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Mountain View on the Move

Officials grapple with rising number of MV students attending LASD


Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
A youth crosses the busy intersection at San Antonio Road and El Camino Real, an area that has experienced a surge in growth.

Following is the second in the Town Crier’s two-part series on the consequences of growth in the San Antonio Change Area. Part 1 appeared in the Aug. 21 issue of the Town Crier.

It’s no secret that Mountain View is growing, with hundreds of new housing units under construction or planned for the San Antonio Change Area.

Increased auto traffic is just one result of the growth. The impact of additional students on the Los Altos School District, with boundaries that include portions of the San Antonio Road and El Camino Real areas, is another.

As with traffic, there is no easy solution to accommodating that growth. School district officials report that the student population north of El Camino more than doubled over the past 15 years. Superintendent Jeff Baier’s numbers show an increase from 216 students in the 1995-1996 school year to 574 in 2011-2012.

“That’s about the size of one of our schools,” Baier said.

An additional 330 housing units are completed or under construction at The Village at San Antonio Center, and 170 units are under construction at the former Los Altos Garden Supply site (on the Los Altos side of El Camino).

Collaborating on solutions

City officials reviewed progress on the San Antonio Precise Plan at last week’s Mountain View City Council meeting.

One speaker wondered whether considering the impact on schools is an issue, given that new housing at The Village has accounted for only four new students thus far.

“Until very recently, there have been no apartments built in the area, so the student population growth has been independent of development,” said Mountain View City Manager Dan Rich. “In general, higher-density apartments do not yield that many students.”

Santa Rita and Almond schools are already at capacity. Acquiring a school site in Mountain View is the most obvious option supported by the district and the city of Los Altos. It is also the most difficult to make a reality.

“There are very few parcels of the size desired for a school, and the value of land is quite high,” Rich said. “The city does not control the properties. We can’t force a site to be used as a school or sold to the school district, nor can we ‘downzone’ a property.”

So far, there’s been talk among the two cities and the school district about collaborating on a solution – but little action.

“Not a lot of engagement as of yet,” said Los Altos School District Trustee Mark Goines. “We have included them in the discussion on new facilities and the growth we are experiencing, and we are getting involved in the San Antonio Precise Plan meetings.”

At last week’s council meeting, Councilwoman Margaret Abe-Koga said she wasn’t sure what kind of help the city could offer the school district.

“It’s really up to the school district (to put a school in Mountain View),” Abe-Koga said. “They have the power of eminent domain (public takeover of private property to build a school site), we don’t.”

Goines said individual Mountain View councilmembers “have expressed interest in being helpful. They are, however, more focused on development than education. … Sadly, they are financially incentivized to build homes and businesses that generate taxes, less interested in having property converted to non-tax-generating schools. Separately, residents have been lobbying for more park space, and a school could serve both educational and playtime interests. But the dialogue continues.”

Goines said he has spoken with three other Mountain View councilmembers and communicated with the city’s Youth Advisory Committee. He also pointed to the district’s Enrollment Task Force and input from residents about “accommodations for a school/park in the San Antonio/California neighborhood.”

The San Antonio Precise Plan will include specific direction for improving mobility and mitigating growth in the area. The target date for completing the plan is December 2014.

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