Plan to develop Charter Square drops for now


Armed with stickers, hats, and signatures, Charter Square business owners were ready for a fight at the San Mateo-Foster City School District board meeting.

"I think it's a mistake for the city and for the community to use Charter Square," said Jason McComb from the United Studio of Self Defense.

The district talked about using Charter Square, a six-acre shopping center filled with 24 businesses, as a site for a new elementary school, but the center isn't for sale. And merchants feared the district would try seizing it under eminent domain.

"Our workers are very loyal to us, and they're raising families. It will be a big hurt for our community here," said Victor Onizuka earlier on Thursday.

Onizuka is from Tokie's Japanese Restaurant, a family-owned business that has been located at the shopping center for 30 years.

The district wants to build a new school because student enrollment is expected to grow by nearly 1,000 in the next three or four years.

"Every possibility is being considered," said school board president Lory Lorimer Lawson.

The board was supposed to vote on a bond measure that would have earmarked money for the new school and pay for library upgrades and computer labs. But even a third party analyst recommended no is not the time.

"The Charter Square controversy has the potential to really become an overwhelming distraction to the primary purposes of this bond measure," said Sarah Stern from the TBWB Firm.

Even the city's mayor believes Charter Square isn't a good option.

"From the city's perspective, we have a revenue source there. It's not great, but it's a revenue source. If the school takes that property over, that revenue source is gone," said Foster City Mayor Art Kiesel.

In the end, the board decided to let the bond motion die. Many assume that means Charter Square will live. It also means the district's problem with overcrowding continues.

"I'm disappointed obviously it didn't move forward," said Jane Chan, a school board trustee.

The next steps are not to reexamine the bond issue, but instead do some community outreach.

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