EL CERRITO -- A planned renovation of the El Cerrito High School football stadium has a group of neighbors complaining about health issues and the expected impact of construction on their homes.
The group of 27 residents, who call themselves the Rockway-Colusa Neighbors, say the West Contra Costa school district has so far been unresponsive to their concerns, according to group spokeswoman Sherry Drobner.
The district chose Santa Rosa-based Wright Contracting in November to carry out the $13.5 million project.
Construction is scheduled to begin Tuesday, according to West Contra Costa school board President Charles Ramsey.
Ramsey said Associate Superintendent Bill Fay has been in regular contact with the Rockway-Colusa Neighbors, but he acknowledged that there are outstanding issues that need to be resolved.
"There is going to be an ongoing dialogue, as there are with all our construction projects," Ramsey said. "This project is long overdue and will involve community benefit and community use."
Wright will replace and refurbish bleachers on both sides of the field with a press box and elevator, construct new team room buildings for home and visiting teams, build a new exercise and weight room and a new athletic equipment storage building.
The stadium will also receive a new synthetic turf field, a synthetic surface track and new stadium lights.
The Rockway-Colusa Neighbors live on Rockway, Colusa and Ashbury avenues adjacent to the stadium, and the backyards of about eight Rockway Avenue neighbors are directly across an ivy-covered fence from the stadium, Drobner said.
The residents want the district to maintain the existing fence after they erect a new fence inside it and take steps to minimize noise, dust and diesel exhaust emissions and keep hazardous materials at a safe distance during the planned 18 months of construction.
They also want the district to make sure the construction of a retaining wall next to their properties that will cut into a hillside doesn't kill trees or cause erosion to their yards, and try to prevent rats from fleeing onto their properties, as they say they did when the old El Cerrito High was demolished in 2008 to make way for the new campus.
"There is concern that tall pine trees and redwood trees that reside on the south side of the property line may be compromised, resulting in potential hazards for residents and their property," according to a letter the group sent to district officials.
In a Jan. 6 letter to the neighbors, Fay said contractors will maintain the chain link fence while installing a new fence on district property along the existing fence, and will observe El Cerrito's ordinance on noise and construction hours.
He said the district hired a pest control company that placed bait stations on the site to control the rats.
"It appears that the rodent activity has nearly ceased, with limited activity at the northeast corner of the site," Fay wrote.
However, Drobner said she and other neighbors have been to two district facilities committee meetings, two El Cerrito City Council meetings and a couple of school board meetings since October, with no assurances that all their concerns would be addressed.
"It hasn't been resolved," Drobner said. "We're continuing to try to get answers about why there wasn't an (environmental impact report) and new tree study done, as well as issues with the property line and trees on the line."
Fay said the district is exempt from doing an environmental impact report because the new facilities are going to be on the same site as existing structures and don't increase capacity by more than 50 percent.
Drobner, meanwhile, said a couple of neighbors are renting out their homes, at least for the duration of construction.
"If I knew there was going to be 18 months of this in my backyard, I'd be out of here, too," Drobner said. "I just can't afford to do it."