Residents oppose proposed redesign of Cardiff School

A group of residents has taken public opposition to a redesign of Cardiff School that they said could reduce the size of a community park.

A recently established community group called Cardiff Preservation Society launched an online petition at www.cardiffpreservationsociety.com to attempt to influence the Cardiff School District to halt a redesign proposal that could construct new buildings over George Berkich Park, located near the school's campus.

In November 2016, voters approved Measure GG, which allotted $22 million of Prop. 39 general obligation money to the district to fund school modernization for Cardiff School and Ada Harris School.

Measure GG called to modernize Cardiff School by replacing outdated roofs; renovating or replacing existing deteriorating water, drainage and sewer systems; upgrading inadequate electrical systems; improving energy efficiency; replacing aging temporary portable classrooms with new classrooms; constructing a new multipurpose room; improving handicap accessibility; repairing paved surfaces; and upgrading the library, labs, school office building, playgrounds and play fields.

According to a news release from the district published Sept. 27, the school's redesign "prioritizes the programmatic needs of the school to support the education, safety and security of its students, while honoring the district's role as a community resource for meetings, events and athletics."

Cardiff Preservation Society said on its website that Measure GG included little community impact, but since the measure passed, "the school board, architects and contractors are attempting to wipe the site clean and build an entirely new school."

They argued the nearby community would be negatively impacted by the removal of the park, as neighbors would see parking lots and the backs of buildings instead of children playing on the fields.

"This park is a treasured community asset and it would be a shame for Cardiff to lose this precious space," said Daniel Littrell, who is helping to spearhead the preservation society's campaign. "Once a park is reduced in size and buildings are constructed, that green space is lost forever."

The school district said Studio E Architects, the design firm that was hired for the project, used community feedback provided during 2016 Measure GG focus group meetings as the primary drivers for the conceptual design plans.

"From the initial stages of discussion around the idea of rebuilding Cardiff School to the passage of Measure GG, we are very excited to see the process underway to improve the quality of the educational facilities for our students,” said Jill Vinson, Cardiff School District superintendent, in the news release. “Our goal as an educational institution is to create a school campus that meets the needs of our students and will be a source of community pride for years to come.”

The field space on the northwest side of George Berkich Park will be partially reorganized for kindergarten and extended day buildings, the district said.

"Relocating play equipment from the current center of the field to the south end allows for one large, contiguous open field space," according to the district's news release. "This provides more open space for students to play on during recess and P.E., with increased supervision. In addition, the design takes advantage of the natural slope of the campus to create natural, ocean view, tiered seating adjacent to the field. This continuous open space is more flexible, inviting, and usable for both school and community.

The district said that while the overall size of the fields decreases in the conceptual site plan, community athletic programs can continue at the school. The plan includes two youth regulation-sized soccer fields that can be configured within the open space at the park.

Cardiff Preservation Society has started an online petition on their website that gathered 43 signatures by press time on Sept. 27.

Littrell, who lives near the school but does not have any children within the district, said there are no specific goals with the petition, but he finds it an ideal way to connect with others in Cardiff who share similar concerns.

"The petition was an open-ended idea," he explained. "We at the Cardiff Preservation Society are not professional activists and therefore we have been trying different outreach avenues to find the best way to garner support."

Littrell believes the school district should erect the new school buildings within the footprint of the existing buildings.

"We see no reason why the footprint of the school cannot be retained while at the same time building a wonderful new campus," he said.

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