Marin Independent Journal
City Hall objects to creek plan at school
Sausalito officials are preparing a resolution calling for the school district to scrap plans to relocate an underground creek.
The City Council is expected to approve the resolution when it meets on Tuesday. The Sausalito Marin City School District wants to move Willow Creek as part of its project to build a new elementary school at its campus on Nevada Street.
The city wants the district to revise its school construction plan to include bringing the creek above ground — or “daylighting” it — at its natural location in the center of the Sausalito campus.
“The Willow Creek Watershed is unique in Sausalito as the only place where a buried riparian ecosystem, located on mostly public lands with no significant structures except streets above it, can be daylighted to a vegetated channel with perennial flow,” the city's resolution states.
Itoco Garcia, the school district's superintendent, disagreed. He said the plan to direct the creek around the perimeter of campus will allow contractors to finish building the school this summer and stay under budget. He said the daylighting can be added later, after construction is completed.
“We studied options for running the creek through the elementary school campus or along the perimeter of the campus,” Garcia said in an email Thursday. “Our architects, JK Architecture and construction management firm Greystone West, which both have extensive experience in school construction, recommended that daylighting the creek around the campus is a better option.”
Garcia said the perimeter creek daylighting option “will allow us
to provide a safe campus for our students and deliver our projects on time and in the budget we currently have.”
Sausalito officials rejected that argument, saying the school district's contractors have no experience in water resources engineering. They said the district plan could take longer and cost more because it would require more digging — and with that, the possibility of construction delays from tribal artifacts or other complications.
The city also says the school district failed to consult with the water resources engineering firm Professional Consulting Inc. PCI helped the district apply for a $3 million grant with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the daylighting project, said Steve Moore, a leader of Friends of Willow Creek.
The grant, which is pending approval, is based on daylighting the creek at its natural flow in the center of the campus, Moore said. Moore said the EPA grant could be lost if the district adheres to its creek relocation plan.
Although $33 million is allotted from the proceeds of Measure P, a $41.6 million bond issue approved by district voters in 2020, for the elementary school construction, no funds from the measure are allocated for the creek daylighting project, Moore said in a presentation
The two sides also disagree over whether the district's construction plan would violate a promise made in a fact sheet for Measure P. In the fact sheet, the district said the bond proceeds would pay to daylight Willow Creek in order to provide outdoor education benefits for students.
According to the city, such outdoor education benefits would only be realized if the creek were daylighted in its current path. Environmental groups such as the Sierra Club Marin Group, Friends of Willow Creek and the Marin Conservation League have said they back the city's vision.
“Incorporating the creek as a design feature through the middle of campus will
City Council on
create an intrinsic environmental feature that will lift the hearts and inspire the minds of generations of school children and provide an environmental education opportunity for learning and a peaceful waterscape to enhance mental health,” the city's resolution states.
Garcia insists the district is staying true to its Measure P promise by relocating the creek to the perimeter and then daylighting it after construction of the school is completed.
The move “will allow easy access for school children to have environmental education under the supervision of their teachers, rather than having to fence the creek in through the school site,” Garcia said.
“It will also allow
community to enjoy the creek during school hours and at all times when the campus is closed due to security concerns,” he said.
Daylighting the waterway around the campus also “doubles the linear feet of daylighted creek,” Garcia said.
Garcia said the district's tight budget constraints came after the Division of the State Architect, which governs school building construction in California, said the cost of renovations at the campus exceeded 50% of the cost of replacement. It said the district is required to build a new elementary school.
Measure P had included a plan for “modernization” of the school buildings rather than full replacement, Garcia said.