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Campus at center of "I Don't Like Mondays" shooting to move

Former Grover Cleveland school in San Carlos to be site of 50 homes

On a Monday in 1979, the school principal and custodian were killed and nine more were injured, including eight elementary school children and a police officer.
On a Monday in 1979, the school principal and custodian were killed and nine more were injured, including eight elementary school children and a police officer.

On August 18, a hearing with the city’s planning commission will decide if a proposed residential block development gets the green light. The project application proposes to build 50 homes where a charter school (Magnolia Science Academy) now resides.

The site located at 6365 Lake Atlin Avenue is also the location of what is often dubbed as the “first mass school shooting” in U.S. history. Though school shootings in the U.S. date back to the 1800s, the shooting at Grover Cleveland Elementary was the first in San Diego’s history.

View from the memorial to where Brenda Spencer's bedroom was in 1979

As children made their way onto the campus one Monday in January 1979, 16-year-old Brenda Spencer opened fire with a Ruger .22-caliber rifle from her bedroom window across the street. The school principal and custodian were killed and nine others were injured, including eight elementary school children and a police officer. Spencer’s flippant “I don’t like Mondays” response as to “why?” led to her name going down in infamy, owing at least in part to the Boomtown Rats' pop hit, “I Don’t Like Mondays."

In June, the local Navajo community planning group voted on the project after a presentation from developer representative Ted Shaw of the Atlantis Group. Concerns raised at the meeting were issues related to storm water, possible paleontological findings, parking, and the safety concerns related to entrance and exit driveways in the housing development. According to the meeting minutes, adding driveways would cause the development to lose three houses.

Proposed new site for the memorial

The two major concerns voiced at the meeting were relocation of both the school’s 450 students mid-year and the memorial honoring the lives lost in 1979.

Matthew Adams, chair of the Navajo planning group, doesn’t have plans to attend the hearing. Adams said, “The project was approved by the planning group with the only stipulation being to keep the school open until the end of the [2017] school year.”

Adams also said, “We just wanted to make sure the project complemented the community with the size and character of the homes.” Adams recollected that the development would be a mix of one- and two-story residences.

Every existing house on the three-block stretch of Lake Atlin is single story, with the nine houses on the same block as the proposed project having three bedrooms and one to two bathrooms.

The representative for the developer, Shaw, is a land-use consultant as well as a member of the county’s citizen land-use review committee (started in 2013 to improve the county’s land-use permitting process).

The proposed development envisions 50 two-story homes.

“The project is planned for two-story homes with two-car attached garages," said Shaw. "It’s anticipated that the homes will have three to four bathrooms and four to five bedrooms.” He also said there will be additional parking within the development.

“Groundbreaking will occur as soon as the charter school vacates the property,” said Shaw, “which is scheduled for some time between March 31st and June 18th of 2017.”

Councilmember Scott Sherman's spokesman Jeff Powell said his office received a petition more than a year ago from the students' parents asking that the school not be moved. Powell said that after Sherman met with school representatives, his office called the developer to ask that they come to some sort of arrangement to help make the transition better for the students.

About the memorial, Adams spoke of the importance of ensuring that the site has some sort of acknowledgment of the 1979 tragedy. Shaw said the memorial will be relocated during construction to the park area (corner of Lake Atlin and Lake Angela Drive).

Magnolia’s principal, Gokhan Serce, plans to attend the hearing but isn’t planning on speaking. Serce confirmed that the developer is letting Magnolia stay until the last day of school on June 18, 2017. According to Serce, the charter school will be moving to the intersection of Zion and Estrella, behind Foster Elementary in neighboring Allied Gardens.

Serce praised the school district for helping them find a new home as well as negotiating their stay at their current location until the new school is ready.

I contacted the city’s planning commission to ask if their member Sue Peerson (Shaw’s wife) would be recusing herself from casting a vote on the project on August 18.

John Fisher, a development services department project manager, said, “I cannot confirm at this time what actions Commissioner Peerson will or will not take. Based on her past actions of not participating on a matter where her husband’s firm represented the applicant, I expect she would not participate on the matter of the Lake Atlin project.”

(corrected 8/18, 10:45 a.m.)

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On a Monday in 1979, the school principal and custodian were killed and nine more were injured, including eight elementary school children and a police officer.
On a Monday in 1979, the school principal and custodian were killed and nine more were injured, including eight elementary school children and a police officer.

On August 18, a hearing with the city’s planning commission will decide if a proposed residential block development gets the green light. The project application proposes to build 50 homes where a charter school (Magnolia Science Academy) now resides.

The site located at 6365 Lake Atlin Avenue is also the location of what is often dubbed as the “first mass school shooting” in U.S. history. Though school shootings in the U.S. date back to the 1800s, the shooting at Grover Cleveland Elementary was the first in San Diego’s history.

View from the memorial to where Brenda Spencer's bedroom was in 1979

As children made their way onto the campus one Monday in January 1979, 16-year-old Brenda Spencer opened fire with a Ruger .22-caliber rifle from her bedroom window across the street. The school principal and custodian were killed and nine others were injured, including eight elementary school children and a police officer. Spencer’s flippant “I don’t like Mondays” response as to “why?” led to her name going down in infamy, owing at least in part to the Boomtown Rats' pop hit, “I Don’t Like Mondays."

In June, the local Navajo community planning group voted on the project after a presentation from developer representative Ted Shaw of the Atlantis Group. Concerns raised at the meeting were issues related to storm water, possible paleontological findings, parking, and the safety concerns related to entrance and exit driveways in the housing development. According to the meeting minutes, adding driveways would cause the development to lose three houses.

Proposed new site for the memorial

The two major concerns voiced at the meeting were relocation of both the school’s 450 students mid-year and the memorial honoring the lives lost in 1979.

Matthew Adams, chair of the Navajo planning group, doesn’t have plans to attend the hearing. Adams said, “The project was approved by the planning group with the only stipulation being to keep the school open until the end of the [2017] school year.”

Adams also said, “We just wanted to make sure the project complemented the community with the size and character of the homes.” Adams recollected that the development would be a mix of one- and two-story residences.

Every existing house on the three-block stretch of Lake Atlin is single story, with the nine houses on the same block as the proposed project having three bedrooms and one to two bathrooms.

The representative for the developer, Shaw, is a land-use consultant as well as a member of the county’s citizen land-use review committee (started in 2013 to improve the county’s land-use permitting process).

The proposed development envisions 50 two-story homes.

“The project is planned for two-story homes with two-car attached garages," said Shaw. "It’s anticipated that the homes will have three to four bathrooms and four to five bedrooms.” He also said there will be additional parking within the development.

“Groundbreaking will occur as soon as the charter school vacates the property,” said Shaw, “which is scheduled for some time between March 31st and June 18th of 2017.”

Councilmember Scott Sherman's spokesman Jeff Powell said his office received a petition more than a year ago from the students' parents asking that the school not be moved. Powell said that after Sherman met with school representatives, his office called the developer to ask that they come to some sort of arrangement to help make the transition better for the students.

About the memorial, Adams spoke of the importance of ensuring that the site has some sort of acknowledgment of the 1979 tragedy. Shaw said the memorial will be relocated during construction to the park area (corner of Lake Atlin and Lake Angela Drive).

Magnolia’s principal, Gokhan Serce, plans to attend the hearing but isn’t planning on speaking. Serce confirmed that the developer is letting Magnolia stay until the last day of school on June 18, 2017. According to Serce, the charter school will be moving to the intersection of Zion and Estrella, behind Foster Elementary in neighboring Allied Gardens.

Serce praised the school district for helping them find a new home as well as negotiating their stay at their current location until the new school is ready.

I contacted the city’s planning commission to ask if their member Sue Peerson (Shaw’s wife) would be recusing herself from casting a vote on the project on August 18.

John Fisher, a development services department project manager, said, “I cannot confirm at this time what actions Commissioner Peerson will or will not take. Based on her past actions of not participating on a matter where her husband’s firm represented the applicant, I expect she would not participate on the matter of the Lake Atlin project.”

(corrected 8/18, 10:45 a.m.)

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1

In the early-to-mid 80's, the school district consolidated three elementary schools in that Navajo/Lake Murray/San Carlos area into one. The one that remains in use in Gage Elementary. Cleveland and Forward were closed and their facilities leased out to private or parochial schools. It was not long after the shooting that they decided to close Cleveland. That area had developed with many young families (with probably 3.5 kids each) buying the brand new homes. That meant a need for many classrooms. But by 1980, with the birth rate down sharply, and many of the homes in the hands of empty nesters, they just didn't need that many schools. As I remember, Cleveland would have been closed, shooting or no shooting. But that memory probably made it more certain, and hastened the closure.

I did find it interesting to note that there is a memorial plaque on the campus. Twenty years ago, I noted such a memorial to Wragg and Suchar on the grounds of the SDUSD administrative offices on (ab)Normal Street. I'd assumed it had been moved from the campus during some part of that time when it was re-purposed and leased out. So, I conclude that there are two such memorials to those heroes. I hope their selfless deeds that morning are never forgotten.

Aug. 18, 2016

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