A couple years ago, wise leaders of the Granada Community Services District voted to help skateboarders move their unregulated (and thoroughly awesome) jetty ramp from Caltrans right of way onto district property on the Burnham Strip. In so doing, the district earned a lot of goodwill and did a solid for Coastside kids. Now they have another opportunity, this time to help younger kids and their harried parents.
When they meet on Thursday, they will consider buying the property at 480 Avenue Alhambra and turning it into their long-coveted “community center.” They should not do so without first helping to find a solution for Picasso Preschool, the community center of a different sort that is too important to be left hanging by a government entity that exists to provide community services.
Elected officials in the special district claim a mandate for meeting space on the Midcoast. They point to an unscientific survey of residents that suggests people wanted a community center that would include a conference room and district offices. The survey did not, however, ask residents what they wanted more in that particular space: district offices or a respected child care center?
That address is mighty familiar to families on the Midcoast as it’s been the location of Picasso Preschool for 27 years. The three-room schoolhouse has been an indispensable family-owned daycare that has set up untold Coastside kids for success in area schools. It has also made it possible for parents to work secure in the knowledge that their children were being cared for close to home. Unexpectedly, the owners of the property announced in the middle of the pandemic that they intended to sell, and Picasso owners set out to find another suitable location. That is no easy feat, given child care regulations, Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, parking needs and all the rest, and at this writing the fate of the institution hangs in the balance.
None of that is of any concern to the GCSD, elected officials say, and it is not the Granada district’s fault that the preschool is looking for new digs. As GCSD Director Matthew Clark said earlier, “All GCSD did is put up our hand and say we are interested in the property.”
Whatever public interest there might be for a community center in El Granada is swamped by the urgent necessity of child care in the region. The lack of child care is just one of many problems that force families over the hill. Housing affordability, the lack of active recreational opportunities, commute times — it all adds up to making family life difficult here. As a result, there are fewer kids in local public schools, which then face systemic funding issues that could ultimately lead to school closures and layoffs that could perpetuate the cycle.
This happens to be the second local district buying office space in El Granada this summer. The San Mateo County Harbor District recently paid $3 million for a building just up the road — and it’s the very building in which the GCSD currently leases space. That building, by the way, has a meeting room that could be made available to the public.
If you think it’s hard to find a place to hold a government meeting on the coast, try finding care for your 4-year-old. Rather than seeing opportunity in the loss of a preschool, we’d like to see the GCSD raise its hand to see what it could do to save such an important community resource.
— Clay Lambert
This version corrects to better describe the GCSD as a special district. It collects money from ratepayers but does not tax property owners.