“Hey hey, ho ho, this bad project’s got to go,” neighbors chanted during one of the two protests held this month against the school’s proposed parking structure.
This recent uptick in opposition follows the City Planning Committee’s delay of the parking discussion, which has been moved from Sept. 28 to an unknown date in the future.
President of Save Coldwater Canyon Sarah Boyd said that the organization aims to highlight their many concerns about the proposal, such as its effects on traffic, the environment and public health. The organization has also reached out to political officials, such as City Council member Paul Kerkorian.
“We wanted to raise awareness about the project to all the commuters already stuck in such horrible traffic,” Boyd said.
During the protests, attendees stood on Coldwater Canyon Avenue holding up handmade signs reading slogans such as “Kerkorian: Ask Harvard-Westlake to increase carpooling!” and “Keep Harvard-Westlake on the East Side of Coldwater.”
Students said that they felt overwhelmed by protestors on their way to school.
“A guy came up really close to my car with his protest sign and was shaking it in my direction, which was really scary,” Catherine Crouch ’19 said.
Neighbors have also used Nextdoor, a social network for neighborhoods, to express their grievances.
The app has allowed the community to rally support for the opposition and voice its opinions on the school’s project.
“There is absolutely nothing our community will gain from this,” resident Jack Mazur wrote on Nextdoor. “Quite opposite actually. I am happy that so many oppose this ridiculous, unnecessary and selfish project.”
In a similar manner, students around campus have joined together in support of the structure.
“I understand why people object to a parking structure for environmental and traffic reasons, but personally I think the extra space for parking would be extremely beneficial,” a student who wished to remain anonymous said. “Currently, parking in the junior or senior lot can be really crowded and honestly, dangerous at times if someone is driving too fast through the lot. I think having a parking lot on the other side of Coldwater that had more space and made parking easier would be really helpful.”
Many Harvard-Westlake families who live in Studio City have expressed both their support for the proposal and their sympathy for the concerns of their fellow neighbors who oppose the plan.
“I feel the local opposition to the proposal is very understandable, but also overwrought,” Ethan Reiff (Skylar Reiff ’15, Izzy Reiff ’18 and Sarah Reiff ’20) said. “If [the proposal] goes forward, it will be a legitimate pain for people who live right next to the construction site, and a bit of a mess for the rest of our neighborhood, with traffic probably being intermittently worse whenever equipment or supplies come and go. But that won’t last forever, and in the long run I believe it will make students and other visitors to the campus on Coldwater Canyon much safer.”
Some students, however, have said that they are concerned about the potential negative effects of the structure.
George Grube ’20, who opposes the proposal, said that he feels the parking structure encourages the use of cars, which is disastrous for the environment, and would destroy the natural wildlife.
“In my opinion, the greatest consequence of building the parking structure would be not being able to see the wild hillside,” Grube said. “I enjoy seeing the wilderness untouched by humans that stands out among the man-made streets.”
Other students have expressed their concern regarding the increased traffic and its effects on their personal safety.
“The increased traffic would honestly be worse for me, as someone who walks to school, as I could get run over,” Anita Anand ’19 said. “If people are flying down Coldwater super-fast, I could essentially die because there is no sidewalk and I have to walk on the road, which would be very unsafe.”
Despite the controversy, both the neighbors and members of the school community have expressed a hope to reach common ground in the future.
President Rick Commons said that he looks forward to working with the neighbors and listening to all of their concerns.
“We are not ignoring that they are protesting,” Commons said. “We are actually interested in what they are saying and interested in those things that our opponents would like to see from us. It is an ongoing priority to see if there is some way in which we can accomplish our objectives and make the neighbors less unhappy.”