Neighbors of school sue over parties on campus 

Citing traffic concerns and noisy parties at the scenic Mercy High School campus, neighbors have filed a lawsuitagainst the city, which allows the site to host up to 125 events a year.

Mercy High School sits on a 30-acre parcel, where the popular Kohl Mansion, which is maintained by the private school, attracts weddings and social gatherings. However, residents along Adeline Drive have long complained that events last until 11 p.m. and that traffic creates safety concerns.

Last month, the City Council approved a permit allowing 125 events a year and added stipulations such as prohibiting outdoor amplified music and installing sound monitoring devices. The council also requested the matter go back to them next year for review.

But neighbors say 125 annual events are too many, and some events are packed with 350 people. The neighborhood’s narrow streets make it difficult to drive out of their driveways, they say. The group’s attorney, Matt Zinn, said the residents are not interested in monetary compensation and merely want a compromise.

"The neighbors have nothing against the school," he said. "This is about finding a solution to deal with the impacts that the neighbors have had to live with."

City Attorney Larry Anderson said it might be several months before the city drafts a response or reaches a resolution. He added no further comment.

The neighborhood was unincorporated until 1979, when the city annexed the area. Mercy had a permit from the county to hold events but didn’t seek a new permit from Burlingame until last year.

"They were not holding 100 parties a year in 1979 with 400 people, amplified music and alcohol," Zinn said. "The traffic has gotten worse, and the noise has gotten worse."

The Mercy campus is zoned as residential, which allows school and convent activities but not private weddings or parties, according to the lawsuit. Zinn said typical private and religious schools solicit past graduates for money instead of renting out facilities to private parties.

"What they are doing is running for-profit events," he said. "This is an institution that has a lot of alumna, and I don’t see why, like other educational institutions, they can’t look to them for funds."

Jean Hastie, Mercy’s campus executive director, said the school is implementing mitigation measures.

"We’ve hired a sound consultant who has put in sound measuring devices that are on campus 24 hours a day," she said. "We are measuring the sound of events in order to establish a benchmark."

Resident Linda Abbey, who is not part of the lawsuit, said she hopes it will eventually lead to less traffic and noise.

"Right now it’s a little quiet because of spring break," she said. "But I presume things will start up soon in full swing, especially with summer weddings."

bfoley@examiner.com

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