Marin Independent Journal

City Hall objects to creek plan at school

- By Keri Brenner

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


Feb. 28.

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.

 ?? ALAN DEP — MARIN INDEPENDEN­T JOURNAL ?? The former Willow Creek Academy in Sausalito is now a campus of the unified Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Academy. The school district wants to redirect Willow Creek to the edge of the campus.
ALAN DEP — MARIN INDEPENDEN­T JOURNAL The former Willow Creek Academy in Sausalito is now a campus of the unified Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Academy. The school district wants to redirect Willow Creek to the edge of the campus.

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