School revises parking environmental report

Benjamin Most

The school compiled a revised Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) Feb. 4 for the proposed Upper School parking garage construction project after reviewing documents at the request of City Council Member Paul Krekorian.

Krekorian, who represents Studio City and North Hollywood residents, requested that Harvard-Westlake submit a new geotechnical and soils report and get a third-party review of the traffic study.

The project, recently renamed the Parking, Safety and Athletic Improvement Plan, was proposed in 2013. The school aims to construct a parking garage on unused land it owns across the street from the Upper School campus and build an athletic field on top of the structure.

The parking garage would increase student safety by providing a pedestrian bridge from the garage to the campus so students would not have to cross Coldwater Canyon Drive. Currently, many students park in nearby neighborhoods and walk up and down the busy thoroughfare.

Earlier versions of both the geotechnical and soils report and the traffic study were included in the initial DEIR, which was released for public comment in late 2014.

“During this process, many community members and organizations submitted comments on the project, which shed light on critical shortcomings in the DEIR,” Krekorian wrote in an email to local residents. “Based on the comments, as well as my own review of the project, I have asked the Director of the Los Planning to update and recirculate the DEIR.”

The school’s revised report contains additional research that confirms the accuracy of the initial reports, which stated that the project would be structurally sound and would not generate significant additional traffic, Vice President John Amato said.

The report has three new documents: a site plan with geologic cross-section images, a sheet with data on Coldwater Canyon traffic and a comment letter from the Federation of Hillside and Canyon Associations explaining concerns about the urbanization and development of a rural patch of land with existing wildlife.

To prepare the new geotechnical and soils report, the school enlisted help from a geotechnical firm and a hillside geologist, Amato said.

“Harvard-Westlake retained one of the most preeminent geotechnical firms to prepare a new geotechnical report,” Amato said. “In addition, Harvard-Westlake retained one of the leading hillside geologists to conduct a review of the report. The City’s Department of Building and Safety has thoroughly reviewed and approved this report.”

In order to substantiate the results of the original traffic report, which had stated that the project would not significantly increase traffic, the school contacted a traffic engineering firm, Amato said.

“Harvard-Westlake retained a reputable traffic engineering firm to review the original report, and they concluded that the original traffic report was accurate and that both its methodology and conclusion were correct,” Amato said. “[Once completed], the project will not generate any new vehicular trips whatsoever.”

The community has 45 days to comment on the report after its re-release. After this period, Harvard-Westlake will be able to respond to comments, and the Department of City Planning will create a final Environmental Impact Report for the project.

Citizens can offer input on the new DEIR through February and early March by calling Krekorian’s planning and land use director Karo Torossian at (213) 473-7002.

Some local residents protested the previous DEIR because they said the construction project would destroy wildlife habitat and create additional traffic. Some said that the garage was not necessary.

Amato said that revising the DEIR has not “gotten in the way of plans.”

“Harvard-Westlake did a substantial amount of additional work, but it is well worth it to ensure that our neighbors and the community that travels Coldwater Canyon understand that the project is safe and will not generate any new trips,” Amato said.