Laurel Elementary School's Safe Green Streets

New Crosswalk and Vegetated Curb Extension near Laurel Elementary School (photo: Kevin Robert Perry)


Nestled within the city of San Mateo, Laurel Elementary School has solved two pressing problems in one purposeful project: enhanced safety for students and environmental protection.


Rather than finding separate solutions to the pressing issues of stormwater pollution and traffic safety, the San Mateo-Foster City School District, the City of San Mateo, and the San Mateo Countywide Water Pollution Prevention Program created a project that built upon the Safe Routes to School program that encourages children to walk or bike to school by removing barriers that prevent them from doing so and strategically integrated “green infrastructure” to manage wet weather and prevent flooding near the school.


More specifically, the school supported the Safe Routes to School program by separating pedestrian, bicycle, and vehicle paths thus protecting children on their way to and from school.  These safety improvements were combined with green infrastructure, an approach to water management that mimics the natural water cycle in ways like using areas with plants, rocks or gravel to allow rain water to absorb into the ground instead of that water flowing solely to storm drains.


This melding of stormwater management, which reduces pollutants entering the San Francisco Bay and other local waterways, and children’s safety as top priorities is accomplished in various other ways:


  1. The revamped parking lot features a one-way drop-off/pick up lane with rain gardens and special planters that capture, infiltrate, and treat parking lot runoff.
  2. Strategic curb extensions with plants at crosswalk locations, including a new mid-block crosswalk, not only treat stormwater runoff by capturing pollutants such as oil, vehicle fluids and trash, but also help reduce street crossing distances for students while helping drivers see pedestrians crossing the street.  
  3. An upgraded school entrance with new bike racks, designated walking/waiting zones for students, handicapped-accessible curb ramps and a rain garden for treating roof runoff from an adjacent building.


Overall, this project represents a robust sustainable urban development approach that benefits both the school and surrounding community and demonstrates how we can successfully integrate Safe Routes to School and stormwater management.


If you would like to learn more about projects like these in SMC, visit: