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Cardiff School

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  Public Architecture

Cardiff School yearned to harness ocean views and breezes better and maximize outdoor learning space. Located near the San Elijo State Beach, this K-2 school included the modernization of two existing buildings and seven new buildings gently terracing down the hillside. Other improvements included new play areas, outdoor learning courtyards, a new parking lot and drop-off amphitheater, and a lunch shelter.

Using the concept of a breakwater, the perimeter buildings utilize a neutral exterior along the street punctuated with large dormer windows that bring daylight into the classrooms and conceal mechanical units from view. On the interior, buildings are painted in the bright blue hues of the ocean, creating cheerfulness and energy. Trees taken down were repurposed into log benches and incorporated into the courtyards, along with coastal landscaping and boulders for informal outdoor learning.

The new campus plan also sought to improve circulation, security, and supervision. The multi-purpose room was repositioned to the front of the school, where it has direct access to parking and the joint-use open space for events. Strategically located adjacent to the playfields, an ample lunch area is shaded by a dynamic canopy with exposed structure and serves as a central gathering space for students.

1888 Montgomery Ave, Cardiff-by-the-Sea, CA 92007

Project Owner/Developer:
Cardiff School District

Contact Name/Email:
Randy Peterson / csdbpm@gmail.com

Project Architect/Designer:
Studio E Architects

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  1. Eleanor Musick

    One cannot assess the merits of an architectural project based on buildings alone. The $22M bond measure approved by Cardiff voters touted priorities of improved energy efficiency and sustainability. After voter approval, the plan proposed an expanded footprint for a steadily declining enrollment, consuming 40% of the adjacent public park and cutting down dozens of mature trees to support the expansion. The project was already over-budget 8 months before construction was scheduled to begin and facing major legal hurdles, yet the plan proceeded. The final cost of $31M was 25% more than projected, leading the district to borrow an additional $6M – without voter approval. The promise of improved energy efficiency was empty – no solar energy system was included in the design. In its first full year of operation, the district’s energy bills have grown by at least 50%. The massive long term debt and increased operating expenses of this project with a steadily declining enrollment suggest a non-viable economic future for this district.

    • Evan Keel

      Still upset Eleanor?

      Eleanor Musick is one of four directors for the non-profit organization “Save the Park Building the School”. She and the other 3 directors (William Gerrity, Daniel Littrell, and Keith Courtney) own property adjacent to the school property. Their concern was never the “park”. Their concern was that their ocean views would be blocked by school improvements. Reference the email below from STPBTS director Keith Courtney.

      Fun Facts:
      STPBTS was represented by Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves and Savitch LLP. This was Eleanor’s employer from 2004 to 2011.

      STPBTS reported $(1,077,572) in expenses, mostly legal fees, over their 3 year effort.

      Reference Email:

      On Sep 18, 2017, at 1:57 PM, Keith Courtney wrote:

      Randy Perterson,

      I live in Cardiff at 1833 Montgomery Ave., across the street from Cardiff Elementary School. My original understanding of the improvements that were going to be made were to bring the current buildings up to date, expand the multi-purpose room and replace the bungalows with a permanent structure. I just learned of the much more significant changes that are planned and I have seen the proposed expansion in the pdf presentation on the school districts website. The proposed expansion onto the existing baseball field reduces badly needed open space / park land in the community and also significantly and negatively impacts the views of the Montgomery Avenue homeowners.

      My neighbors and I paid a significant amount of money for our homes for the current view we have. This project will significantly decrease the value of all our homes with our views being negatively impacted should this project continue as currently planned. Needless to say I am shocked at what I saw the proposed changes to be. I am surprised the architects did not reach out to any of the homeowners adjacent to the school for our input on the building layout since we are the most impacted. I noticed in the presentation they gave a view of the school from further up the hill, but the biggest impact will be the view of the school from Montgomery Avenue. Before we hire attorneys and form a neighborhood coalition to oppose the project as currently planned, I think it would be good for you and Ito meet, so I can better understand
      the proposed changes and you can see how impactful the building expansion will be from our side of the street. Hopefully we can come up with a better alternative building layout that will help the district
      accomplish their goals with the site, but also attempt to reduce the impact to adjacent homeowners. Please let me know if us meeting at my house is an option and if so what is your availability. Thank you.


      Keith Courtney
      ACI Apartments
      (P) 619-725-3635
      (F) 619-299-8536
      (E) keithcourtney@aciapartments.com
      DRE CA # 01028193


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