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City Manager Asks District To Halt Franklin School Plan

Friday August 01, 2003

Is the Berkeley School District trying to pull a fast one on City Hall? 

City Manager Weldon Rucker thinks so, and he’s fired a warning shot across the district’s bow in a letter to the Berkeley Unified School District’s Office of Facilities Planning. 

Rucker’s July 29 letter asks the school district to hold off on their plan to move the Berkeley Adult Unified Adult School from its present location at 1222 University Ave. to the now-empty Franklin Elementary School at 1150 Virginia Ave.  

The reason? Rucker says the move is part of a broader plan that includes relocating school district’s headquarters from the old city hall building to the University Avenue site, construction of a new transportation facility at a district-owned site at 1325 Sixth St., and moves of other district functions. He cites two school district studies that seem to say just that. 

Since the Adult School move is just one part of a broader plan, Rucker said the district should abandon their Proposed Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) on the Adult School move and submit their overall plan in its entirety, rather than piecemeal. 

The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) “requires that an agency that proposed to undertake a project disclose and analyze the full impact of the project,” Rucker wrote to Gary Moriarty, senior project manager for 3D/International, the consulting firm retained by the school district’s Office of Facilities Planning to prepare the declaration. 

“I urge the District to withdraw the proposed MND and circulate a revised environmental documents that discloses and analyzes the full scope of the project,” Rucker concluded. 

BUSD Facilities Planning Manager Lew Jones disagreed. “The evidence is clear” that the adult school move to Franklin School is a stand-alone project, he said. “We don’t have definitions yet of each of the other projects, and each of them has to be studied.” 

Jones said the city manager’s comments will be considered along with the statements of neighbors and others who have commented on the proposal.  

The school board has two sepate actions to consider. First is to rule on the MND, and then, if the document is accepted, to move forward on the adult school relocation. 

If the city decides to challenge the board, they would have to do so in the courts, Jones said. 

The fates of the Franklin School and University Avenue sites have stirred considerable controversy among neighbors, who have been circulating petitions urging the district to hold off until the district can draft a detailed environmental impact statement on the net effect of the district’s proposed moves. 

The BUSD’s March 2003 Facilities Construction Plan outlines a series of projects, including those outlined in Rucker’s letter. 

Because the city and district are separate, autonomous agencies, there is some question as to just how much the city can do to delay the adult school move. 

Rucker wants a detailed environmental impact statement that pulls together the implications of the whole series of moves suggested in the school district’s construction plan.