The Los Altos School District is looking to partner with the city of Mountain View to build a new school in the San Antonio area and provide green, open space to go with it, but that's a part of the city where parks and grassy fields are pretty hard to come by.
In a letter addressed to Mayor John McAlister, the Los Altos school board requested a formal statement by the City Council on whether they would be willing to contribute park funds to purchase open space in the San Antonio area adjacent to a potential school site -- and if so, how much money the council would be willing to set aside for it.
There are more than 600 students in the Los Altos School District who reside in Mountain View and have to cross El Camino Real, mostly by car, to get to schools like Covington and Almond Elementary. Board president Steve Taglio said that the enrollment breakdown indicates the school district needs a campus in Mountain View.
With no real options to use public land, the school district is looking at purchasing privately owned land from property owners in the area, specifically the property at 201 San Antonio Circle. The property, which is less than 4 acres, wouldn't be enough to accommodate a large, open space, but buying additional land may be too expensive for the district.
Taglio said it would be helpful to know if the city would be willing, should the district close a deal, to purchase an adjacent property to devote to a field or some kind of open space area.
"If we're going to move together we probably need to find something that we can afford and makes sense," Taglio said.
The property at San Antonio Circle being considered by the school district is next to the old Safeway on California Street, which has no current proposals for new development, according to Randy Tsuda, community development director for the city.
Mountain View City Manger Dan Rich said it's up to the council members to decide if they would be willing to use money from the Park Dedication Fund for open space associated with the school. He said the city could appropriate funds for a park once the school district purchases a site, provided council supports the idea.
Council member Lenny Siegel, who has been a proponent of more park space in the San Antonio area, said he supports setting aside money from park fees for open space in the area, and that he wants the city to be ready to find space for a park if the school district successfully purchases a new school site in Mountain View.
"Given the rate of development and the lack of appropriated funds for this, I feel we should address it sooner rather than later," Siegel said.
Not only do residents in the area deserve more parks, Siegel said, but the nearly 700 students in the area deserve a neighborhood school, and for them to cross over El Camino Real increases traffic and isn't safe for the students.
"It's a safety issue as well as a neighborhood issue, and that area is short on parks," he said.
Most families in the area have to drive to school, and students in the Crossings neighborhood have to travel more than 3 miles to get to Covington Elementary, according to Nancy Morimoto, a board member of the Greater San Antonio Community Association.
Morimoto said she and the association fought for more open space in the area during the council discussion over the San Antonio Precise Plan last year, and that she is "reasonably happy" with what they got. But there's still not much park space to speak of, and other than nearby "pocket parks" at Del Medio which are constantly packed, the only other option is to go to far-away school campuses like Monta Loma or Santa Rita Elementary.
The idea of having a neighborhood school and a nearby park for the neighborhood is finally in the realm of possibility now, Morimoto said, and she is "very hopeful" that both the city and the Los Altos district can work together.
"It's been a dream of mine for a long time and I can't believe it's almost within reach," she said.