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School District Settles Edna Maguire Lawsuits

Neighbors had sued in July 2011, claiming the district hadn’t done enough to address their concerns about the $36 million project. District makes a number of changes to the overhaul and will pay neighbors’ attorneys' fees.

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officials said Friday that the district has settled a filed by a group of neighbors related to the district’s planned in summer 2013.

The lawsuits were filed in July 2011 by a pair of groups representing neighbors who live across the street from the campus on Lomita Drive. In them, the neighbors claimed that the district didn’t sufficiently over issues like parking, traffic and the aesthetics of the proposed new campus, and thus was in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

As settlement negotiations continued into December, and therefore spike its cost.

“With the settlement of the CEQA lawsuit, the district is now very excited to move forward with the Edna Maguire project without hesitation,” district board president Robin Moses said. “We have avoided a very costly year's delay in construction, increased construction cost and expensive litigation.”

The lawsuit could still end up impacting the project's schedule, Moses said, noting that the Marin Municipal Water District had put its own plans to relocate a 100-year-old water line running through the Edna campus on hold when the lawsuit was filed. The district’s plan calls for a  that starts in the spring of 2012 and finishes the fall of 2013.

"That (MMWD) work will hopefully be done at the beginning of this summer," Moses said. "This may present a few challanges early in our project as MMWD and our contractors navigate the Lomita area."

According to the settlement agreement (attached at right), the district made a number of modifications to the project to reach the deal, including a plan to implement a one-way traffic flow configuration on the campus that neighbors said would make the elbow-shaped Lomita Drive intersection safer. The deal calls for the board's approval of the one-way plan to be based on evidence shown by a traffic engineering consultant not currently employed by the district or th city of Mill Valley, which nixes David Parisi Associates, the go-to traffic engineer for both entities.

The district also agreed to add parking and a series of restrictions on the use of the school’s multi-purpose room by outside organizations, including on the number of non-district events per year (16), the number of attendees allowed at non-district events (350 people) and the hours in which they can occur.

The district also made a number of concessions related to the neighbors' aesthetic concerns about the project, agreeing to lower the height of lights in the parking lot and plant some trees to lessen the impact of campus activity on Lomita residents.

District officials said the changes will cost and estimated $50,000. The district also agreed to pay the plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees to the tune of $61,485.

Tom Meagher is a spokesman for the plaintiff group Designers, Engineers, Constructors for Better, Safer Schools, which represented four neighbors, as well as a member of Citizens for an Educated Government, the group that filed the second Edna Maguire-related lawsuit against the district. The two lawsuits were merged when the parties entered into settlement negotiations.

Meagher said the group was happier with the project than the iteration , but admittedly did not achieve everything it had hoped.

“All that we wanted to achieve was not achieved, but at a certain point you try to look at the greater good,” Meagher said. “The mission was to make a safer school and to address the uses of the gymnasium … and we felt that the new administration made a number of changes and met us halfway.”

The project, which expands the Edna Maguire campus from approximately 51,000 square feet of buildings to more than 78,000, is meant to both replace a 55-year-old campus and accommodate an . It is part of the district-wide modernization plan being paid for through Measure C, the $59.8 million bond measure approved by voters in November 2009.

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