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School district needs to win over city on Hillview

Original post made on Apr 29, 2009

Are school district officials going to have a hard time getting Menlo Park's support for the Hillview Middle School project? If the city challenges to the project's EIR, it could greatly delay the start of construction.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, April 28, 2009, 10:10 AM

Comments (31)

Posted by Frustrating
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on Apr 29, 2009 at 12:22 pm

I find it extremely frustrating for a city like Menlo Park to be constantly looking for, or instigating, confrontations with the school district. It makes absolutely no common sense. People move here, because of the schools. Our homes are worth more, because of the schools. To purposely try to delay a process, that will cost thousands more, when the school is already suffering with it's budget, makes no sense. As citizens of Menlo Park, regardless if you have kids going to MP schools, or private schools, or you have no kids, you need to get behind the process and the planning, and approve it swiftly. There has been plenty of transparency in this process, plenty of public outreach, just solve the slight issues, and get moving. As a city we pay too much attention to those few "squeaky wheels" that are basic NIMBY's, and should not have moved next to a school. Very frustrating!

Posted by frustrated too
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 29, 2009 at 6:25 pm

"What you spend on traffic problems, you're not spending on the school," Mr. Sheikholeslami said.

Why should the district worry about traffic problems?? This sums up the District's position on school development. There is little if any concern for the effects of construction and increased school size on traffic safety. The district plays at transparency, but all major decisions are made behind closed doors. Public concerns are dismissed as being anti-school. City Council has allowed the district to operate in this bubble.

Posted by frustrated thrice
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Apr 29, 2009 at 11:04 pm

the arrogance of the superintendent and his hired guns, the district board, past and present, with their overdevelopment of only 4 school sites, a "don't want to hear about it" attitude toward buying out the O'Connor lease, and providing busing, as mandated by Measure U, misleading the voters into thinking that the community would be best served by their judgment. Wrong!!!
Frustrated, as a resident of Sharon Heights, and Las Lomitas SD, you should know that the LLomitas district has respected neighbor privacy as part of campus expansion planning.
Not so, MPCSD, which has taken a steamroller approach towards neighbors. Just drive on Oak Ave in the next few weeks and you'll see the monstrous new buildings that are rising practically right up against the street. And this once was a beautiful playground that served generations of Menlo park families. Lost forever.
Now, they want to rebuild Hillview as the sole middle school to serve 1000 kids, with an artificial turf fronting on Elder. And, not have to pay for any long overdue traffic signals on Santa Cruz? What chutzpah!!
It's time the district pay for its shortsightedness and poor facility management.

Posted by C'mon Thrice
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Apr 30, 2009 at 11:33 am

C'mon "Frustrated Thrice" you were the same person on the Oak Knoll "don't build it here" blogs that owns a home adjacent to Oak Knoll. Your argument goes no where, and makes no sense. Your home is worth more now, because you'll have a better looking school, a more up to date school, and a new "beautiful playground that will now serve the new generations of Menlo Park families".......forever. If you really took notice, you would see that it is the arrogance of the town's council that has NO jurisdiction over the school board, and the arrogance of the squeaky wheel NIMBY neighbors that are the problem. To improve schools, for the betterment of our next generation, and to help maintain our property values, is probably the best win-win for everyone.(except of course for you)

Posted by MP parent
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on Apr 30, 2009 at 11:50 am

I don't live anywhere near a school, though I wish I did so kids could walk and we could use the grounds after hours. And I think some of the neighbors have been ridiculously inflexible, not just about this renovation but about every aspect of living next to a school. (Yes, sometimes people will park their cars on the street in front of your house. Or a ball will fly into your backyard. So what? Maybe you should have looked over your back fence before you bought the house -- you might have noticed that you were adjacent to a playing field!)

That said, I have to agree with Andy Cohen. The board has generally been arrogant and inconsiderate of the entire community. Maybe they will never satisfy a few NIMBY neighbors but they do need to come up with a solution that works for the city as a whole. This article makes it sound as though they are preemptively trying to address those issues. If they can manage to mitigate the negative effects, then they'll get the green light. What's the problem?

Posted by MP schools supporter
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 30, 2009 at 2:16 pm

The school district has gone through a an extensive multi-year process with many public meetings to take public input in development of their plans at every step along the way. Most of the neighbors are very supportive, but it is impossible for the district to completely satisfy every single critic. The process has been very fair and completely transparent.

Posted by I Agree
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Apr 30, 2009 at 2:28 pm

Nicely said, by MP schools supporter. There's only so much transparency, with full-disclosure, and public meetings that you can have, before you have to make that ultimate decision. Andy Cohen has continually said, over and over again, ...."I am for the little guy". I think this clouds his judgement, and then he influences other so-called "little guys" and creates that culture of "let's make a loud protest about things that are really not that important, but at least our small voices will be heard, and we can all feel good about it." Andy did this with the Rosewood Hotel, Oak Knoll, and several other city decisions. This "arrogance" is something made-up by Andy's followers. There is NO evidence of this, and if there was....who cares? I don't care if someone is arrogant, just make sure the job gets done, and gets done on time, with accuracy and with open input. The school district does this, has done this, and continues to do this. Again, there are about 5 individuals that fight this process on anything the schools do, they are the ones that should be the concern, not the school district.

Posted by 38 year resident
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 1, 2009 at 12:23 pm

To all of the people who live adjacent to schools in the Menlo Park School District, as already noted, you should have noticed the location of the school when you bought your home in the first place. Traffic around the schools in Menlo Park has always been an issue and has only gotten worse with the increase in students.

Consider how lucky you are that the schools are so close to your homes and compare the inconvenience with the inconvenience and worry that parents in East Menlo Park have transporting their children from their East Menlo Park neighborhoods to Menlo Park Schools all located West of 101.

Do you want to send your kids to East Menlo Park or East Palo Alto so that you do not have to endure the sight of a new school in your backyard?

Posted by 40 year residents
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 2, 2009 at 9:49 am

The new sign out front of school with the artist rendering has the building much further to the right than the site plan and actual foundations. Now we understand why the closest neighbors were upset since the actual placement puts the buildings really close to their backyards, and will block the afternoon spring and fall sun from the folks across Oak. BTW, rumor is the closest neighbor has already moved away in disgust with the lack of "open, transparent process" by the district. The board meetings apparently were a pre-determined outcome to push this plan with little regard to neighbor residence impact. Looks like staff did it's best to mislead the public about the actual building locations. Also, appears even doubtful that the big Oak tree in the corner will last more than a few years from the stress of the new parking lot. That way the district gets the 25 parking spaces they originally wanted once the tree is removed (without city heritage tree protection). Guess these young Turks are taking over the city with little regard to stewardship of community traditions. What was that Joni Mitchell lyric "Pave Over Paradise...put up a Parking Lot". You can add to that "... and roll out the Astroturf"

Posted by C'mon 40 year
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 3, 2009 at 10:34 am

C'mon 40 year Resident! It's tough to read a blog entry when you fill it with comments like: "Rumor is....", "board meetings were apparently....", "Looks like staff did....", "Also appears even doubtful....", "Guess these young Turks....", .....too much heresay, not enough facts. You have nothing substantiated to support these claims. The facts are that there were many public meetings, many discussions, many changes, many re-do's etc. The bottomline is that a FEW residents did not get what they wanted. And they wanted NO change at all, and because they didn't get what they wanted, they chose to get ugly. The ironic thing is, if a neighbor did in fact move, I wonder how much they got for their home, since it's in such a fantastic school district???? They willl soon have a beautiful, brand new school adjacent to their property! Hmmmmmmmm, makes you wonder what you guys scream about, doesn't it?

Posted by C'mon C'mon, pause for a Senior Moment
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 3, 2009 at 8:54 pm

Me thinks the long time "40 year" resident expressed some genuine concerns that "process" and "open dialogue" by the school board members was less than you assume. The hand picked site committee, composed of the school principal Ackerman's favorites Boyle, Guthrie and Aronson, excluding true neighbors, arbitrarily changed the location of the largest building from the original plan in the back, leading to a clever orchestration by Jaeger and Co. of a campaign of "scorn and derision" by their supporters against the immediately impacted neighbors next to the current location.
If you had followed the city council deliberations on Oak Knoll "encroachment/grading permits" , and read the letter from the SM county counsel, which threatened the city attorney with a lawsuit on behalf of the school board if the city dared dictate conditions for new access to Oak Knoll, you will come to understand that Hillview will be a "take a stand" opportunity for the city to make the district pay for its heavy handed impact on long time school neighbor impacts.
You speak of perceived increased "property values".. What about teaching Oak Knoll children about "real moral values" when people get stomped?
Stay tuned for the payback on Hillview mitigations.

Posted by MP schools supporter
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 3, 2009 at 11:44 pm

The new building at Oak Knoll was sited in a way that would consolidate playground area to the back of the school. This was necessary to increase the playground area per child ratios, and also improve safety and supervision. Most of the Oak Knoll neighbors have been very supportive, but it is impossible to satisfy every last critic. The decision making process was thorough, fair and transparent.

Posted by Darn Shame
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on May 4, 2009 at 9:27 am

It's a darn shame that we have residents like "C'mon, C'mon". Here's an individual that has more than likely sent his/her children thru the top notch schools in Menlo Park, and/or lives in a home that enjoys a solid worth, because of the schools, but has a very negative opinion because he/she didn't get his/her way. The last thing I'll say on this topic Mr./Mrs. C'mon, C'mon, be careful of the hand that feeds better hope that your last comment is not reality, or perhaps the young family that would have moved to Menlo Park for the better schools, now buys a home in Palo Alto, Los Altos etc., and the value of your home plummets. You seem to be a very negative, angry person. I'm sorry schools are such a bad thing.......

Posted by Unreal
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on May 5, 2009 at 11:59 am

I think the biggest question here is: "WHY does the School District need to win over the city????!!" This is crazy. The city should be THANKING the school district for being such a great, well run school district that allows the city's tax revenue to be consistent! Someone needs to check out where Menlo Park Schools rank, against the other schools in California. I think this issue would go away, very quickly.

Posted by MP parent
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on May 5, 2009 at 3:12 pm

The school district doesn't need to "win over" the city. The city has very little say in the district's operations, which is unfortunate considering that the schools have a major and rather negative impact on the city. Parents taking their kids to school, for example, are a substantial contributor to morning traffic congestion (except for a few families, like ours, that use the city bus!) In terms of revenues, the city would be better off if it could replace Hillview with a Target.

Whether the district is well run or not is irrelevant!

Fact is, it behooves the district to try to be a good neighbor in both Atherton and Menlo Park. As I said before, it sounds as though the district is trying to pay attention to the cities' concerns regarding traffic and safety. I hope that the district and the city have both learned from past missteps and will be able to compromise on a plan so that the renovations can proceed without more delays or lawsuits.

Posted by take back oconnor
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 5, 2009 at 5:05 pm

The district needs to follow the 2006 Bond Measure U directive and buy out the remaining GAIS lease, which only has one year left to run, with no extension. GAIS gets $6million in income per year and pays the district $300K annual rent. Time they moved on. The other campuses are overcrowded per Ranella's report at the April board meeting, and the current and projected campus buildout/traffic congestion are related to this lack of a desperately needed 5th campus. The Willows needs it's neighborhood school (O'Connor) back. It was part of the state education board approval allowing the Willows to transfer from Ravenswood District into MPCSD back in the 1980's. As for Hillview new campus, most of the attendance growth in middle school (1000 kids total) will come from East of El Camino, and the former board's choice to have Hillview as the only middle school exacerbates that traffic pressure on Santa Cruz and Valparaiso.
That's why the city council endorsed city staff's position of insisting the district pay for at least 2 traffic signals on Santa Cruz. This is required by State CEQA law as a traffic mitigation. It was the former board's shortsighted district Master Plan that forced the city's hand to comply with State Law. It's about community impact that State Law demands school districts mitigate.

Posted by Martian
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 5, 2009 at 10:12 pm

We now live on Mars, I'm convinced. Comments like: "schools have a major, and rather negative impact on the city" and "In terms of revenue, the city would be better off if it could replace Hillview with a target". I wish some of our residents would look past their own lives, and truly understand what makes up a solid community. Either that, or I wish these type folks would move to a place that they would not have an impact on our schools. I'm sorry "MP Parent" you are extremely self serving and short cited. I just fell off my chair.

Posted by MP Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks
on May 5, 2009 at 11:29 pm

That's short-sighted, Martian, not short-cited. Guess your schools aren't very good on Mars? Reading comprehension doesn't seem to be emphasized in the Martian curriculum either. Pity.

As a parent, I value the good schools in our district. But the quality of the schools has little if anything to do with the city's financial health. We don't have to look beyond Redwood City -- weak schools, much healthier city finances -- to see that. Maybe we should be grateful that Menlo Park and Atherton have generously supported school zoning when they could easily have zoned that land for something more profitable.

My asking the city and the schools to keep the bigger picture in mind is hardly self-serving. The opposite, in fact. But maybe everything is backwards on Mars?

Posted by Yes You Are Backwards
a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on May 6, 2009 at 11:40 am

Sorry MP Parent, I think you are arguing that the government should be the focus, not the schools. Redwood City does NOT have healthier city finances, we DO have a rainy day fund. You neglect to mention anything about corporate taxes, sales taxes etc. THIS is the reason Redwood City's government is still working. So, your statement was 100% incorrect, and you failed to do the necessary research of the analytics. Surprise. In addition, no one should ever look at zoned land as more profitable, or less profitable when discussing schools. If you honestly believe a grocery store, dry cleaner, video store......anything, besides a Blue Ribbon School would be more advantagious to the city coffers, you are sadly mistaken. Our homes cost more, are worth more, therefore we pay more taxes, which are in turn used by the city. There is a direct coorelation to the quality of schools, to home prices, period. I don't care what community you research, or in what area of the country. P.S. Thank you for taking the time to correct my spelling, I'll help you with your analytical thinking.

Posted by Mala Educacion
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on May 6, 2009 at 12:05 pm

MP Parent: Whether Menlo Park supports "school zoning" or not, it doesn't matter, because there's no such thing.

Local zoning has no impact on school campuses -- they are in the state department of education's jurisdiction and no one else's. If the school district owns the land, they only have to answer to Sacramento.

Menlo Park didn't decide to "zone" the Hillview campus as a school, instead of an office complex or a housing development, or a shopping mall. Once the school district bought it, it's out of the city's hands, unless the district decides to divest itself of the land.

Posted by Happy GAIS Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 6, 2009 at 8:36 pm

In ten days, the German American International School (GAIS) will be celebrating its 20th Anniversary at the former O'Connor School. All of you are cordially invited to the festivities. Should you attend you will be reminded that it is a non-profit, and hopefully you will participate in the fund-raiser auction, at the conclusion of dinner to help us keep tuition affordable, and offer a wide variety of our community the opportunity to participate in our diverse curriculum.

For those who have been unable over the past 20 years to accept GAIS, or the Menlo Park School District's plan to expand Hillview and Oak Knoll, we have only to say "That ship has sailed". I live in the Willows and can certify that the vast majority of home owners here, support GAIS and feel that it is a great neighbor. They also support the school districts Master Plan which has been approved and is now being implemented.

In previous posts here at the Townsquare Forum, adversaries of the GAIS have been outed as the "Hillview Mafia" or disgruntled retirees living next to Hillview and hating the school. You have my sympathies.

Posted by Guten Tag!, Buenos Dias, Auf Wiedersehen!
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 6, 2009 at 9:35 pm

Sorry, GAIS parent, 20 years as a tenant does not give you ownership. Time to move on as our other campuses are overcrowded. We want O'Connor as a Magnet school/Spanish immersion, just like Sup. Ranella said last year.

Posted by Via con Dios, Liebchen
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 6, 2009 at 9:53 pm

We second that!

Posted by Happy GAIS Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 6, 2009 at 11:25 pm

Look forward to seeing you at the 25th anniversary celebration on campus. : )

Posted by adios
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 7, 2009 at 8:32 am

yes, at your new location in Mt.View. Meanwhile, start planning your 21st anniversary "Closing House"

Posted by Reality Bites
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on May 7, 2009 at 11:25 am

I hate to get in the way of all of this super-fun sniping, but the reality is that the school district can't afford to lose the lease income for O'Connor as well as pay all of the additional costs of opening a new campus -- renovating classrooms, hiring an administration and staff, etc.

You know in the private sector, how people are always droning on about the cost benefits of consolidation and economies of scale? That holds true for school districts as well.

Posted by negative impacts
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on May 7, 2009 at 12:59 pm

sorry, RB, OConnor lease buy out/refurbishing was in the bond measure funding, and Ranella suggested magnet/spanish immersion at OConnor. The state has already committed half of the refurbishing costs.
Centralization on fewer school campuses makes driving a must (too far to walk/cycle) and causes excessive concentratiton of school traffic on neighboring streets. It's why State Law demands school districts pay for mitigating these additional traffic impacts. It is the city's responsibility to enforce the State Law.
The district will pay for at least 2 signals on santa cruz for the centralization of one middle school at Hillview.

Posted by Happy GAIS Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 7, 2009 at 6:01 pm

No worries, Reality Bites. Those GAIS-bashers pop up every year around the April Time Frame. Check out the TownSquare Forum from last April titled: "GAIS is at it again". I particularly enjoy the Epilogue posting.

Its been turning out the same way year after year for 18 years at the O'Connor location. At the Lease renewal meeting, every five years about two people show up opposing the lease renewal and here is what is pertinent to this thread. The people are not from the Willows neighborhood as the posters above would have you believe, but from Hillview. Now that construction and renovation for Hillview is underway you would think they get the message, the ship has sailed.

They publish the same disinformation every year in this forum, and every year whether the issue is GAIS lease renewal or campus improvement, they skulk off with their tails between the legs. I know because I have been at every meeting over the last 5 years.

Here's a nice sample blast from the past referring to the Hillview Mafia that was posted in this Forum last April 08:


On April 5, 2008 the City Council met and approved GAIS plans to upgrade and improve the campus with three portable classrooms (one will be used as a library) and approved the use permit through 2011.

You can view the meeting at this web site: Web Link

What was interesting was that ALL of the neighbors and Willow residents that appeared at the hearing were full of praise for GAIS and how it handled any neighborhood disputes. The only complaints were regarding Little League activity and the renovation of the league baseball field which was directed by and under the control of the Menlo Park School District, which the city council has no authority over.

Not suprisingly, the only people protesting the GAIS use permit were two people from Hillview Drive complaining about the noise and traffic that the Hillview Middle School expansion was causing. One of these individuals was Dave Montague, cited in the postings above, as a member of the Hillview Mafia. These two individuals blamed the school districts rental of the extremely small campus to GAIS as the reason why Hillview Middle School is undergoing a dramatic expansion. They are opposed to all that construction that is going to occur in their backyard and all the traffic and noise they will have to endure.

This unfortunate couple found themselves addressing the Menlo Park City Council about things that were exclusively under the School District's purview, and they were told as much. If you have a beef with the school district, take it to the school district, not the city council. GAIS has been approved to use the campus and to improve the campus through 2011.

Victory, victory, let the bulldozers roar at Hillview Middle School."

End Quote.

Now that Hillview is a done deal, these barkers are directing their energy towards Oak Knoll, with predictable results, they will lose because their arguments have no merit.

Posted by free oconnor school
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 9, 2009 at 9:17 am

explosive enrollment growth at laurel, encinal, oak knoll demands recapturing OConnor before 2011 end of GAIS lease.
Go to the school board meeting Tues. May 12th and protest that class sizes are too large and we need the Oconnor campus.
Web Link

Posted by 24 kids per kindergarten class?
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on May 9, 2009 at 9:25 am

Web Link

Posted by Happy GAIS Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 23, 2011 at 12:14 am


GAIS is busy planning its 25th Anniversary at it's current address. The lease has been extended, and the school district is now completing its expansion at Hillview and Oak Knoll. Not a peep has been heard from the Hillview Mafia, and it could be due to some of them moving to Mountain View.

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