Opponents to construction of a parking lot and bridge adjacent to the Upper School placed signs on the lawns of neighboring homes in early July. The signs were created by Save Coldwater Canyon!, a non-profit organization of neighbors formed to stop the school from breaking ground across Coldwater Canyon Drive.
“Every group has a right to make their own statement,” Vice President and construction plan overseer John Amato said. “We just have to push forward with our plan.”
The signs display multiple messages, including “Say No Harvard-Westlake’s 3 Story Parking Garage!” and “Stop Harvard-Westlake’s Destruction of Coldwater Canyon!” and provide the name of Save Coldwater Canyon’s website, www.savecoldwatercanyon.com.
“The project is out of step and scale with what the land is meant to be used for,” Save Coldwater Canyon! president Sarah Boyd said. “The open land is not meant for a parking structure.”
Save Coldwater Canyon! was created after the release of the construction proposal in April 2013.
The organization is led by a board of nine residents from near the Upper School. Members have spoken out against the project at public meetings, posted concerns on their website and, most recently, displayed signs in front of houses.
“This project is a public relations disaster,” Save Coldwater Canyon! member Suellen Wagner said. “I don’t know why the school would take a risk in making this proposal.” Wagner also said that she heard reports of the signs being taken from houses by people associated with Harvard-Westlake.
The Los Angeles City Planning Department is currently reviewing the construction and environmental proposals and responding to the public’s comments on the issue. Public hearings will be held on the results once officials have finished reviewing the proposal.
“There is a certain attitude of, ‘It’s our property, and we can do what we want with it,’” Boyd said. “‘We need it, we want it, it’s ours.’”
As part of their efforts to stop the construction of the parking garage, the organization hired geological and environmental experts to study the construction site for issues. Boyd said that the Wilson Geosciences report found the bridge would be susceptible to failure in a major earthquake. Additionally, Boyd said the environmental report found protected trees and birds on the hillside.
“Whatever we build will be safe to the nth degree,” Amato said. “We are providing a safe place for students, faculty and guests.”
Though the school allows neighbors to use the track, he said there are no plans at this point to allow them to use the new parking lot and accompanying field.
“I think [the school] is making a really bad decision,” Boyd said. “It is a great school, but the project is not necessary.”