LIVINGSTON — After nearly seven years of wrangling, the city of Livingston and the Merced Union High School District finalized a tentative agreement on the future of Livingston's Peach Avenue last week.
In a memorandum of understanding between the two bodies, passed by Livingston's City Council, it was agreed that Peach Avenue will stay open along its current route, no private property will be taken and a bridge will be built over the street for Livingston High School students.
"The memorandum of understanding marks a level of cooperation with the city that we need in order to prosper," said Michael Belluomini, the MUHSD's director of facilities planning. The MUHSD board already has OK'd the memorandum of understanding.
The MUHSD has been planning to expand across Peach Avenue with a 19-acre sports field project and parking lot for years. The contention between the city and the school district had been over how to get the students from one side of the street to the other.
"This is not a new issue," said Livingston City Manager Richard Warne, who explained the options negotiated on.
The first entailed rerouting Peach Avenue. It would have necessitated the demolition of several adjacent properties, none of whose owners were willing to sell.
The second would have raised Peach Avenue and built a tunnel below it, but left or right turns on that part of Peach Avenue would have been prevented.
A modified third option finally was chosen by the two sides. In the memorandum of understanding, Peach Avenue will stay open and no private property will be taken.
Instead, the street will be broadened and a lighted crosswalk will be put in place until a walking bridge can be constructed. The $2.8 million project will be paid for by the school district with bond funds.
While the two bodies have come to a tentative agreement, state law prohibits any binding agreement until the final environmental review is complete. Once the environmental review is finished, the city and school district can finalize their agreement.
Betty Ow and her daughter Polly Ow, whose Valley Market at Main Street and Peach Avenue could have been demolished, said they did not want their 30 years of hard work taken away.
"I don't want them touching my land," Betty Ow said.