EL CERRITO -- A charter school that plans to open this fall in a building that formerly housed a private school received Planning Commission approval Jan. 28 to operate under the site's existing use permit.

The decision, passed by a 6-0 vote, came after a positive recommendation from city staff members who had determined that the Summit K2 school plans to follow rules about student drop-off times, hours of operation, noise, parking and other issues observed by the former Windrush School.

Summit K2's landlord, the Richmond-based Chamberlin Family Foundation, purchased the historic building at 1800 Elm St. in December of 2012 after Windrush fell into bankruptcy.

The four-acre campus consists of five buildings with a total of 48,000 square feet of space, including the former Chung Mei Home for Chinese Boys erected in 1935, a gymnasium and a building with 12 classrooms that opened in 2008.

Summit K2 plans to open this fall with about 120 seventh-graders at 1800 Elm St. and add a second seventh grade class in the fall of 2015, giving it more than two years to find a site for a planned high school.

The use permit allows up to 349 students at the site and Summit K2 will have to obtain city approval if it wants to increase enrollment.

The Planning Commission's role was to make "a land-use decision, not an educational decision," commission Chairman Bill Kuhlman told about 100 parents, students and community members in attendance.

The commission's decision can be appealed to the City Council by any El Cerrito resident or property owner.

Summit K2's petition to operate a charter school was approved by the Contra Costa County Office of Education in November after it was previously rejected by West Contra Costa School District trustees.

About 25 speakers addressed the commission, with an overwhelming majority favoring approval. Several speakers pointed to a need for "more educational options" for students, although that was not an issue that the commission was considering.