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Some east Menlo Park landlords and business owners may not like it, but a new preschool is headed to the industrial part of the city.
The City Council sided with parents, rather than businesses, at its Feb. 6 meeting, and voted 4-1 to grant a use permit to Palo Alto-based Casa dei Bambini preschool to set up a campus in east Menlo Park.
The school will be east of U.S. 101 in the city's industrial, or "M-2" zone, at 1215 O'Brien Drive. Councilman John Boyle voted against the project.
The council's action reversed the Planning Commission's unanimous decision Nov. 27 to deny the school a use permit. The council considered the project because Carlos Balzaretti, head of the Montessori school, appealed the commission's decision.
The school will serve up to 72 children ages 2 to 6 weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
The proposal pitted parents vying for more preschool and child care services against landlords and business owners who said putting small children in an industrial zone will spark health concerns and new safety regulations.
"We Menlo moms need this school," said resident Jill Wernicke. "It's not fair that a few companies are getting in the way of educating our children."
Ms. Wernicke was one of 11 people to urge the council to approve the project, and 10 people spoke against it.
"Please protect the integrity of the industrial zone," said Nancy Noe, an attorney representing Alza Corp., an east Menlo Park pharmaceutical company. "We can't move into any other zone when child care can."
Councilman Richard Cline noted that despite safety concerns, the school would not dramatically change the area, as there are other schools and child care operations near industrial companies in the M-2 district and in nearby East Palo Alto.
"I think there's a precedent with other child care programs there," he said. "I don't believe ... [that] one child care facility is going to clean out the M-2 and scare away all the businesses."
Mr. Boyle didn't agree: "I don't know how we could have heard it anymore clearly from the business community that this would be a negative thing," he said.
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