Coast Unified school board backs Cambria affordable housing plan

ktanner@thetribunenews.comMarch 21, 2013 

Coast Unified School District trustees have weighed in on a proposed affordable-housing apartment complex that would be an immediate neighbor to Santa Lucia Middle School.

Trustees unanimously agreed March 14 to send a letter of conditional support for the concept of the 40-unit complex.

Their support stems from the board’s acceptance that the apartments will benefit disadvantaged students and their families. As Bob Watt, grammar school principal and homeless liaison, said, many of those who would apply to live in the apartments are currently living “doubled up in houses, or in hotels or motels.” The district has “one of the largest percentages” of families in those living situations in the county, he said.

Some of the council’s concerns — such as many more cars parked in and driven into and out of the area and student safety, especially for youngsters walking to and from school — mirrored concerns expressed during the February North Coast Advisory Council meeting. (The council made no decision Feb. 20, opting instead to wait for more information, especially a traffic study.)

One of the school’s volunteer safety experts recommended waiting to write a support letter until that study is released, a concept also espoused by Trustee Dianne Brooke.

However, Trustee Sue Nash noted that after submitting a support letter, perhaps the district would have more influence over decisions made. As she said in her motion, they’d “write the letter of support and involve ourselves in the problem solving as much as we can.”

Before the vote, trustees and people in the audience had discussed the project for about a half hour, hashing over problems, benefits and even possible options for a visual screen between the project and the middle school gym and playground.

A chain link fence separates the two properties now, but at least part of that could be removed if the traffic pattern into the school grounds is changed to accommodate a second driveway from which drivers would exit, possibly through the apartment complex itself. The current driveway would be a one-way entrance. A pedestrian gate also is being discussed.

Barrier options discussed included a chain link fence with wooden slats and shrubs, a wooden or block fence. Board members agreed each option has its problems, including who will pay for the fence — their fiscally constrained district or a grant-dependent nonprofit organization.

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