Friends of CSM Community Gardens

Sierra Club Loma Prieta members participated in the "Friends of the College of San Mateo Gardens" organization, and the Sierra Club submitted an amicus brief to the State Supreme Court. To get to this point there were 2 Superior Court wins, an Appeals Court win, a Supreme Court draw requiring further reasoning from the Appeals Court, another Appeals Court win and finally a Supreme Court win by refusing further appeals from the San Mateo County Community College District. The Supreme Court also denied the District's request for "depublication" which means that this case is a precedent that can be cited in similar cases.

 Attorney Susan Brandt-Hawley is to be commended for her acumen and stick-to-itiveness for navigating to this conclusion on behalf of the students who couldn't be listened to by their own college district board.

 Mike Ferreira


State high court says college can’t pave over gardens yet

By Bob Egelko

July 19, 2017


The state Supreme Court held up a stop sign Wednesday to the paving machinery that the College of San Mateo wants to use on its 54-year-old campus garden.

College district officials must first study the environmental effects of replacing the greenery with a parking lot, and include options to limit any visual or atmospheric impact, under an appellate ruling that the high court left intact.

“Hopefully they’ll decide to keep the gardens or substantially save them,” said Susan Brandt-Hawley, lawyer for a group of students and local residents who call themselves the Friends of the College of San Mateo Gardens and consider the foliage their campus haven.

Lawyers for the San Mateo County Community College District could not be reached for comment.

The garden, interspersed with walkways, dates from 1963. The district’s 2006 master plan proposed leaving it in place, but in 2011, district officials presented an amended plan to remove the garden, and an adjoining greenhouse and vacant classroom building, and replace them with 140 to 160 parking spaces.

The district declined to conduct an environmental study, saying the demolition would amount to only a minor alteration in its 2006 plan. Trees and shrubs would be replanted elsewhere on campus, the district said, and aesthetics are in the eye of the beholder.

But the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco said in May that comments from students, teachers and others who frequent the garden indicate that demolishing it “might have a significant environmental impact.”

Presiding Justice James Humes said in the 3-0 appellate ruling that there was a “fair argument” that demolition would have an aesthetic impact, the standard set by state law to require environmental review.

The case is Friends of the College of San Mateo Gardens vs. San Mateo County Community College District, S242546.