» Civically

Cunha Middle School works on a community planning level. With the city's large commitment to a completely revamped, expanded $18 million library right next door, why would we relocate students who stand to benefit most from such a resource? Similarly, construction will begin soon on a new bike trail along Pilarcitos Creek from Main Street to Strawflower Village, including an underpass beneath Highway 1. There are also plans for an additional link completing the connection down to the Coastal Trail. It's all about enhancing the wonderful downtown that attracts and keeps so many of us here. Don't we like bumping into each other on Main Street or while walking from church to grab a cup of coffee? By keeping our middle school centrally located and pedestrian-friendly we preserve Half Moon Bay as a real town with a real, working heart — one that caters to and appreciates tourists without exiling local residents to the faceless sprawl of outlying strip malls.

» Economically

Superintendent John Bayless gave our school board a very persuasive May 2002 presentation as to how a brand new Cunha could be phased in between 2003-2005. He also suggested that such a plan would save CUSD money that could be spent on upgrading other district facilities. In these times, who can refute the logic in that? The school district doesn't maintain the playing fields it already has (city public works and private sports clubs take care of the fields), so how does the district propose to budget for an even more elaborately landscaped Wavecrest campus (if ground-breaking ever occurs)?

Similarly, the argument that a new elementary school could be moved into Cunha holds no water. Neither district enrollment, which is declining, nor CUSD's severely limited budget remotely support the addition of an additional K-5 school. With the savings that would be accrued by revamping Cunha, however, there would be funds left over to expand/improve our existing elementary schools. Finally, since the district seems to have permanently cut busing, it's imperative that the middle school remain in its current, pedestrian-friendly location.

» Functionally

This initiative expresses the will of the people and the way in which to make the construction of a new middle school happen — NOW. The Cunha site far exceeds any state or over-the-hill standard. In fact, when you compare on a students-per-acre basis, our 17.5-acre Cunha campus ranks No. 2 among all middle schools on the Peninsula . Most middle schools sites from Daly City to Hillsborough, are significantly smaller. Clearly, upgraded and expanded facilities are indicated. Architectural firms specializing in schools do this all the time with tremendous, exciting success. And it's within our own power to start soliciting plans and considering options for this unique, valuable, wholly district-owned property.

» Environmentally

Unlike Wavecrest, which is many years away from approval by several key government agencies, Cunha already exists. No wetlands studies. No red-legged frog habitats. No expensive red-tape and inevitable challenges. And beyond all that, it's a living demonstration of an ethic our children understand better than many adults: reduce, recycle and reuse. Just because we have an open space doesn't mean we MUST build on it.

» Morally

We don't honor our young people by paving over some of the only blufftop open space left in Half Moon Bay or by trading this irreplaceable natural resources away because our new middle school has been made a "gimme" in a development deal. We don't teach students science or ecology by pouring concrete foundations for their classrooms on pristine wetlands. We don't protect our children's future by abandoning the past: historic, culturally and geographically significant downtown core buildings such as Cunha.

» Pragmatically

How many generations of kids who were promised a new school have now graduated? How many parents who pledged funds to the Boys and Girls Club (stymied while waiting on a resolution to the middle school issue) have watched their kids out-grow the promise? How many parents of children ages 8 and under want to consign their future to the same fruitless wait? How many years do we remain divided and paralyzed by the same issues, namely Wavecrest and the new middle school it holds hostage year after year?

By Lisa Hinshelwood, Leslie Mccarthy, Sonja Myhre

The night Cunha's Country Store burned down we all stood together as citizens,
gape-mouthed in the hideous glow. You could read the words on people's lips:

"I can't believe it," people said, over and over again. "I can't believe it."

For more than a century, Bev's venerable wooden store nourished us on so many levels. It was an institution that defined our sense of neighborhood. Suddenly, in the shadow of dancing flames, we understood our community a little better, certainly more deeply.

We are not Daly City, or Foster City, or Pacifica. We are a community with a center, a heart, a working downtown core from which all else radiates. When you start with that simple fact, other pieces seem quickly to fall into place.

That's why we're proposing a citizens' initiative for next November's election. We think it's our community's best shot at breaking some of the political gridlock that has paralyzed, among other things, progress toward a new middle school.

It's time our community focus on core values; time to look at the big picture and how all our civic goals -- from education to the environment to downtown commerce to recreational facilities to traffic -- fit together.

As citizens committed to local schools, churches, sports teams, parks and the future of this precious place in which we plan to raise our children, we'd like to introduce the Build Our School Now Initiative.

This initiative would amend our Local Coastal Program -- the document that governs all planning decisions within our city limits -- to express that a "pedestrian-friendly, centrally located downtown core is a vital civic goal for Half Moon Bay." In other words, we want a city that works and is integrated in our daily lives, a town that caters to and attracts tourists -- but does not exist solely for them.

To that end, the initiative would also express the will of voters not to have a new school built west of Highway 1 (i.e. sprawled south of town, where the Wavecrest plan, currently tied up more than three years by the California Coastal Commission, would site our new middle school).

It would also affirm that voters desire a new and improved middle school at the current Cunha Middle School site, "which is conveniently located and provides ready access to downtown doctors, dentists and other health care providers, the Adcock Community Center, library, playing fields and tennis courts, the skateboard park, markets and cafes, churches, a police station and the whole downtown Half Moon Bay community."

The city has already invested heavily in a grant application in support of a new $18 million two-story library to be built at the current old library site and to include 100 new underground parking spaces. There is no reason that the $35 million in Measure K school bond funds couldn't be used to preserve Cunha Middle School's wonderful Deco architecture and build on it to create a state-of-the art two-story school facility whose students could also avail themselves of adjacent library resources.

And what of the Boys and Girls Club, which has already lost a sizable amount of grant funding due to Wavecrest-related delays? There are several potential sites for a facility large enough to house a pool and gymnasium right within walking distance of Cunha, the library and the Adcock Center. It's a matter of initiative, political will and creativity.

We've examined all the alternatives, trade-offs, dreams and pragmatic possibilities and it boils down to this: A real, working downtown whose central jewel includes revitalized civic institutions such as a newly revamped and expanded Cunha Middle School makes sense on every level. And we believe that our elected school board officials must recognize as much.

Generations of kids have now come and gone through the halls of Cunha Middle School. Everyone agrees the facility isn't what it should be and that our kids deserve better. That's why citizens overwhelmingly supported Measure K back in 1996, giving the CUSD school board $35 million with which to construct a new, improved middle school.

Where is that school now? Like our entire community, it has been hamstrung by the Wavecrest quagmire, whose resolution is still years away. A proposed 279-home housing development that is to include a Boys and Girls Club and a new middle school to replace our current Cunha, the project remains in limbo year after year after year. Local politicians and the principals of Ocean Colony Partners all have their points of view as to why this has occurred.

For the rest of us, the bottom line is this: No progress.

And, most of all, no common ground on which to move forward as a united community with a vision -- a vision that works within the constraints of our beautiful but uniquely limited geography.

If we're really in it "for the kids," then a consortium of parents, coaches, school board members and educators, parks and recreation representatives, social service organizations and other concerned citizens must come together and get the job done -- NOW.

We've shown our sense of family in the outpouring of support for Cunha's Country store, an emblem of just the sort of lively, real, working town we believe ourselves to be. Shouldn't that respect for tradition, community ties , good old-fashioned ingenuity and common sense be our guiding vision?

The arguments for and against the Cunha Middle School site have been addressed exhaustively in these pages. If you'd like to study those arguments again, read the full text of the Build Our School Now Initiative, or volunteer in support of our effort, please email us or call: 712-9079.

For now the main thing to recognize is that too much time has been wasted; too many good intentions have been frustrated. We need to focus on a clear, viable vision -- and stride toward it together, as a community. Now.

For our kids.
For our community.
Build It Now.

Vote YES on Measure D.
Every Vote Will Count.

If We Do Nothing We’ll Get More of the Same: NOTHING.

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