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[whitespace] Area residents unhappy with CUSD's Portal Park proposal

Express extreme displeasure in sacrificing part of park for middle school

Cupertino--The shouts and groans from the audience told the whole story. Residents around Portal School who attended a neighborhood meeting on Feb. 15, don't want a new middle school at the Portal site, and they definitely don't want to lose so much as a blade of grass from Portal Park.

Close to 75 residents filled a meeting room at the Peninsula Bible Church on N. Blaney Avenue at 7:30 p.m., to hear a presentation by resident Ed Fraser and voice their opinions on the Cupertino Union School District's proposal to build a fifth middle school on the site of Portal Elementary. City Councilman Michael Chang also attended the meeting, as did CUSD Board Member Barry Chang and CUSD's director of facilities modernization, Leroy Munoz.

Most members of the audience who spoke at the meeting expressed concern over CUSD's request to the city to use the green space of Portal Park for practice fields for the proposed middle school. Other concerns raised included the aesthetic impact of converting Portal Elementary to a middle school, and the amount of extra traffic the school--coupled with a local housing development recently approved by the city council--would bring in to the neighborhood.

In addition, audience members expressed displeasure when Barry Chang admitted that CUSD does not have sufficient funds to carry out the conversion, and would have to pass a new bond measure to afford the project.

Residents complained about the methods the city and CUSD use to notify residents around proposed developments. Many said they had not received any notice of forums, in which to discuss the matter of the Portal conversion, until Ed Fraser's letter announcing the neighborhood meeting came in the mail.

Fraser opened the meeting by stating that its intent is to "see where the base of support lies," either for or against the idea of the conversion. But it soon became apparent that residents opposed both the use of Portal Park and the conversion of Portal Elementary.

Fraser went on to list the dates and times of relevant meetings, mentioning that the Cupertino Parks and Recreation Committee will meet on Thursday, March 1. The committee will then make its recommendation to the city council about the future of Portal Park.

He also informed the audience that CUSD's board meets on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month, which in March fall on the 13th and the 27th. The Cupertino City Council meets every first and third Monday of every month. Their first meeting in March is on the 5th.

The audience made frequent pleas to preserve Portal Park, and many called for organized action by residents to block any action that would diminish the park. Many expressed confusion over the reasons why CUSD did not consider Collins School for the conversion, since Collins had originally functioned as a middle school before conversion to an elementary school.

Munoz told the crowd that the district had recently entered into a cost study for the Collins site. Audience members responded that their impression was that the district had already made up its mind, since it had drawn up plans for the Portal conversion, but did not have similar plans drawn for Collins.

One resident raised the concern over traffic and parking, especially considering the 46-unit condominium, three-retail store development recently approved by the city council for the parcel now housing P.J. Mulligan's. The crowd deferred to Councilman Chang, who told them that the council had reviewed the project and found no problem with the parking, or traffic, issues surrounding the development.

Audience members then assailed both Changs with their frustrations over the lack of notification by the city and the school district when issues such as these come up for public hearing. Councilman Chang responded that the city adheres to its policy when notifying residents and businesses about a proposed development. However, he did not know offhand what that policy was.

According to Vera Gil of the planning department, the city notifies any property owner within a 300-foot radius of a major proposed development.

Councilman Chang added that he resides in the neighborhood, and that his child attends Portal School. He stated East Cupertino represents a park-deficient portion of the city, and gave his and fellow Councilman Don Burnett's opinion that the school district should not receive license to use Portal Park.

District board member Chang defended the district's request by reminding the audience that, while Cupertino schools consistently perform at the top of state test rankings, the district receives almost the least amount of money of any district in California, and a lesser amount than other districts in Santa Clara County.

He added that it takes a "whole village" to raise a child, and expressed his hopes that residents of the neighborhood would "look at the big picture," when considering the location of the fifth middle school. When Chang suggested the district and the city could engineer a plan to share use of Portal Park, he was met with a resounding "No!"

Munoz then informed the audience that, in meetings he had held with the Parks and Recreation Committee, he received the impression the committee would recommend that the city council not grant use rights for the park to the school district.

As the meeting drew to a close, Fraser urged the audience to attend local meetings and express their opinions at those forums.
Kevin Fayle

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