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Daycare center opponents appeal county's decision

Opponents of a plan to open a 24-child daycare center in a residential area of West Menlo Park say they are already in the process of appealing a decision by the San Mateo County Planning Commission to approve a permit for the center.

Peter MacDonald, who lives near the site of the proposed center in a single-family home at 3131 Alameda de las Pulgas, says the opponents will appeal the 5-0 decision to the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors.

The commission on Feb. 12 approved the use permit to convert the home into a daycare center for up to 24 preschool children. Unlike whole-day facilities, Toddle LLC would require reservations and schedule drop-offs and pick-ups hour-by-hour throughout the day.

The proposal divided the neighborhood. At the commission meeting, some residents noted the benefits such childcare would bring for families with small children. Others argued that the noise and traffic would disrupt the peaceful environment.

Commissioners said they were cognizant of neighbors' concerns. To reduce noise, the permit will allow a high fence and dense landscaping, Commissioner Laurie Simonson said. The permit builds in flexibility for the center and its neighbors to work things out on their own, she said. As for traffic, the permit establishes a limit of two child drop-offs per 12-minute period and no more than 10 drop-offs per hour.

"Most of the children who use this facility will be walking to this facility," Commissioner Frederick Hansson said. "I personally think it will be an asset to this neighborhood."

Ms. Simonson added: "If you're bringing your kid to this facility and you're three blocks away and in a car, there's something wrong with that picture," she said. "Hopefully, this is a neighborhood service."

Heather Hopkins, co-owner of the childcare center and a resident who lives three blocks away, said she believes the center would be consistent with the neighborhood's character. And while there are four preschool daycare centers within a mile of the site, short-term, reservation-based daycare is available only in San Francisco and San Jose, she said.

For parents who work at home and have varying schedules, finding a nanny or babysitter is difficult, Ms. Hopkins said. In Silicon Valley, extended family members are often not available. "It's just become a cultural need," she said. "There's a shortage of childcare in general."

To avoid concentrated traffic, arrivals and departures would be staggered from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Most childcare centers "have operated seamlessly for decades in their neighborhoods," Ms. Hopkins said. "At the end of the day, these childcare centers usually go on to become beloved community institutions."

"Of course she's going to say that," Mr. MacDonald told the Almanac. Ten drop-offs or pick-ups per hour could add up to 80 trips per day, he noted. "That changes the neighborhood," he said. "That's not why we moved here. ... We want a residential neighborhood to stay residential."

Customers would avoid Alameda and use side streets because they're viewed as safer, Mr. MacDonald said. "The vast, vast majority" of opponents would support a 12-child facility, half of the size of the one approved, he added.

Comments

Posted by Sally, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park
on Feb 27, 2014 at 12:31 pm

Alameda de las Pulgas is not exactly a "quiet residential street." It is, however, a central thoroughfare and would be a convenient destination for a facility like this. For the neighbors to worry that a daytime-hours children's center would be detrimental to their neighborhood is ridiculous. Unless, of course, they find the sounds of children laughing disturbing.


Posted by Bring it HERE, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Feb 27, 2014 at 2:09 pm

Big empty one story office building sitting empty on Linfield Ave near Middlefiled. Would be great to see a childcare center move in here.


Posted by ANNIE, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 27, 2014 at 2:16 pm

The last post is obviously from someone who does not have children; preschool children do cry and get upset very easily. My own children cried everytime I dropped them off at preschool. The preschools they went to were wonderful but sometimes the kids did not feel well or just wanted to be with mom. I was a lower elementary school teacher for many years and I belived that preschools should be a a safe area. I drive through Alameda De Las Pulgas 4 times a day to pick and drop off my children from school. I have seen many accidents or near accidents occur through the years. What would happen if a child walked out and tried to cross Alameda De Las Pulgas? Many children who get upset at school try to walk home of just run out. They are very cleaver and need to be watched every moment. I did live on a busy street in West Menlo Park and had to price our home at a lower asking price due to that. Had my home been in a residential area we could have gotten at least $300,000 for our home. Any credible realtor will tell you this

I would never would put my children in a preschool that was on a busy street, and would NEVER buy a home that backed up to a school of any type or a home that operated as a preschool so close to my home. How would everyone feel if Starbucks decided to open for business on their street?


Posted by Kaz, a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Feb 27, 2014 at 2:32 pm

It's great to have more preschool in the area, and this type of reservation system will be really helpful to many families.

I agree that the Alameda is hardly quiet and I myself would be concerned about having little kids so close to a big street. As the daily population is varied, it will be harder to get client families into a smooth routine, so I hope the owner does a good job of instructing new families on how to get in and out safely without causing a lot of traffic disruption. Good concept but definite challenges.


Posted by Margo, a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Feb 27, 2014 at 3:32 pm

In every issue there are always NIMBY's. If the poster bought a house on or near Alameda de las Pulgas, he/she should have known it would be busy and not quiet. If he/she doesn't live near there then he/she has no complaint. The issue of having children run off can be dealt with by putting entrances on sides not front Alameda. Tall fences and plantings can do much to mitigate noise. We don't live in a vacuum and we don't have authority over what our neighbors do. Day care is a major issue for young parents. This seems like a great choice.


Posted by Molly, a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on Feb 27, 2014 at 3:44 pm

I do not understand how the county allowed zoning for this. When I took my kids to preschool the major problem I had was parking. Even though there was a large parking area, parents with other small children in their cars liked parking a close to the entrance as possible so they could watch their sleeping children and walk their child half way in the entrance.

When you are a young family just starting out, sometimes you have to buy what is in your price range and yes the home we bought as our starter home was in a busy street.

Margo, you live in Linfield Oaks? You sound like you are taking these comments personally. Please do not be upset if someone has a different opinion from you. We all have the same right to voice our opinion - and yes there are people who cannot afford to live in a quiet residential area as you do. I know everyone has their passion but in this case I blame the ZONING COMMITTEE in Menlo Park.


Posted by Max, a resident of Portola Valley: other
on Feb 27, 2014 at 3:58 pm

Totally agree with Molly. Margo sounds like she has some type of stake in this business.

People will try anything - THE ZONING COMMITTEE SHOULD TAKE ANOTHER LOOK AT THIS.


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