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Neighborhood Council Says Harvard-Westlake School Plan Lacks Vital Information

Studio City ad hoc committee determines the school's draft proposal for a massive development over Coldwater Canyon Avenue needs to address several issues before the final environmental impact report is submitted.

Harvard-Westlake parent Tim Hyde addresses the Studio City Neighborhood Council on Dec. 11, 2013. Credit: Matthew Sanderson
Harvard-Westlake parent Tim Hyde addresses the Studio City Neighborhood Council on Dec. 11, 2013. Credit: Matthew Sanderson
It was a sea of red Harvard-Westlake School shirts at the Studio City Neighborhood Council (SCNC) meeting Wednesday night at CBS Studios, leading an hour-and-a-half charge on the microphone in support of a controversial mixed-use development over Coldwater Canyon Avenue.

As school supporter numbers began to subside after 8:30 p.m., Studio City residents, mostly backed by the opposition group Save Coldwater Canyon, reiterated their concerns against the school's project.

Then the neighborhood council approved its ad hoc committee's determination, with one abstention, that Harvard-Westlake's draft environmental impact report was "deficient" and lacks certain mitigation measures.

Harvard-Westlake School proposes to build a multi-use, three-story parking garage with an athletic field on its roof, including a connecting pedestrian walkway, spanning Coldwater Canyon Avenue. Among the concerns are whether there is actually historical parking issue along that portion Coldwater Canyon to justify the project's scale, whether there is an benefit to the school's neighbors once completed and a host of mixed environmental concerns.

"We sat down for a month and broke this down," said SCNC President John Walker. "I hope we've done well by Harvard-Westlake to address the issues."

After the meeting John Amato, Harvard-Westlake's vice president, credited the SCNC for doing a thorough job and getting all responses heard.

The ad hoc committee questioned whether the proposed structure is compatible with the single family homes nearby.

SCNC Secretary Rita Villa, who assisted on the ad hoc committee, noted that Harvard-Westlake did not present any serious alternative proposals or explain how the original proposed structure will have a "less than significant" impact on the area.

She said the garage will bring in approximately 1,085 new parking spaces, but the school did not explain how it will not "generate new vehicle trips" or plans to mitigate the impacts of moving approximately 135,000 proposed cubic yards of dirt, which was presented as 100 trips per day during the excavation period.

"Harvard-Westlake should agree to compensate surrounding homeowners if there is damage," she said in the charge presented to the SCNC. "There's been no identified staging area of construction vehicles."

The committee determined the school is using conflicting maps and needs to present an updated layout of the school project.

Villa said the school should establish a "noise disturbance coordinator" with a telephone number available for residents to call when issues arise.

"Harvard-Westlake did not give sufficient consideration of the noise level and the surrounding repercussions," she said. "Shrubs and buffers need to be densely planted around the structure and retaining wall."

Villa focused on the 49 closest homes and Sunnyside Preschool being the most significantly affected by the project's decibel levels, recommending that Harvard-Westlake set up a relocation fund for Sunnyside. She also noted that a traffic control officer should be stationed during high traffic times of construction.

"The project has the potential to degrade the quality of the environment around the school," Villa added before arriving to the conclusion for the SCNC.

Click here to view the DEIR.

Click here to view previous coverage and posts about the project, which include letters to the editor in support or in opposition.

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