California College and School District Settle Lawsuit Over Project Fallout

By Lisa Kopochinski

MARIN COUNTY, Calif.—After six months of controversy, College of Marin, a public community college with two campuses—one each in Novato and Kentfield—and the Kentfield School District have settled the district’s lawsuit alleging environmental hazards from a construction project near Kent Middle School.

“We have come to a mutually satisfactory agreement,” said College of Marin President David Wain Coon after a college board of trustees meeting on March 30.

In a statement, Wain Coon said the settlement was approved unanimously by trustees on March 10 in closed session, but the COVID-19 crisis erupted just after that, so there was no public announcement.

According to an article in the Marin Independent Journal, the district sued the college last October, alleging it failed to address significant environmental impacts surrounding the college’s new maintenance and operations building. The suit raised concerns about hazardous emissions, dust, debris and noise near the middle school.

According to the settlement, College of Marin will accomplish the following improvements, safety measures and protections:

  • A crossing guard will be in place at the project crosswalk during construction. After that, a safety barrier or flashing lights will be installed.
  • Construction and delivery-related traffic will have restricted routing instructions to use detours during school hours.
  • The college will adhere to rules for noise sampling, noise abatement and enforcing noise regulations, including installing noise-barrier fencing.
  • The college will install a curb and a fence.
  • The college will enforce vehicle idling regulations.

Ina Gotlieb, a Kent Middle School parent who led a community protest over the project, said the settlement “does not go far enough to protect the children and staff at the school from potential future impacts of the facility. They were able to continue constructing their facility while forcing KSD to settle for a pretty weak response.”

Construction is continuing through the COVID-19 pandemic, but with delays.

College of Marin Vice President of Operations Greg Nelson said that, in particular, the project was delayed after the asphalt contractor canceled over coronavirus concerns.