“Do they really need another giant pool?”
As lifetime Studio City resident Pam Friedman listened to school representatives describe the new construction plans for the school’s proposed River Park, she said this was the only question that plagued her mind.
While Friedman said she was initially optimistic about the plans for the space formerly known as Weddington Golf & Tennis, her hope quickly turned to frustration as she learned more about the broad scope of the project that would affect her community.
“It seemed as though the project became a much bigger development project than my initial thought it was going to be,” Friedman said. “Ripping out all of those trees and all of that grass and putting in AstroTurf on top is really a big problem for me. The enormity of this project is a huge red flag.”
Friedman said that, other than the ecological impacts, her biggest concern is the amount of traffic the new plan will bring to the neighborhood.
“Your kids are going to come down Coldwater [Canyon] and then make a right turn on Woodbridge and then fan out in my neighborhood with driving and parking,” Friedman said. “I have heard, as did some of my neighborhood, the mitigation plan, [and] I don’t think that your people can enforce a traffic mitigation plan. I just think that’s unrealistic. I can tell you that people that live closer to this project are freaking out.”
Friedman is not the only resident who does not approve of the plans. Community member Teri Austin, who has lived in Studio City for over 30 years, said she is worried about how one of the few remaining green spaces in the neighborhood will be utilized.
“If you look at a map of Studio City and the surrounding area, this piece of property is the absolute last bit of real open space,” Austin said. “Ideally, I would like if the school decided to value this particular property in its present use.”
Despite their lack of vocal support, some community members such as neighborhood resident Josh Rodine ’92, are in favor of the plans. Rodine said he believes that the new improvements will be a beneficial addition to the community.
“I feel very positively about the project,” Rodine said. “I recognize that the school has real needs relating to its athletic facilities that aren’t really being met now. The number of teams that need to practice on the football field surpassed what that field can offer, and the staggered practices and the late hours that students are forced to endure [are] just not really workable.”
Head of Communications Ari Engelberg ’89 said that the school is doing its best to respond to the community’s mixed feedback on the project.
“Some members of the community have reasonable questions about the impact the project will have on the environment or on traffic and noise in the neighborhood, and it’s our job to listen to those questions and address those concerns as best we can through the process,” Engelberg said. “Other members of the community are thrilled that Harvard-Westlake intends to develop the property in a way that allows for continued public access and preserves the recreational, low-density nature of the site.”
The school hopes that student athletes will be able to utilize the new state-of-the-art facilities for a more balanced schedule, Engelberg said.
“The goal in doing this is to ensure that more practices and games take place in the hours immediately after school, allowing students to get home earlier, have dinner with their families, get their homework done and get to bed at a decent hour,” Engelberg said. “The school has hosted and will continue to host meetings to answer questions and gather feedback from the community. Eventually, we’ll work with design, landscaping and architectural teams to identify ways in which the community’s reasonable concerns can be addressed.”
According to Chronicle poll of 189 students, while 61 percent said they were in favor of the school’s now-defunct plans for a parking structure, only 41 percent of respondents said that they are in favor of the school’s plans to build River Park.
Friedman said that the school would have had more support from the community if it had not previously proposed a parking structure.
“We, as a community, have had to endure the unbelievably bad idea of that parking lot deal on the west side of Coldwater with your pedestrian bridge going over the top of it,” Friedman said.
While the initial stages of the proposal have required listening to the community’s feedback, the school currently plans to move forward with the project, Engelberg said.
“Later this year, we hope to submit paperwork to the City of Los Angeles to officially kick off the environmental review process,” Engelberg said. “We think that process will take about two years, and then, it would probably take another two years to build the River Park. But these timelines are still just estimates at this point. The school is still in the process of listening to our neighbors’ concerns, a commitment that was made immediately following the purchase of the property and one that the school will continue to honor.”
Illustration By Hannah Mittleman
“Do they really need another giant pool?”