Neighbors to wrestle with issue of school expansion

Proponents and critics of a proposed additional three-story school building north of the Panhandle are engaged in urban conflict over precious space.

Roughly two dozen neighbors living near the San Francisco Day School are trying to halt a Golden Gate Avenue private school’s plans to demolish a home and build classrooms and science labs in its place, said Marta Fry of the North of Panhandle Neighborhood Association.

Members of the newly-formed Neighbors United to Stop Day School Expansion, say the three-story addition would ruin their views, increase traffic, make the neighborhood less livable and create more noise.

“We would be very detrimentally impacted by the school,” said group member Larry DeSpain, of the neighbors united group. “We’ve got more than 100 people signing the petition” against the school’s plan.

The three-story 13,000-square- foot addition also includes an underground garage, a rooftop garden and calls for remodeling the existing building. Over several years, the school’s enrollment would likely increase from 400 to 430 students, city planner Mary Woods said.

The private school, which educates children from kindergarten through eighth grade, hopes to build three floors in order to construct badly needed science labs and classrooms, said Diana Nelson, a parent and school board member.

The sustainable building would use solar panels to power its classrooms, contribute to the institution’s academic excellence and help keep families in San Francisco by providing educational opportunities for their children, Nelson said.

“It’s a really good project,” Nelson said. “It’s improved with neighbor dialogue.”

Since early last year, neighbors have discussed the plans with the school during several meetings, but with little result, Fry said.

While neighbors asked for a two-story building instead of three, the changes the school offered were only cosmetic in nature, Fry said.

Architect Bill Leddy said a number of concessions were made, including the type of structure the school proposes to construct.

While the new building’s glass façade will be transparent, the back won’t be since neighbors

didn’t want to be able to see inside the new structure, Leddy said.

Still, DeSpain argued that the school offers little to the neighborhood and is not in an appropriate spot.

To get that message to the Planning Commission, which is reviewing the school’s application Thursday, neighbors are holding a rally Wednesday night, DeSpain said.

“We’re going to show up en masse Thursday,” DeSpain said. “Maybe the Planning Commission will take heed.”

mcarroll@examiner.com

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