Some residents fear park could be threatened by proposed high school 

The possible construction of a new high school on the east side of San Carlos has met opposition from some residents who say they're worried the school might encroach on a neighborhood park and worsen the already-congested traffic on nearby streets.

The Sequoia Union High School District is considering building the proposed school at 533 Old County Road, adjacent to Laureola Park. According to neighborhood resident Matt Davidson, when the purchase of the lot was under discussion at a recent school board meeting, officials said they liked the fact that the property was next to a park that the new school's students could have the opportunity to use.

But Davidson said the prospect of having a high school situated by the neighborhood park has alarmed some community members, who have established a Save Laureola Park website and launched an online petition to put the brakes on the proposed project. Many parents in the area currently bring their toddlers and children to the park, Davidson said, and they believe it could create safety issues to have high school athletes using the same facility.

Among other concerns is that parking problems would also be exacerbated if a school was located at that site, Davidson said. He noted that street parking is hard to find in the area, and he believes that the existing property is too small for adequate parking to be built on-site.

Davidson added that the intersection of Old County Road and Holly Street is just a block north of the school, and already has too much traffic congestion, as Holly Street is a major commute corridor for motorists traveling to and from U.S. Highway 101.

Some members of the community have argued that they received very little advance notice of the school district's plans, and charged that the district is moving forward without taking into account residents' wishes.

"To have something forced upon the community without any due process doesn't seem right," Davidson said.

San Carlos City Councilman Mark Olbert said he's placing the matter on the City Council's agenda, but he noted that the expected closing date for the school's purchase of the property is early this month, prior to the next council meeting.

Olbert said he has some concerns about the project, but has not yet officially taken a position on whether it should move forward. The councilman said he fears the traffic impacts that might result from opening a school at the site would be "horrendous," and he has encouraged the school district to work with the city to find an alternate location.

"I have told the school district's superintendent that's not a particularly good place for a high school," Olbert noted.

While some community members say they're worried the school district might try to use eminent domain laws to acquire the park space, Olbert said those fears might be a little overblown.

"The district can not simply take the park," Olbert explained. "A park is considered a very high-level public use."

Responding to concerns that the school might unofficially take over the park by allowing its student-athletes to overrun the facility while school is in session, Olbert said city laws would not allow such a situation to arise.

"We have quite a few regulatory and enforcement tools to make sure that doesn't happen," Olbert noted.

Officials at the Sequoia Union High School District could not be reached for comment because the district has been closed for the holiday break.

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