Parking structure report raises questions on environment, noise, geological impact

Julia Aizuss

The Draft Environmental Impact Report the school submitted for a parking structure on the west side of Coldwater Canyon did not satisfactorily study geological, wildlife and noise impact, the Studio City Neighborhood Council said Dec. 11.

The council board voted to send a letter with this conclusion as its response to the DEIR following a presentation by SCNC secretary Rita Villa of the letter’s abstract, which has since been posted on the council’s website.

The board said maps of the bridge site show land on one side of Coldwater is liquefaction, meaning the soil could lose strength under stress like an earthquake. The response cited a geologist saying that, due to the difference in foundations, each side of the bridge could react differently during a “moderate to large” earthquake, causing collapse.

The council was also concerned the structure wouldn’t be compatible with the Studio City-Sherman Oaks-Toluca Lake-Cahuenga Pass Community Plan’s policy to protect neighborhoods from development. The DEIR’s land use analysis failed to study conflicts with the community since it only studied what it deemed “relevant” policies in the plan. Villa said the DEIR should have studied all policies, and without doing so, a claim of no significant impact could not be substantiated.

Villa said the DEIR should have discussed plans alternative to the school’s Parking Improvement Plan, which proposes a three-level garage with a rooftop practice field and a pedestrian bridge across Coldwater to campus. The project would also add traffic lanes in both directions in front of the school.

Before the presentation, residents could speak for up to a minute. Support for the plan doubled opposition, with many school parents, alumni and employees expressing support for greater safety and traffic flow. Except President Rick Commons and Vice President John Amato, all employees spoke for those who couldn’t attend. Many read letters from local businesses like Five Guys and Ralphs. Among all the businesses’ letters, similar phrases cropped up, such as describing the school as an “economic engine” for local business.

Residents opposing the plan urged the school to consider alternatives to building on the west side of Coldwater. They also worried about environmental impact, geological impact and the plan’s “selfish” nature, as St. Michaels All Angels and Episcopal Church rector Dan Justin called it. Council president John Walker predicted six to eight more hearings would need to occur before the council issues a decision. After the council reviews the final EIR, it will submit a response letter indicating support or opposition.

Commons said he was eager to address neighbors’ worries, particularly geological concerns.

“I don’t have enough facts to be able to comment [about geological impact],” Commons said. “It’s certainly worthwhile for us to understand. I don’t know the extent to which the science supports the neighborhood’s concerns. We have some work to do.”