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Residents raising questions on Children’s School expansion

Plans to expand The Children’s School near the busy Throat intersection aren’t sitting well with some neighbors.

Originally built in 1954, the school wants to add classroom space for sixth through 8th grades without increasing its current enrollment of about 250. School representatives say the expansion will upgrade parking areas with asphalt and improve efficiency of drop-off/pick-up areas and the new classroom building will feature photovoltaic solar panels.

The nonprofit private school, which previously was a public school, leases the approximately six-acre site in La Jolla Shores Hidden Valley area from the San Diego Unified School District.

One neighbor who is not happy with Children’s School’s expansion plans as presently construed is Dan Courtney, a La Jolla community planner who owns three properties abutting the school property on Calle Juela. The street, an alley-like unmaintained city road that dead ends at the school, is used regularly by staff to access the school’s parking lot.

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Parking problem?

“The street’s taken a beating from all the traffic,” said Courtney, who is still worried despite negotiations that have been designed to allay the concerns. “We have 25 petitions in opposition from Roseland (Drive) and Hidden Valley in opposition to the parking lot back there off Calle Juela.”

Courtney said the school has been operating without a site development permit, which “allows neighbors to have their concerns addressed and to get some assurances against additional expansion and so forth.”

Benita Glow, a retired psychologist who lives on Calle Juela, said she doesn’t believe school officials have reached out enough to neighbors to keep them informed about expansion plans.

“They need to talk to us,” Glow said, say, ‘This is what we’re planning to do, what do you think about it?’ ”

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In the process

Children’s School spokesman Jim Kelly disputes the notion the school hasn’t done proper outreach or has tried to circumvent the rules.

“This is specifically identified in the La Jolla PDO (Planned District Ordinance) as a school site, and as such it doesn’t require site development and coastal development permits,” said Kelly.

“We’ve been through four local planning groups the past few months, and all of them have overwhelmingly approved this project, so the argument that we’re trying to ramrod or fast-track this is without merit.”

Kelly said Calle Juela has always been used for deliveries and staff parking. When asked why the street has not been properly maintained, Kelly said the city’s position is that the street has not been developed to proper standards, but if it were, the city would “maintain it going forward.”

Kelly said, “The school has agreed to fix all the potholes on Calle Juela and coat the whole thing at the school’s cost, as well as agreeing to paying a proportionate share of ongoing maintenance costs.”

Hearing ahead

Jim Heaton, chair of the La Jolla Shores Association who has a son at Children’s School, noted his group voted 6-0-5 to support the school’s expansion. He was one of five who abstained because of his ties to the school.

“I believe they have done an outstanding job working with their neighbors,” he said.

City planner Dan Stricker said a Nov. 12 hearing with a city hearing officer will be delayed.

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In the meantime, residents have until Nov. 20 to comment on a draft mitigated negative declaration, a city document stating that the “project will not have a significant effect on the environment.” Comments can be e-mailed to environmental planner Anne Jarque < ahref="mailto:atajarque@sandiego.gov">atajarque@sandiego.gov

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Should the hearing officer approve the plan, it could be appealed to the city Planning Commission.