About two weeks ago I attended an informational meeting regarding remodeling plans for the Atascadero Junior High School campus. I have consistently endorsed our city’s general plan which, for the past 40 years, called for relocating the school campus from the middle of downtown.
The school district owns close to 20 acres in the heart of the downtown where the Colony’s first school building was completed in 1917. It eventually became Lewis Avenue Elementary School and now the junior high.
Voters were led to believe that if they approved a school bonding measure three or four years ago it would lead to getting the school out of the downtown and constructed on the San Benito Road site.
But now we have learned the junior high will remain right where it is.
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Any chance of major downtown development has come to an end.
The meeting on Jan. 7 was to make public that an environmental impact report would not be necessary for the project and a “mitigated” negative declaration would be issued. Basically that meant that all the impacts listed by the consulting firm could be made “good” when construction is completed.
I doubted that but went to the meeting anyway.
What I failed to realized is that the plans for a brand-new, 50,000-square-foot building have already been drawn, the trees along West Mall have been removed and that demolition of the old Prather Building will take place within months to make room for this large building construction to begin this summer.
The new junior high building will have twice the square feet of the proposed La Plaza Center that local contractor Larry Wysong may build just two blocks away on El Camino Real, taking in property from Traffic Way on the north to the old Chamber of Commerce office site on the south.
The new school building will be tucked into the corner of West Mall and Lewis Avenue, across the street from the City Administration Building.
When the new building is completed in about two years, all the sixth-graders within Atascadero Unified will also attend this campus. Traffic around the school is already a nightmare, but the school district says there will be no impact.
I suggested a traffic signal at West Mall and Lewis Avenue but learned there are no plans for one.
The trustees believe it is money best spent to build on the existing downtown site. It might be a saving in taxpayer dollars, but it's a genuine nail in the coffin for any serious long-range planning for Atascadero’s economic future.