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Construction near SF school highlights need for dialogue between Planning Department, SFUSD

A rise in student enrollment is not the only reason the Planning Department and San Francisco Unified School District should communicate about new residential development, Board of Education President Sandra Fewer said.

The SFUSD and the Planning Department have recently announced they intend to meet quarterly to discuss how future development projects will affect enrollment at public schools, but the district should also be made aware when any construction is planned that could disrupt school activities, Fewer noted.

“My goal is that planning, before they approve a project, even a large project that might not be near a school, [has] to meet with us first,” she said.

Fewer cited a three-unit condominium building planned for 115 Telegraph Hill Blvd., near Garfield Elementary School, as a recent example of poor communication between the SFUSD and the Planning Department.

The proposed plan had apparently been sent to district offices that are no longer in use, but school officials only learned of the project this month, Fewer said. School officials say a staging area for cement trucks at Filbert and Kearny streets could impact food delivery and buses for Garfield Elementary.

“If we didn't hear about it from a concerned neighbor, then we would not have known that they were going to do the cement pour from the top of our schoolyard,” Fewer said.

After neighbors informed Fewer and other school officials about the project, community members gathered at the Board of Supervisors meeting Nov. 18 to request an environmental review. The project has already been approved by the Planning Department.

Fewer emphasized that the school district was not concerned with the actual project, but rather the impacts construction could have on the school community.

“Our concern with this is the inconvenience for our parents, students and teachers and the impact that it could have had delivering education to those children,” she said.

The Board of Supervisors on Nov. 18 instructed developers of the condominium building to work with school officials, which developers say they intend to do.

“We have been in communication with the facilities director at the school district and have agreed to work with them regarding our construction plans before we start construction,” said Daniel Frattin, an attorney for the project sponsor.

But Fewer said such issues could be mitigated with more communication between the Planning Department and the SFUSD.

“It's smart planning,” Fewer said. “It is planning for the infrastructure to support the new residents of San Francisco.”

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