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June 02, 2004

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Publication Date: Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Judge strikes down lawsuit against Allied Arts project Judge strikes down lawsuit against Allied Arts project (June 02, 2004)

** Neighbors haven't yet decided whether to appeal.

By Rebecca Wallace
Almanac Staff Writer

As the Allied Arts Guild readies for reopening this fall, one obstacle has been removed -- a lawsuit that sought to put the brakes on the project.

A group of neighbors had claimed last year that the city hadn't sufficiently studied the possible effects of the Menlo Park guild's renovation and expansion, including traffic and noise from a higher number of special events. But San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Quentin Kopp ruled against the neighbors on May 24.

In his opinion, Judge Kopp wrote that the city, Allied Arts and the Woodside-Atherton Auxiliary, whose volunteers run the guild, "have acted with palpable care, consideration and scrupulous conformance with state and city statutes and ordinances."

The three groups have worked in good faith to mitigate any fall-out from the project, he wrote. For example, the city permit includes limitations on the number of guild events to "reduce any neighborhood traffic, noise and pedestrian safety effects and prevent abuse of the residential character of the neighborhood," he wrote.

The guild is also appointing a liaison to handle any neighborhood complaints, he added.

To help cover about $8 million worth of renovations to the guild's 1920s Spanish-style buildings, the auxiliary plans to expand operations to hold 43 evening events annually. The auxiliary had initially sought city permission for 50 to 60 evening events, but changed the number in the face of neighborhood opposition.

Kathy Parker, a member of the Allied Arts Neighbors group that filed the suit, said she was disappointed by the decision but didn't yet know whether the neighbors would appeal. The group still needs to meet to discuss the matter, she said.

"I hope that this wouldn't discourage anybody from standing up for their own neighborhood," she said.

Meanwhile, Cheryl Benedict, who chairs the auxiliary's Traditional Shop committee, said of the lawsuit, "We're delighted to have it over with."

Despite the concern among some neighbors about the expansion of events, the renovation work on the old guild had been more widely supported and has been proceeding along. Much of the work is completed, including repairing water and termite damage and refurbishing metal work at the windows.

The guild has been closed to the public since 2002.

Last year, the work was estimated to cost about $7 million, but the cost has since climbed to about $8 million, partly because of costs associated with the two-year battle with the neighbors' group, auxiliary president Barb Carson said. In addition, there turned out to be more termite damage than expected, she said.

The auxiliary is planning some grand opening activities for September, and the Traditional Shop is set to reopen October 1, Ms. Benedict said. New features will include wheelchair-accessible bathrooms, air conditioning, seismic repairs, and spruced-up landscaping.

Events and sales at the guild benefit the Lucile Salter Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford.

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