Our Master Plan

Myths vs. Facts

Head-Royce is committed to open and honest dialogue with our neighbors about our campus Master Plan. Even when we all have the best intentions, it’s easy for facts to get lost in translation and for misinformation to spread. Our goal with this document is to clarify the facts and counter some of the rumors you may have heard. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us at communityrelations@headroyce.org. We’d love to hear from you.

Myth: Head-Royce has already studied how the Master Plan will affect neighborhood residents and the environment and is withholding technical analysis from the neighbors.

FACT: The City of Oakland is currently working on a comprehensive environmental analysis of our proposed master plan and has begun the process of preparing an Environmental Impact Report (“EIR”), the most detailed level of review under the California Environmental Quality Act. The analysis in the EIR will be based on several technical studies being prepared by qualified experts under contract to the City’s EIR preparer, including transportation impacts, noise, cultural resources, biological resources, public safety, and fire prevention.

The experts preparing these background technical studies are not under contract to Head-Royce, and the School does not control when these technical studies are made public. Typically, these studies are released for public review and comment at the same time as the Draft EIR. Neighbors will be able to review and comment on the technical studies during the public comment period, as will Head-Royce. The City will respond to each comment in the Final EIR. This process is prescribed by law and is followed by all entitlement projects in Oakland and around the state.

Myth: Head-Royce is out of compliance with fire-safety regulations.

FACT: Head-Royce School is in compliance with state and local fire code and vegetation management requirements. Our motivation extends beyond simply passing routine fire inspections; we strive to effectively model our core tenet of responsible citizenship.

The City’s Fire Marshall inspects the School on an annual basis (in the summer for buildings, and in the summer and fall for vegetation). All properties were found to be compliant in the latest inspections—no fire code violations were noted, and the School met the City’s vegetation management requirements as evidenced by the Fire Department’s certifications of compliance posted here. Regular grounds maintenance is scheduled for our playfields, trees, shrubs, flower beds, sidewalks, roads, and parking lots to mitigate fire risk. This includes cutting and trimming of grass and weeds, fertilizing of grass and shrubbery, and pruning of shrubs and trees. See our full Vegetation Management Schedule here. This management schedule exceeds City requirements, and our facilities team is instructed to watch for and address potential areas of concern at all times – it is not a once-a-month maintenance activity, but a daily activity.

Myth: Head-Royce’s emergency evacuation plan is inadequate.

FACT: Our detailed emergency evacuation plan was crafted in partnership with Joffe Emergency Services, a team of experts that has assisted hundreds of schools across the country in developing and practicing emergency procedures. We review and update our plan every year to ensure we are implementing the very best safety practices in the event of a natural disaster or emergency. A copy of our full emergency plan is provided to the City of Oakland for their review annually, as a required under our conditions of approval. For security reasons the emergency plan is not made available to the public.

Myth: Head-Royce is planning for a massive increase in enrollment once the South Campus is built.

FACT: Head-Royce’s enrollment cap today is 906 students, though we currently enroll only 884. Our Master Plan calls for an increase in our enrollment cap to 1,250 students, but that increase would take place over 20-30 years. Historically, our enrollment has grown at a rate of approximately 1% per year. We expect to continue this slow and measured growth, without compromising our small class sizes or individualized student attention.

Myth: Parents won’t want to use the new loop road, and will drop their kids off and pick them up elsewhere in the neighborhood.

FACT: Head-Royce parents, as well as neighbors, offered extensive input into the new traffic alignment, and the plan was crafted as a direct response to this feedback. This traffic arrangement improves upon the current situation in several ways.

Today, drivers use a neighborhood street loop (the Alida/Laguna/Potomac Loop) to reverse direction on Lincoln Avenue. Neighbors along this Loop have complained for years that while they understand that these streets are public, they would prefer that Head-Royce traffic not use these neighborhood streets. A major benefit of the proposed Master Plan and response to neighborhood concern is a new internal loop road, where drivers will be able to reverse direction after drop-off without using neighborhood streets. The new circulation system will include optimized traffic lights and pocket turning lanes, moving queues off Lincoln Avenue and allowing through-traffic to flow more smoothly. A pedestrian tunnel under Lincoln Avenue will allow students to move back and forth between the south campus and the north campus and avoid large numbers of students crossing Lincoln Avenue at the signals. The tunnel will be well-lit and open and will be accessible only from within each campus. The tunnel entrances will not be publicly accessible or even visible from Lincoln Avenue.

As a condition of enrollment, parents will be required to agree to use the internal loop road for drop-off and pick-up. Escalating penalties will be applied to drivers who fail to follow the traffic rules.

The Master Plan will also include more off-street parking. Parents will more easily park in expanded parking lots to see their child off for the day, connect with school officials, and volunteer in class. This will minimize on-street parking by parents and visitors.

Myth: Head-Royce hasn’t been transparent with neighbors about the Master Plan.

FACT: We’ve worked hard to disseminate information about the Master Plan to the community as quickly and accurately as possible. We have set up a dedicated website for neighbors to review the plan, provide feedback, and sign up for updates and have met with our neighbors in both large groups and small groups to present our plans and get feedback. Those meetings include the following:

June 2012: LCC and HRS host a community meeting at LCC campus to discuss purchase

March 6, 2014: Neighbor meeting at HRS campus to discuss the process and get feedback

June 2, 2014: SOM (architects) meeting with neighbors to describe process

June 4, 2014: SOM second meeting with neighbors to describe process

August 2015: Larger neighbor meeting (80-90) to assess major concerns

February 15, 2017: Neighbor meeting to go over new COAs and show what HRS put in place; new Neighborhood Liaison Committee formed

April 25, 2018: Neighborhood meeting to present current iteration of Master Plan

We anticipate convening another neighborhood meeting in May to discuss the project and welcome more feedback and dialogue.

Myth: Head-Royce hasn’t included neighbors’ feedback in the Master Plan.

FACT: The plan we have presented to the City of Oakland incorporates years of detailed feedback we have received from neighbors, which helped us identify innovative solutions to concerns around noise, traffic, privacy, and sustainability. Changes include moving traffic out of the neighborhood, preservation and reuse of several of the existing buildings on the south campus, preservation of the south campus’ feeling of openness, a slow rate of growth in planned enrollment, and noise attenuation measures to address the new internal loop road. We continue to welcome specific ideas from our neighbors and will incorporate as many ideas as we feasibly can.

Myth: The Master Plan will exacerbate the chances of a landslide on the property and the surrounding area.

FACT: We do not believe the Master Plan proposes any development that would increase the risk of landslides but note that geological stability will be a topic covered in the Draft EIR. We will not undertake any construction without certainty that it is safe to do so.

Myth: Head-Royce plans to demolish historic buildings.

FACT: There are three buildings on campus we believe may qualify as historic resources. Our plan calls for retaining and rehabilitating these buildings. The historic resource analysis in the EIR will also assess whether any of the other buildings qualify as historic resources. Our Master Plan will comply with state and local provisions regarding historic resources as they are identified in the EIR.

Myth: Head-Royce is demolishing buildings that could be used as housing.

FACT: The South Campus is designated for Institutional uses in the City’s General Plan. The Institutional land use classification is intended to “create, maintain and enhance areas appropriate for educational facilities, cultural and institutional uses.” The site does not currently have housing and while it could be made appropriate for housing (the zoning would potentially allow up about 70 new single-family homes on this site), a significant amount of market-rate housing would not be compatible with a school campus. The Master Plan proposes a small number of accessory dwelling units (3-5 units) for faculty or staff use.

Myth: The plan includes an amphitheater in the middle of campus.

FACT: The area being called an “amphitheater” is a central outdoor gathering place called “The Commons.” It will be used daily as place for students to eat lunch and work outside. A limited number of school events are proposed to be programmed there with permission from the City.

Myth: Head-Royce broke down trust with neighbors by suing them in 2012.

FACT: Head-Royce was reluctantly drawn in to a preexisting legal dispute between a group of neighborhood residents and Lincoln Child Center (LCC), the former owner of the land at the South Campus site. In negotiations with LCC, Head-Royce agreed to become involved in the dispute only if a court determined that the school was “an indispensable or necessary party.” When the residents told the court that the school was an indispensable party, the court agreed and Head-Royce was required to become a party.

The issue in the lawsuit was whether a new owner of the LCC site could use the site free of certain strict restrictions on the use of the property that were in contracts between LCC and the residents that were entered into in 1995 and 1998. The neighbors contended that these contracts prevented LCC from selling the property to Head-Royce to use the site as a K-12 day school except in accordance with these restrictions. As a result of this “cloud on the title,” LCC sued neighbors to remove the “cloud.”

After becoming a party to LCC’s lawsuit in 2014, Head-Royce immediately moved for Summary Adjudication, which was granted on every meaningful point and Head-Royce was awarded attorney’s fees and costs. The judge ruled that the previous contracts between LCC and neighbors did not preclude LCC from selling the land to Head-Royce without the contractual use restrictions or applying for a new use. The judge stated that the positions taken by the neighbors’ counsel in the lawsuit would create “an absurd result,” have “no logical application,” and would be “illogical and unworkable.” From Head-Royce’s first appearance to summary adjudication, the school’s involvement in the case was just four-and-a-half months.