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Rockridge Montessori School Proposed Expansion


Rockridge News, May 8, 2010: Project moving forward

Rockridge Montessori facade

This project, stalled while the applicant addressed traffic and parking concerns raised by RCPC and local neighbors, is apparently about to move forward. A traffic engineering firm retained by the school has issued a report indicating that the expansion project, which will increase the school’s enrollment to just over 200 students, will not cause significant traffic or parking problems. RCPC continues to have questions about the report, which it will seek to resolve informally. The Oakland planner handling the case is Ulla Britt-Jonsson (238-3322, ujonsson@oaklandnet.com).

Rockridge News, December 7, 2008: Rockridge Montessori School Proposed Expansion Proposed

Good care for pre-kindergarten-aged children is hard to find. Many places in Oakland, particularly the Rockridge area, have waits of six months to a year. Within this childcare problem lie other problems: where should people open new childcare facilities and what kind of impact on the local neighborhood is acceptable?

Rockridge Montessori School (RMS) believes they have a partial answer to the childcare shortage and is proposing to convert a home at 5616 Broadway to expand their program by 50-60 children. Currently, RMS operates in an adjacent building at 5610 Broadway, and in a former church building across the street on Manila. Enrollment is 97, with a permit to go to 132. With the new expansion, total enrollment could reach 192.

RMS and their architect Charles Kahn shared details of the expansion at the November RCPC Town Hall meeting. The 5616 Broadway building would be converted by adding a second story and creating a common entrance with the 5610 Broadway building. The unsightly garage would be removed and two small rooms, not as big as the garage, would be added in its place. Parking for the new employees would be across Manila at the church. A curb on Broadway might be converted to a short term loading zone.

Neighbors Concerned

A group of nearby neighbors is strongly opposed to the expansion. RMS has met with these neighbors twice in an attempt to come to an agreement. As a result of these talks, RMS will not physically join the two buildings with an enclosed space and will locate all entrances on Broadway. It is RMS’s assertion that these changes will preserve the residential look of the buildings and result in less traffic on the narrower residential streets.

The neighbors continue to feel that a childcare facility with 192 children is too large for a small residential area, the new traffic flow is unsafe, and Rockridge as an area should be preserving residential homes, not converting them into businesses. RMS also plans to continue having student families sign a transportation agreement with guidelines that are intended to reduce the impact of traffic on neighbors. Two violations of the agreement would result in a family being asked to leave RMS. Neighbors and school administrators both agree that enforcement would be difficult. When RCPC met with RMS, their application schedule had not been defined, but they believed the project would probably be presented to the Planning Department in February.

If you have any comments or questions about this project, e-mail chair@ rockridge.org.

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Four neighbors of the Montessori School wrote to the RCPC Chair to express their concerns about the proposed expansion. No one wrote in support. Excerpted letters follow:

I am concerned about the negative impact the continued expansion of this particular school is having on our small neighborhood. The two streets that surround this school are only one lane wide and in a couple of cases only one block long. — Hallie B. Hart

My wife and I live on upper Kales Avenue, around the corner from the Rockridge Montessori School’s Manila Avenue sites. Since the school’s arrival in the neighborhood over a decade ago, it has continued to expand (on at least one occasion in direct contradiction to the owners’ assurances that they planned to live on site and that their operation would only constitute a small family daycare).

  • We feel that the scale of the RMS presence in the neighborhood pushes the boundaries of appropriateness. Increased traffic and school-related parking is an ongoing concern... the majority of theschool population arrives by car. — Tony Morse

I have lived on the Kales/Manila/ Broadway block for 26 years. I treasure this residential single family dwelling neighborhood with its mix of young and old residents. This is a neighborhood community, not a commercial zone. Within a 3 block radius we have at least 3 other preschools in converted houses. This neighborhood is overly served with preschools. With such expansion comes increased traffic in a neighborhood with narrow residential streets. Fifty per cent of the [school’s] population is from outside the 94618 Zip code. — Anne Williams

As a resident of Kales Ave, I object to the proposed expansion of the school. The school is continually seeking to build and develop (despite their promises not to) and it will continually erode the feel of the neighborhood and chase out neighboring residents. There has to be a limit on the growth. — Name Withheld