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The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

The Student News Site of Harvard-Westlake School

The Harvard-Westlake Chronicle

Rising River Park dissent as approval approaches

Save Weddington poster displayed in Studio City as an effort to campaign against River Park.
Jayan Kandavel
Save Weddington poster displayed in Studio City as an effort to campaign against River Park.

Following approval by the Los Angeles City Planning Commission (CPC) on Aug. 24, final approval of the River Park project will be voted on by the Los Angeles (LA) City Council due to an appeal by community dissenters.

The school’s proposal for River Park involves replacing Weddington Golf and Tennis with two new athletic fields, a gymnasium complex, a swimming pool, eight tennis courts, an underground parking complex, a stormwater reclamation system, solar power and native landscaping features. The school has worked to get the project approved since 2017 but has faced community opposition throughout the process. The LA City Council held a public hearing on July 12 to hear from community members prior to the City Planning Commission vote on Aug. 24.

Head of Communications and Strategic Initiatives Ari Engelberg ’89 said the increase in recent public meetings has given more opportunities for opponents of River Park to voice their opinions.

“We are now in the middle of the city’s entitlement process, which includes a series of public meetings at which project opponents are allowed to state their case,” Engelberg said. “So while there aren’t necessarily more dissenters now, the dissenters who do exist have recently had more opportunities to voice their concerns.”

Engelberg said the school aims to consider both the school’s needs and the concerns of local residents benefits and the comfort of local residents.

“Since the very beginning of the River Park effort, we have tried very hard to strike a balance between the interests of Harvard-Westlake and the interests of our Studio City neighbors,” Engelberg said. “We started by doing a lot of listening at neighborhood meetings and in dozens and dozens of individual conversations with neighbors and stakeholder groups.”

Save Weddington Board Member Teri Austin, a Studio City resident for over 35 years, said River Park will strip the original Weddington Golf and Tennis of historical and cultural significance.

“Weddington Golf and Tennis, although privately held, has been open to the public for 70 years and is in the heart of this neighborhood,” Austin said. “I think [River Park] will be an industrial zone. There is no golf course and the driving range will be reduced to just a putting green.”

Austin said the diverse geography of the student body makes it difficult to convince the school community of River Park’s cultural impact.

“Only less than four percent of the kids who go to school live anywhere near [Weddington Golf and Tennis] according to the numbers,” Austin said. “[The school] likes to say, they have 130 zip codes or whatever, and if they don’t live around here, they don’t understand that [Weddington Golf and Tennis] is not meant to be an industrial five or six lane road. The traffic congestion is going to be enormous.”

Austin also said the school implemented few changes to the new facilities despite having multiple meetings with residents.

“It’s been three and a half years,” Austin said. “We’ve had lots of meetings with lots of people and nothing has changed. I have a map [of River Park] from March 2019, their first original map, and an alternative. The map that they handed into the city that got stamped for approval recently is the exact same. They could have used the five years while they were waiting for this project to get approved for the betterment of the students who are actually going to that school right now.”

Studio City resident and science educator host Bill Nye said he would be disappointed if Weddington Golf and Tennis was redeveloped into River Park .

“[Weddington Golf and Tennis] is very important to us residents who are opposed to it,” Nye said. “I understand that the school has an interest in building athletic fields, swimming pools and all this stuff, but it will be heartbreaking when we lose this green space in the middle of the neighborhood. [Weddington Golf and Tennis] is inclusive. Unlike some country club, anybody can go there and play disc golf when the time is right.”

Nye said disagreement between residents and supporters of River Park is inevitable.

“The legal issues will reemerge,” Nye said. “Just objectively, the nine holes, the tennis courts, a sandwich at the cafe outdoors under the umbrellas, you tell me if it is going to be the same when you turn it into black rubber or artificial turf? No, it will not. And so Harvard-Westlake and us neighbors are never going to see eye to eye.”

Nevertheless, Engelberg said the most recent hearing has made the prospects of River Park’s approval by LA City Council prospects relatively optimistic.

“The Aug. 24 hearing in front of the City Planning Commission went very well for Harvard-Westlake,” Engelberg said. “Supporters outnumbered opponents substantially at the hearing, and in the end, they voted unanimously to approve the River Park project. So, the August meeting represented a huge step forward.”

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William Liu, Assistant Opinion Editor
Jayan Kandavel, Assistant News Editor

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