On Measure H, vote 'yes,' Swenson says

I am a staunch supporter of Measure H. It is a sensible plan that will provide our community with a safe and accessible theater, and supports Piedmont's exceptional educational program. I am shocked and disappointed that opponents of Measure H have taken my name and quoted me out of context in advertisements and flyers to imply otherwise.

Andrea Swenson

vice president PUSD school board

Theater's renovation is the right way to go

I'm writing in support of Measure H to complete the rehabilitation of Piedmont's school facilities. The District's track record in funding and managing capital projects speaks for itself, and it's telling that proponents and opponents of the measure agree that the current 40-year-old Alan Harvey Theater facility is coming due for a major overhaul. Where they seem to disagree is on whether the proposed theater project is delivering good value compared to other recently built high school theaters. I believe it is.

The $10.5 million estimated construction cost (less contingencies and soft costs) seems to be roughly on par with the other theater projects. As an architect, I know that every building and every construction project is different. While comparisons are helpful for context, there is no set formula for dollars per square foot, per theater seat or any other measure, because there are so many possible choices of building configuration, construction type, structural systems, finish materials and theater amenities -- not to mention a dynamic bidding environment.

Some opponents seem concerned that the project is an expansion and renovation of the theater, as opposed to a complete teardown. As a LEED-accredited professional, I want to point out that reusing buildings is generally greener than tearing them down and starting over.

The most comprehensive analysis to date of the potential environmental benefits associated with building reuse, a 2012 study by the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Green Lab, examined cumulative life-cycle impacts over a project 75-year period for six different building types, including a school building.

For most building types, including schools, adaptive reuse of older buildings was found to yield measurable -- and sometimes impressive -- green benefits. The study found it can take 10 to 80 years for a new building that is 30 percent more efficient than an average-performing existing building just to overcome the negative climate change impacts related to the construction process. In the words of architect Carl Elefante, "the greenest building is the one that is already built."

Of course, rehabbing an older building also uses environmental resources. The best way to minimize the impact is to choose materials and building systems carefully. Fortunately, our new state building code incorporates many green features, and the theater architects are also designing to performance criteria set out by the Collaborative for High Performance Schools to conserve energy, water and materials.

I believe renovating and expanding the theater building is the right thing to do -- for education, for accessibility and for the environment.

Tim Rood

Piedmont City Councilmember

Current theater plan won't be a good deal

The bird calling contest. Musicals. Drama. A Cappella. Dance. Band and orchestra. Community theater. The Alan Harvey Theater is home to all of these, often with sellout crowds or standing room only. Which is why I have serious concerns over the proposed renovation of the theater that substantially reduces its capacity and why we need to take an intermission and reconsider what's being proposed.

Currently, the Alan Harvey theater has 500 seats. Yet the proposed renovated theater would have only 365 seats, a decrease of 27 percent in the theater's capacity. I've never attended a performance at the Alan Harvey Theater where 27 percent of the seats were empty. There simply won't be enough room to accommodate parents and friends who want to attend these performances. And there won't even be enough room for school assemblies, which, according to the design program, require a minimum of 400 seats.

One of the main reasons being given in support the current plan is that Piedmont High School would focus on becoming a performing arts school, and there's no arguing that the proposed renovations would create a very attractive venue with ancillary spaces, but it's not the only solution. Why are we considering reducing the size of the theater rather than maintaining its current size or enlarging it? Are we going to be satisfied, after spending at least $14.5 million, that our theater will be 27 percent smaller than it is now, meaning fewer people will be able to attend those performances?

In addition, because of this, box office revenues would plummet because of fewer ticket sales, decreasing revenues unless ticket prices skyrocket.

We all want to support Piedmont High School's performing arts students. So let's not shortchange them and our community by turning away fans and substantially shrinking audiences by building a theater that is way too small. Think about the effect of removing 135 seats before the upcoming spring drama festival, dance showcase, a cappella review and orchestra and band concerts. The 135 people turned away won't be happy, and there will be much less applause in the theater.

Other design solutions exist with which at least 500 seats can be maintained. Let's get it right and come back from our intermission with a new approach for renovating the Alan Harvey Theater.

Melanie O. Robertson

Piedmont