It’s hard to believe: Play Outside Del Mar started only a week ago! In that time, we’ve had an overwhelming community response to saving the fields. We depleted our supply of yard signs not once but twice, and even exhausted our vendor’s supply of the metal H stakes that hold the signs.
We’ve been deep throughout the community and had many conversations. It’s clear our community stands behind us; and it’s equally clear many still do not know what is happening. Some say: “I had no idea!! That’s crazy. I thought they were just rebuilding the school.”
Others are with us, but feel the community lacks power to make a difference. The November 20 DMUSD board meeting showed us otherwise. We remain a long way from where we want to be, but unrelenting community feedback to our elected officials, over time, will make the difference. We won’t stop!!
November 20 Board Meeting Update
A throng of us attended the meeting and many spoke. Under the board’s procedure, we had to listen to the district planner and architect for more than an hour, yet we were unable to ask even a single question. Each of us only got 3 minutes to respond but THANK YOU to everyone who did!! Here are some takeaways. If you’ve only got a minute, scroll down and skim the bold headlines.
- Fields are slightly bigger. They said they’ve enlarged the fields (+9%) and blacktop (+26%) in response to community feedback. We made a little progress. We’re still at a whopping 55% reduction if what they say is true.
- The district went underground on the numbers. In response to our public website challenge to their field math (they said 79,221, we measured 57,500 time and again), the district planners and the architect stripped all square footage numbers from their latest presentations at the meeting. This was an interesting contrast from their presentation on Pacific Highlands Ranch school a few minutes earlier where the field size square footage was stated point-blank in square feet. Asking the obvious about the Heights, one board member said: “How big will the field be now?” The answer was that they didn’t recall the number but it would be “9% larger.” We’ll have to get to the bottom of this.
- The district will ignore the California Department of Education field-size minimum rules. The district’s architect dismissed the state minimum field size rules (142,560 square feet), saying they were “out of date” and inconsistent with their objectives. Yet the rules were last reviewed by the State on June 14, 2019 – seems a little risky to ignore the law. More fundamentally, are they really saying that kids need less exercise and unrestrained free play now than ever before? To the contrary, modern psychosocial research shows the i-generation needs to get outside even more to reduce the anxiety and depression that has become prevalent from overuse of electronic devices.
- More parking = more traffic = less safety. The district insists upon more parking (still nearly double what is at the school now), implying, without a traffic study, that it will be more safe and reduce street traffic as a bonus. But modern studies show excess parking means more people will drive to school, increasing traffic. More parents parking on campus means more cars pulling out of car spaces, more children in the parking lot and crossing the car queue, lessening student safety. To us, more parking is a 20th Century solution to a 21st Century problem. Shouldn’t we be encouraging kids to walk to school or ride their bikes to school even if some families are parking just a few blocks away and walking from there? The District itself seems to recognize this in their own policies: “The Governing Board recognizes that walking, bicycling, and other forms of active transport to school promote students’ physical activity and reduce vehicle traffic and air pollution in the vicinity of schools. As part of the district’s coordinated approach to supporting student wellness and safety and enhancing student learning, the Superintendent or designee shall develop and implement strategies to establish and promote safe routes to school program activities.” Board Policy 5142.2: Safe Routes to School Program, last revised June 26, 2019.
- Wide criticism of the exterior public park or “tot lot”. Most everyone (including several board members) is trying to figure out why this is still proposed. The architect says they can’t figure out what else to do with the 17,000+ square feet on the front of the site, but from our point of view, it’s been used just fine for the last 50 years. Don’t give us that and take away our fields. Figure it out.
- Board wants an ultra fast rebuild. Several board members expressed concerns about any modifications causing delay. The architect said the rebuild was already on ultra fast track and that there was little room to make changes. The district also said costs would go up by as much as 10%, a number we are checking now. To us, it makes little sense to build the WRONG school on fast track, when the community has to live with it for 50 years or more. Are we going to give up the fields because the district wants to finish this school in 1/3 the time of most other school rebuilds? Likewise, if delay is necessary to get this right, then the district can recapture the 10% by expediting other projects in their queue, like maintenance that has been promised on many other school sites. The district also ignored the interest they are presumably earning on the money. This concern sounded like a sales job.
- Architect suggests site is too small to meet everyone’s needs. The architect implied that the reason for field shrinkage was the site acreage (10.9 acres) was just too small to meet everyone’s needs, suggesting really about 12 or 13 acres is the minimum site acreage needed for 500 students. Three responses to that: 1. The last 50 years has worked for us. 2. The Department of Education says the acreage is spot on – for buildings, fields (142,560 square feet), parking, and everything else. 3. The district recently purchased 10.7 acres to build the new Pacific Highlands Ranch school for 470 students!
- Safety, safety, safety! Everyone (including all of us) agreed a safe school is paramount.
We are fighting for a safe school, a creative rebuild, and the intact fields. If you have questions or need more information, let us know. We’ll be posting the district and architect presentations when we get them, and we’ll provide you with more updates and analysis then. We’ll also post video of the meeting, for those of you who want to eat the whole enchilada.
Play Outside Del Mar!