Residents concerned over Blach traffic

The Los Altos School District Board of Trustees faced a roomful of Blach Junior High-area residents last week concerned about the possibility of increased traffic resulting from Blach renovations and a "camp school" on the campus.

More than 50 residents pressed into the small board room at the Covington School site. Several children carried neat, carefully-printed placards: "Traffic Unsafe for Our Families" and "No Cut-thru Traffic! Unsafe for Us!"

The district's camp school at Blach is part of its $94.7 million facilities renovation plan, which would have students at elementary schools under construction taking one-year turns at the temporary facilities. A series of portable classrooms would be erected on a portion of the Blach campus. Another camp school already exists at Egan Intermediate School.

Christine McFerson, a planner with Pacific Municipal Consultants in Sacramento, reported on the process used in preparing the state Environmental Impact Report under discussion. Although McFerson explained that the report addressed only changes to the existing environment that the construction at Blach might acerbate, most of the comments started with examples of the current problems and conviction that any escalation would compound the danger.

Genevieve Young, who lives across from Blach, opened the discussion. "Based on the EIR, the parking lots would be inadequate," she said. "Covington Road will be a hazard for children and an inconvenience for the residents."

"I counted 111 cars this morning in addition to the regular Covington traffic ... a risk to walkers and bikers," said Robert Lerch based on his own corner-count that morning.

"Mitigation measures have already been tried and failed (at Loyola School)," said Chris Chavez, expressing frustration. "The problem has gotten progressively worse."

Gene Coussens raised a different issue, "On the west boundary of Blach, the nearest building is now 60 feet away, The (proposed) new building is only 25 feet away. It will be ... used from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., holding 100 students at a time with bells, noise, ... would negatively, impact property values."

Muir Way residents showed up in force to emphasize their anxiety about a mention in the EIR about use of the small cul-de-sac as a drop-off point.

"Now it's a raceway every morning," said Dr. H.M. Upton, a Muir Way resident since 1956. "Don't turn Muir Way into a turn-around," Upton warned. "It will be the biggest disaster the board ever had."

The final speaker, Emily Williams, added the problem of access for emergency vehicles, She pointed out that fire trucks couldn't get through during drop-off and pick-up times.

Jay Shen, a new Muir Way resident, asked, "What is the process? How much weight does our coming have?"

"The board must approve the final report," McFerson said. "They must show a good-faith effort to study the impact. By law, the board must adopt practical, feasible mitigation measures."

Consideration of the final EIR is scheduled for the March 19 meeting, which will allow public discussion.

However, "Blach is on the critical path. (We) can't extend beyond next meeting," Board clerk Duane Thomas emphasized. "The entire program depends on Blach; construction needs to start."

Dave McNulty, director of facilities construction, said the draft EIR is available at and the district office.

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