The Head-Royce School has won permission to expand their Oakland campus from 14 to 22 acres, despite their neighbors’ concern that the expansion could create additional wildfire risk.
If you’re not familiar with the Head-Royce School in Oakland’s Oakmore District, it’s a K-12 school that was established in 1887, but became the private prep school that it is today with the 1979 merger of the Anna Head School for Girls and the adjacent Royce School for boys. It’s a fairly large 14-acre campus, and has around 900 students. But with enrollment dwindling at Oakland’s public schools, Head-Royce thinks it can expand its enrollment to more than 1,200 students over the next two decades.
Getting permission to do so is a whole other challenge. For over a year, the school has faced neighborhood opposition to the plans to expand the campus from 14 acres, using eight acres of property it already owns across the street — with some just saying that 300 more students is too many.
But the Chronicle reports that Oakland City Council unanimously approved the expansion Tuesday, allowing Head-Royce to build 11 new buildings on the site of the former Lincoln Children’s Center, and to build an underground pedestrian tunnel beneath Lincoln Avenue.
Many neighbors were opposed, saying the area is a wildfire danger zone, and the additional expansion would vastly complicate any necessary wildfire evacuation efforts.
One neighbor even showed the council a video of the 1991 Oakland Hills fire, saying the video depicts “exactly what’s involved when you have to evacuate, when you have cars coming down, you have people running, you have utter chaos.”
But the council was satisfied that Head-Royce would submit a wildfire emergency evacuation draft plan. Councilmember Janani Ramachandran, who represents that district, added amendments to the approval that included noise mitigation efforts during construction, requirements for enrollment reports, and limits on the use of the proposed performing arts center that ensure it can only be used for school purposes.
While the expansion was approved, the Head-Royce School has not indicated when it will break ground on these plans.
Image: Head-Royce School Summer Program via Yelp