Coldwater building may begin next year

Lizzy Thomas

Construction on a parking garage on the west side of Coldwater Canyon and a pedestrian bridge to the main entrance could begin by the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year, Vice President John Amato said.

In a letter to parents last week, Amato, who is the construction project spokesman, said the Upper School Parking Improvement Project has reached a “key milestone.”

The school published a Draft Environmental Impact Report last Thursday, a city document which describes the projected environmental effects of the proposed construction.

The Draft EIR also answers comments made by attendees at a late summer scoping meeting where the school presented the project to the public for the first time.

Following a 45-day period where members of the public and city agencies can comment on the document, the school will release a final EIR with all of the comments and the school’s responses to them.

Though the city could take issue with the final version of the EIR, the school is hopeful it will be approved.

“Anything is possible. Yes, the city could not approve it, but this is really what the city uses as a document to determine the correctness, the rightness, the properness of the project,” Amato said. “And I think, when all is said and done, we are conservatively confident that we will be able to be successful.”

The EIRs are part of the entitlement stage of the project, which involves the school getting entitled to apply for building permits and which began with the scoping meeting during the summer.
The entitlement process should be completed by mid to late June 2014, Amato said.

The project will then progress to the permit stage, which will likely take the summer, putting construction on track to start in August or September, Amato said.

Construction is projected to take a comparable amount of time to the middle school modernization project, Amato said.

“From start to finish, we plan to have construction completed in two years,” Amato said. “By comparison, the middle school project took about two years.”

The school has received no negative comments since the draft EIR was made public though the project has not been completely immune to opposition. Save Coldwater Canyon! Inc., whose website describes its goal as “to preserve the beauty and tranquility of Coldwater Canyon, with the immediate goal of stopping the Harvard-Westlake plan in its tracks,” formed on the heels of the scoping meeting.

“It’s a concern. Any time your neighbors are unhappy with you, you can’t ignore them,” Amato said. “We’ll be calm and try to meet with them and mitigate the concerns they have.”