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Bilingual school’s plans drawing attention

Plans to expand the San Diego French American School on Mount Soledad are proving more troublesome than administrators expected.

Representatives of the bilingual school - located on a 9-acre campus at 6550 Soledad Mountain Road along with La Jolla Preschool Academy and Montessori School of La Jolla - have been out in the community talking about adding three portable classrooms.

They also want to increase enrollment to a maximum of 640 students for the three schools, more than doubling the 320 that the existing permit allows on the property.

Marcela Escobar-Eck of Atlantis Group, who represented the school at recent meetings of the La Jolla Traffic and Transportation Board and La Jolla Community Planning Association, revealed that the French American school already is exceeding the site’s enrollment cap.

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513 and counting

She said that San Diego Unified School District officials did not disclose that fact when the bilingual school leased the Mount Soledad property, which once housed the district’s Decatur Elementary School.

“There are currently 513 students combined between the three schools onsite now, said Escobar-Eck.

Community planners weren’t happy with the plan.

“We don’t look at it as going from 513 to 640 just because the (conditional use permit) hasn’t been enforced,” said Todd Lesser, chair of the La Jolla Traffic and Transportation Board. “It’s really going from 320 to 640, which is doubling it.”

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Noting that they are violating the permit, he said, “They should be cited by code enforcement.”

Details wanted

Lesser said the school also needs to be more forthcoming about the impacts of planned expansion.

“We need to see their traffic study, something they have not provided to us,” he said, noting traffic studies also tend to be self-serving.

“I never saw a traffic study done by an applicant that ever had an impact,” he said. “The city’s Development Services Department survives off fees they charge for projects like this.”

Escobar-Eck said the study would require them to mitigate the effects of their growth.

Before the planning association meeting, chairman Joe LaCava said traffic generated by increased enrollment is of major concern to the surrounding community.

Traffic concerns

“Whenever you’re talking about a project of a large scale that will increase traffic in the community people stand up and take notice,” he said. “Especially on this site with a school operating in excess of its CUP, it makes you wonder how enforceable those (student enrollment) caps are. It’s really an issue for the community.”

LaCava said the community should carefully reconsider the site, which is near two other schools, All Hallows and Evans School.

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San Diego French American School will return to La Jolla Traffic and Transportation Board with its traffic study at 4 p.m. on June 25 at the La Jolla Recreation Center.