District OKs school land deal

The Belmont-Redwood Shores school district has agreed to purchase a seven-acre site to build a new school, but construction will have to wait until city and federal agencies decide whether to allow the building of 110 townhomes and wetlands restoration on adjacent land.

The district agreed to pay developer Max Keech, who owns the 114-acre Redwood Shores parcel, $8.5 million for the site. In exchange, Keech will lay the groundwork for the school and shore up nearby levees — but only if the City Council and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers approves his proposal to build townhomes, a 3.5-acre park and 70 to 80 acres of restored wetlands habitat, according to Keech.

“The project doesn’t make any economic sense without the townhomes,” Keech said.

Redwood Shores elementary school children attend the Sandpiper School, which currently houses 100 more students than its capacity of 450, according to Belmont-Redwood Shores Superintendent Emerita Orta-Camilleri. In addition, kindergarten students attend Nesbit School in Belmont.

A demographer told the district in 2006 that Redwood Shores would soon see as many as 800 elementary school-age children, Orta-Camilleri said. Redwood Shores voters approved a $25 million bond in 2005 to pay for a new school in the neighborhood.

Now, a district committee is discussing what the new school would look like, although no decisions have yet been made. The school would ideally house 400 to 450 students, according to Orta-Camilleri.

The district will also begin circulating the bonds, so that it can have money available to purchase the site when the time comes. The price leaves $16.5 million for construction of school facilities.

Meanwhile, Redwood City planners are finalizing an environmental review of Keech’s overall plan, known as the Preserve at Redwood Shores. The document should be ready for public review, according to principal planner Tom Passanisi.

“We’re looking at traffic impacts, making sure the uses are compatible and that the wetlands proposal works,” Passanisi said. “The uses could be compatible if done right, but we understand there might be some people opposed to it.”

One neighbor who has opposed the project is Terry Anderlini, a San Mateo attorney who lives in a townhome community next door to Keech’s site, located on the northeast corner of Redwood Shores. Anderlini supports the school but feels townhomes don’t belong in a wetlands habitat.

“I’m waiting to see what the environmental review says,” Anderlini said Thursday.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must also approve some aspects of the project before it can go forward, Keech said.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

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