When the school was founded in 1964, the area around the campus was undeveloped farm land. But with added development, the school was hemmed in. In the intervening half century, parking and traffic have become major problems.
In the ‘90s, the school and the surrounding community came to loggerheads over expansion, and the city ordered the school to keep car movements to 1994-95 levels. (The city continues to monitor traffic levels every few months.)
Below are some of the ideas, both old and new, proposed to solve the parking and traffic issue.
281 Munroe Street
The owner of 281 Munroe St. (the undeveloped lot between Country Day and Lyon Village) has refused to entertain an offer on the piece of land, according to headmaster Stephen Repsher.
“The owner wouldn’t discuss selling, or even leasing, let alone a price, so that was the end of that conversation,” Repsher said.
Munroe Street Entrance
In 1994, the school proposed building a grand boulevard-style entrance off Munroe Street through the current soccer field, including dedicated lanes both in and out and a roundabout at the tip closest to school. Parking would have flanked both sides of the entrance.
“We thought the neighbors on Latham would be happy,” director of communications Julie Nelson said.
However, other neighbors, namely those whose backyards fronted the school on American River Drive as well as the East Ranch community, notified the administration that previous headmaster Clayton J. Tidey (1969-83) had promised them that the soccer field area would remain green space with no development in perpetuity.
Subsequent legal action by the neighbors on Latham Drive revealed that the school was over- enrolled by almost 80 students.
The Sacramento City Council eventually allowed the school to continue growing to 544 students, but the administration had to agree to limited events, staggered pick-up times, and a maximum of 144 students in the high school.
Parking on Munroe Street
One way that the school has dealt with the current parking situation without adding a new lot has been increased parking on Munroe Street and American River Drive (west of the Munroe intersection).
In fact, headmaster Stephen Repsher himself has parked on Munroe.
“I think of it as good exercise, and because it’s on the same side of the street, I made the walk in three minutes,” Repsher said.
Although parking on Munroe is a minor inconvenience, Repsher stressed that it’s the cheapest, easiest option for expanded parking and better traffic management.
The cost of building an underground parking garage has been the primary impediment to construction, headmaster Stephen Repsher said.
A representative of Sundt Construction, Sacramento, estimates the cost of a 300-spot underground parking garage at around $10 million, provided the lot could be built on the soccer field and a new field put on top to comply with city codes.
“I’m just not sure it’s the best use of money, especially that much money,” Repsher said.
He cited feasibility as another key obstacle, as the school would have to sink the structure into land just half a mile away from the American River.
“There was a school in San Diego that hit the water table halfway through construction (of an underground parking garage),” Repsher said.
“They had to elevate their garage, so now it sticks out of the ground.”
Buried Power Lines
Burying the Sacramento Municipal Utility District and Western Area Power Authority power lines would likely cost $1 million per tower, according to headmaster Stephen Repsher (the school has two towers on its land).
The original owner of the land the school sits on, Emil Clemens Horst, sold the rights to build the high-tension transmission lines for $8,000 in 1948.
Repsher said that although buried power lines would allow the school to turn the full lot (currently, only five of the 11 acres of land the school sits on can hold permanent structures) into buildable area, expansion of parking would require tearing down the high school and building new facilities.
Furthermore, expanded facilities would allow the school to increase the number of students, exacerbating the parking problem.
In the past, the school has used off-campus lots, namely the parking lot at the Unitarian Church (2425 Sierra Blvd.) and the lot at the United Church of Christ Congregational church (890 Morse Ave.) and run shuttles in between to alleviate the parking problem.
Jay Holman, director of the physical plant, said the school stopped running shuttles because students and faculty began parking on American River Drive after the Octagon published an article in December 2010 revealing that parking there was permitted.
After a few weeks of running empty shuttles, we made the decision to stop running them,” Holman said.
Former dean of students Daniel Neukom remembers other difficulties with the off-campus lots.
“There were some break-ins with the cars parked at the Unilot when drivers left expensive items exposed,” Neukom said.
“Two cars had their windows shot out when no one was in the lot.”
Neukom cited the large size of the Unilot parking as a reason the cars were unable to be secured.
Another problem with off-campus lots was the shuttle bus system.
Starting at 7:30 a.m., the shuttle would run the circuitous route every 10 minutes until 9 a.m.
Afternoon runs had to take place for an equally long period of time (3:30-5:45 p.m.) due to normal dismissal times and sports practices.
Moreover, students had to phone the school for special pick- ups at abnormal hours.
“It was very challenging trying to organize that and keep it all straight,” Neukom said.
While students and faculty no longer use the Congrelot, the school has continued to lease the space as part of its use permit from the city.
Headmaster Stephen Repsher doesn’t believe that the surrounding community would approve of an aboveground parking garage, as it would be an eyesore.
“A big concrete structure, even if it was beautiful, would not be a fit within the neighborhood,” Repsher said.
He added that the school has spent the last decade repairing relationships with the neighbors and doesn’t want to break the good will that has been formed.
Sable Court Entrance
The school has also explored creating an entrance on Sable Court (the cul-de-sac in between American River Drive and Latham Drive) that would allow people to drive in from that street.
This solution would resolve the green space requirement of creating an entrance off Munroe. However, the school would have to buy and bulldoze all 11 houses in that area.
Headmaster Stephen Repsher said this solution would greatly enlarge the Buybuildable area of land the school owns, but that it would also come at enormous cost. (The cumulative price, according to Zillow, would be over $7 million.)
—By Manson Tung