“NOT IN MY BACKYARD!!!” is a recurring phrase in a list of 70 comments on a recent Los Angeles Times article. The story is about the school’s proposed construction of a three-story parking garage and the opposition it has aroused in neighbors. It appeared in print on Nov. 4, and ABC7 ran a similar story during the same day as part of the 6 p.m. news.
The much-debated structure would feature a rooftop field and a pedestrian bridge over Coldwater Canyon Avenue. The school first announced the project in Jan. 2013, and neighbors almost immediately formed the group Save Coldwater Canyon! to fight it.
“Now neighbors who have previously stayed silent, and put up with noise and disturbances and irritations from the school community without complaining have said ‘enough is enough,’” SCC President Sarah Boyd said.
Tom Holland has lived in the hills above the school for 29 years and said that his frustration began with the construction of the Copses Pool five years ago. Like other residents, Holland complains of noise and light pollution from sports games. He says that the acoustics of the new pool particularly amplify the sounds. Other neighbors say the problem started in 2006, with the introduction of field lights.
The school imposes a schedule limiting hours for practices, field lights and games to minimize inconvenience for neighbors.
President Rick Commons emphasized that the school is part of the neighborhood, and the administration wants to see everyone in the community satisfied with the final parking structure.
“It seems to me that neighbors who oppose our proposal often talk about the school not being a good neighbor,” Commons said. “I would like to eliminate all the extraneous and focus in on the very good question of whether this project can be good for the neighborhood, and we think it can. I really believe it will improve things long-term.”
On a day-to-day level, Commons believes the proposal will eliminate pedestrian traffic on Coldwater and neighboring streets and increase safety. He also thinks it will promote traffic decongestion by preventing the back-up of students turning left into the school off Coldwater. In addition, Commons said that the structure would reduce street parking during school events.
Boyd countered that most neighbors don’t consider street parking an issue. She also believes construction will cause a host of other issues, including traffic congestion, environmental destruction and more noise disturbance from the additional field.
Project manager and school Vice-President John Amato said the school has already taken such concerns into account. He said the school has tried to speak with neighbors at public hearings, but often found them unwilling to compromise.
“We have attempted to talk with them,” Amato said. “Their starting point seems to be no project at all, so that makes it a little difficult to have meaningful negotiations or mediation.”
Many neighbors’ comments on the Los Angeles Times website asked why the school wanted to build a parking structure instead of taking measures to reduce the number of student drivers. However, sophomores are already not allowed to drive to school, and many other students carpool or take the bus, which operate to every neighborhood where students live.
Regardless of neighborhood attitudes, Head of the Upper School Audrius Barzdukas, who lives adjacent to school, said students should remember they are part of a community.
“A lot of things have been said about us as a school recently,” Barzdukas told students during a 1st and 3rd Wednesdays assembly. “As a representative of the school community, please show that you’re more than that. Drive safely, pick up trash and treat the neighborhood with respect. “
Nancy Mehagian, a Halkirk Street resident for 28 years, says she will continue to oppose the parking structure.
“To take 12 cars off my street I have to suffer construction and poor air quality for three years, and then look at it all for another 20?” Mehagian said. “No, thank you.”