San Rafael Planning Commission supports Mark Day School renovation plan

Mark Day School’s plan to build a new $10 million administration and library building is headed to the City Council for approval after receiving unanimous support from the Planning Commission. Planning Commissioners voted 6-0 Tuesday, with Commissioner Charles Pick absent, to support the school’s plan to demolish an existing single-story 3,935-square-foot administration building and replace it with a new 11,270-square-foot two-story structure that would be 30 feet tall. Commissioners said they sympathize with neighbors of the school who are opposed to the project, but said the school’s renovation plan is well-designed and fits into the Terra Linda community. “I thought it was overall a pretty attractive design,” said Commissioner Jack Robertson. Commissioner Viktoriya Wise said she doesn’t have a problem with the height of the project because of its setback and isn’t bothered by the design. “I don’t find it industrial, I find it institutional. It looks like a school to me,” Wise said. While a majority of the audience expressed support for the project by wearing bright blue stickers that said “Yes Mark Day School,” some neighbors of the school spoke out against the project. Kerreen Brandt said the two-story building isn’t visually compatible with the neighborhood, which consists of mostly single-story residences. “We’re not against the building, we’re against the way the building looks,” Brandt said. “The massive industrial appearance is not necessary.” Nicki Mullen, head of the Terra Linda Cares neighborhood organization, said the school has failed to take neighborhood suggestions, such as reducing the building’s height, into consideration. “There have been no compromises except for adding additional trees, which quite frankly are nice but don’t solve our concerns,” Mullen said. Stephanie Lucich, whose home is right next to the school, said people will be able to look down from the building onto her property, raising privacy concerns. “Those proposed windows are going to be right into my living room, dining room and backyard,” Lucich said. But other neighbors expressed support for the project. Elsie Underwood, who lives directly across from the school on Trellis Drive, said she wholeheartedly supports the school’s renovation project. “I don’t see a problem there,” Underwood said. “The visual aspect of this is of no concern to me.” Matt Foley said he doesn’t believe the alleged negative visual impacts are as severe as some neighbors made them seem. “I don’t see how anyone in good faith can tell you that their views are going to be blocked or that there’s going to be any negative impact to their homes,” Foley said. Ken Blum, who has a child at the school and lives in Terra Linda, said the neighborhood is going through a transformation and the school will be a positive addition. “The project will enable Mark Day School to be a leader in conserving water and energy,” Blum said. The independent school, formerly known as Saint Mark’s School, serves about 380 students in kindergarten through eighth grade and has leased the site from the Dixie School District since 1991. Under the proposed expansion, the school wouldn’t add any additional students. Commissioner Barrett Schaefer said just because most of the homes in the area are one-story homes doesn’t mean the school has to follow suit. “I do know we need to take the surroundings into account, but it doesn’t mean that we need to build a one-story structure here,” Schaefer said. “I don’t think anyone wants a building that looks like it belongs in 1961.” Commissioner Gerald Belletto agreed. “I think once that building is built, I don’t think it’s going to be the desecration of views expressed (Tuesday night),” he said. Follow Megan Hansen’s blog at From The Web David N. Swaim Tam Realty Inc Owner DRE#1070789 415-710-5504 609 San Anselmo Ave San Anselmo CA 94960 Serving all of Marin County

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