the upcoming Landmark Hotel, and is already home to the recently built Palo Alto Medical Foundation medical center.

“I don’t think that’s the best place for a school, especially a high school, in San Carlos,” said Bergman. “I would hope we could come up with a better alternative.”

School administrators have met with San Carlos staff to address the city’s concerns regarding the prospective location, but did not find anywhere else that would be sufficient, said Lianides.

Bergman said she hopes that the time in the interim might be spent trying to find a solution that works best for the city and the school district.

“Everyone is trying to do the right thing,” she said. “We just need to sit down at the table find out what that thing is.”

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