OAKLAND -- The city Planning Commission upheld its decision to allow College Preparatory School's request to expand enrollment from 340 students to 375 students. The private high school is located on Broadway near the entrance of Highway 24.
Current enrollment at the school is 372 students, despite a 2009 conditional use permit which caps enrollment at 340 students.
According to the Planning Commission's report, a 2009 Minor Conditional Use Permit, approved on Sept.28, 2009, allowed the expansion of the facilities at the existing site and increased enrollment to 340 students. The approval included a stipulation that the 340 student enrollment must be observed by September 2012.
At its June 5 meeting, the Planning Commission was not swayed by neighbors' arguments about the environmental impact of the school, especially the noise and congestion.
Neighbors around the school were joined by families who have similar concerns in their neighborhoods near Head-Royce and Bentley schools.
"We are here to support the residents near College Prep so that their neighborhood doesn't end up like ours," said Don Dunning, who lives near Head-Royce School on Lincoln Avenue.
"What's the point of a conditional use permit if it is not enforced," Dunning said. "The modus operandi is it's better to ask for forgiveness than permission."
Parents, students, teachers and alumni spoke of the quality of education and the many programs the school has to offer.
"We are not here to debate the quality of education at College Prep," said Mitch Taylor, a resident on Brookside Avenue, next to the school. "It's untrue that we fail to complain about the congestion, parking and noise."
But Kathy Kaspar, who lives on Golden Gate Avenue, reported that she does not have any issues with traffic or noise.
"We are very pleased to have them in our neighborhood," said Kaspar, who has two children who attend the school.
Neighbors report that the noise and congestion are particularly problematic during school events.
"We complain about the amplified noise and ask them to do something about it. They send us a newsletter," said Leila Moncharsh, who lives across the street from the school.
College Prep's Head of School Monique DeVane said the school sends out a newsletter to area residents informing them of the school's activities. The school gets permits and notifies neighbors of any activities that require amplified sound outdoors lasting for more than 10 minutes.
Andris Skuja, a parent of a senior at the school, lived near the school for two years.
"I did not find a meaningful impact," Skuja said. "It is preposterous that the events are noisy. I love hearing the noise of kids. The noise and congestion is a quintessential American experience. This is what it means to live in a community."
"All we want is for the school to keep its promise, especially the conditional use permit," said Hollis Matson of Laguna Street.
"Why can't this school abide by their cap?" said Larry Gregory, who lives across the street from the school. "Apply for an increase, but do it from where you are supposed to be. You need to put some teeth in this."
"It's important to have schools located in neighborhoods and find a balance between the needs of the school and the neighbors," said Commissioner Emily Weinstein. "Noise is an inherent impact of a school."
Weinstein found no evidence that the increase in enrollment would aggravate congestion around the school, and that the school is not in violation of the 2009 conditional use permit.
Commissioner Jim Moore agreed.
"I saw evidence that CPS (College Prep) abided by their conditions," Moor said. "I cannot evaluate the noise, but I believe that CPS has done a good job of embracing the traffic rules."
"It happens over and over again, at Bentley, Head Royce and College Prep," said Sue Piper, who resides near Bentley School. "This long history of creeping enrollment and asking forgiveness after the fact has not only broken any trust between neighbors and the respective schools, but it has corroded the integrity of the Planning Commission itself."