Los Altos School District and the City of Los Altos took some first steps to prioritize a variety of possible improvements to increase student safety at Egan School. However, opening the easement between the back of Egan and Thames Lane is low on the list. The subcommittee attendees were David Casas, Jarrett Fishpaw and Marcia Somers from the City and Mark Goines, Doug Smith, and Randy Kenyon from LASD.
At the City-Schools Standing Committee meeting of May 15, Mark Goines (LASD) explained that “doing everything” subject to cost constraints would be ideal. He expected that there would be 1000 students on the campus for 3 or 4 more years. BCS could be there for 2 years before it moves to a 10-year home campus. While the other school sites undergo improvements, each could rotate though using Egan as a “camp.” Only after all school improvements are finished could the population of the Egan campus conceivably decrease to normal levels of 400 to 600 students. However, Goines said that LASD is in the early stages of exploring whether, programmatically, it might make sense to move the sixth grade to the junior highs. That would keep numbers up some.
1000 students on the campus for 3 or 4 more years
Iterative Approach to Spending
David Casas and Jarrett Fishpaw proposed an iterative approach to adding traffic improvements around Egan. Do the easier, cheaper ones first. The first round of infrastructure improvements will implement a recommendation from the ITS Berkeley Study – to add a second sidewalk to West Portola. In addition, Casas proposed that bikes at Egan be refocused to the back of the school. A gate could be widened, a pathway installed, and racks be put in back of the school, he said. Both sides agreed that “No Parking” signs could be extended along both sides of Portola Road as has been suggested by numerous parents. If these changes fix the traffic problems, the City and LASD won’t have to consider additional solutions.
a gate could be widened, a pathway installed, and bike racks be put in back of the school, new sidewalks, more no parking signs, a crossing guard
Besides infrastructure, several “behavioral” initiatives are being launched. The school has just installed stop signs in both the Egan and BCS lots. Goines requested that the city send a patrol car to enforce the new stop signs, this school year if possible, so drivers can learn new habits. A representative from the PTA pointed out that some trees should be trimmed or even removed, because they were blocking the visibility needed to made safe right turns from the stop signs. A crossing guard or two could be assigned to the crossing at San Antonio and Portola, even though the intersection is signalized.
a city patrol car to enforce the new parking lot stop signs
The school district, a representative in the audience from BCS, and the city all agreed to share their schedules for the next school year to improve the staggering of starts if possible. The City Recreation Department uses the Egan gym before and after the Egan school day; Egan runs after school sports on the fields; BCS has 5 different start – stop times for its curriculum.
Opening the City’s Easement to Cambridge Square Not Soon
A member of the public asked if the easement would be opened before the start of the next school year. Her son would be entering the 7th grade, and he would use it for biking. Goines explained that most likely other solutions would be rolled out over one or two years. If there were still traffic safety issues, the opening could be pursued.
Casas said that the City Police Chief Younis thought that patrolling the easement, if it were opened, would be very difficult. Essentially Younis corroborates the sentiments of the Cambridge Square residents. A resident who was in the audience said it had been closed decades ago after public hearings, because it was a “public nuisance,” and it was too difficult “to keep the bad guys out.”
it was too difficult “to keep the bad guys out”
But what Casas did not say about the potential reopening of the easement was, “Never.” Also Mark Goines say he would prefer, “Do everything now; then peel it back as the school population and traffic eases up.” He presented a prediction of usage from LASD’s demographer. It assumes that students living within 1.5 mile of the back entrance and south of the entrance were likely to use the entrance for walk or biking. It finds that about 40% of the Egan 2011-2012 population would be likely to use the entrance if opened. But for now the City of Los Altos owns the land, and the police chief has applied the brakes that seem to have stopped the reopening. If the Cambridge Square residents need 100% certainty, they might want to buy the easement. Casas says the city wants to sell it to either LASD or the residents.
Grants for Bussing
Fishpaw proposed Mayor Val Carpenter’s idea of testing some bussing. All agreed it was probably more appropriate for some of the K-6 school, rather than Egan Junior High. The city would get money for a test of bussing by applying for grants.
Other Traffic Easing Ideas
A longer light at the San Antonio light—only 3 cars can get OUT of the lots, while 20 cars come INTO Portola from San Antonio. Green or Red paint for the bike lanes. Doug Smith suggested turning the Cambridge Square loop into 2 dead-end streets by placing temporary bullocks on Thames. That would discourage car drop offs and ensure the easement was used for kids walking or biking to school. [LALAHPOLITICO: However, two dead-ends doesn’t really fix the issue of patrolling for the “bad guys.” ]
The priority of these Egan School traffic actions will be revisited and firmed up or tweaked on May 29 5:30 pm, Los Altos City Chambers. That will be the evening for the Special Joint City -LASD Meeting consisting of the full city council and the full LASD board. There will be audience overflow seating at Hillview Center. This meeting is not just about Egan, but has a full agenda – including how the City can help LASD establish a 10th site.
priorities will be firmed up with possible changes on May 29 5:30 pm
After the May 29 meeting, most of the Egan School traffic safety items will need to pass through the Los Altos City Council process to be approved for implementation and funding.