Administration faces backlash over River Park


Will Sherwood/Chronicle

Before homecoming, signs objecting to the River Park recreation project appeared along streets near the Upper School. It is unclear whether each sign was placed by a different community member or whether the local campaign was the work of a single activist.

Lucas Cohen-d'Arbeloff

Members of Save Weddington placed signs along Coldwater Canyon Avenue to protest the school’s River Park plan. The organization, whose goal is to preserve Weddington Golf & Tennis, posted signs to coincide with increased activity on campus during Homecoming on Oct. 2.

Save Weddington Board Member Teri Austin said the organization acted in anticipation of Homecoming because they feel many families in the school community do not fully understand the school’s proposal. They used the event as an opportunity to communicate their message.

“It has been very difficult for us to communicate with the families and students of Harvard-Westlake in order to explain our position on the proposed development,” Austin said. “The opportunity to have several hundred people see the signs and inquire about them [would] give us an opportunity to be able to interface with the community. As I understand, about 3% of the students who go to the school actually live in Studio City. We [normally] don’t have access to a lot of these people.”

The signs include a link to Save LA River Open Space, a sister organization of the Studio City Residents Association, and read, “It’s not a done deal!” According to Austin, this means the school must finish the conditional use permit application process and perform more community outreach before breaking ground on the project.

From what I’ve heard, people don’t want an Olympic-sized swimming pool next to their house.

— Grace Hudson '23

“What Harvard-Westlake needs to do is prove to the city that this is a benefit to the community, [the] 13,600 who signed our petition and [the] over 1,000 individual [letter-writers] to the Department of Planning so far,” Austin said. “These are from residents of not just [Studio City], but Sherman Oaks and Panorama City.”

Grace Hudson ’23, a Studio City resident who owns an anti-River Park sign, said most of her neighbors support Save Weddington’s campaign and are hesitant about the project.

“The signs are very representative of what my neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods feel,” Hudson said. “From what I’ve heard, people don’t want an Olympic-sized swimming pool next to their house.”

Studio City Residents Association President Alan Dymond said the River Park proposal would uproot the lives of many long-term residents and eliminate a largely popular recreational opportunity for those living in the San Fernando Valley.

“Concerns are being raised across the valley because a lot of people, [especially] a lot of elderly people, go [to Weddington] and play golf,” Dymond said. “What [the school is] trying to do is take away a facility [that] people have used it for over 50 years. After [President] Rick Commons [said] that they won’t do anything to disturb the peace and tranquility, it has just grown and grown and grown from there. And what we’re looking at right now, it’s too much to me.”

Head of Communications and Strategic Initiatives Ari Engelberg ’89 declined to comment.