The Menlo Park City Council at its Oct. 7 meeting had the unusual -- and frustrating -- role of hearing all about permits for the upcoming construction project at Oak Knoll School, but having no authority to do anything.
The Menlo Park City School District plans to build a two-story classroom building and a multi-use room, and modernize existing classrooms, among other things.
Enrollment is set to decrease slightly, from the current 735 to 720.
The Oak Knoll project, as well as other school projects in the district, is funded by the $91 million Measure U school bond passed in 2006.
Menlo Park city staff said they took the unusual step of asking for the council's review and comments on permits for dealing with storm-water runoff and driveway location associated with the project in order to provide a public forum.
The city has authority only over storm water issues and physical changes made within the public right-of-way adjacent to the school, such as driveway curb-cuts. Such permits are issued over-the-counter by staff, without discretionary review by the council. Menlo Park staff told the council that the district's plans, with conditions, meet all the city's requirements for issuing encroachment permits.
"This is an unusual item. Usually, we're taking some kind of action," said Councilwoman Kelly Fergusson. "I received a lot of e-mail today that urged the council to take action, but it's not really within our purview."
Despite that caveat, several people urged the council to take action to deny or delay the permits.
A sizable crowd, including the district superintendent and school board, attended the meeting. Neighbors have raised concerns about drainage, and the location of the proposed driveways and relocated crosswalk associated with the project.
City Attorney Bill McClure said that the criteria for issuing the permits is not whether a better or more desirable configuration exists, but whether what's proposed is safe and meets the applicable standards.
The school district has yet to apply for the permits, but has given its plans to the city early, in the hopes of moving the project forward later this fall.