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Saturday, October 1, 2016

Who is going to blink first in the showdown over an Echo Park street?

It looked like the Los Angeles school district had once again got its way when a group of Echo Park residents gave up their legal battle against Central Regional Elementary School #14. But the battle over the two-block site, now scraped clean of homes and apartments, continues, pitting Los Angeles Councilman Eric Garcetti against Los Angeles School Board member Yolie Flores Aguilar.

The LAUSD and Flores, whose district includes Echo Park, say they need the city to give up one block of Marathon Street and nearby rights-of-way to build the 800-seat campus southwest of Sunset Boulevard and Alvarado Street. Garcetti, meanwhile, has resisted closing or vacating the street unless the district comes up with a smaller school and more attractive design.

“Council President Garcetti has long advocated for a smaller school at this site – one that would be better suited to the neighborhood in terms of scale, size, and design,” said Garcetti’s spokeswoman, Julie Wong. “He believes in the newly adopted small schools initiative, which the board adopted last fall through an effort led by Boardmember Yolie Flores-Aguilar. He asked LAUSD to go back and take another look at their plans for the school.”

Neither Flores-Aguilar or her chief of staff responded to several phone calls and emails asking for comment on the matter. However, the LAUSD has been putting pressure on Garcetti. A district employee was seen distributing a letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Eastsider, to parents at recent community meetings urging Garcetti to give up the street.

“Our children are entitled to attend a school in their own neighborhood, and it is the responsibility of LAUSD to provide this for our children. We hope you can endorse this request and allow the construction of this much needed school. Please approve the closing of Marathon Street.”

Of course, that letter omits the fact that many of the students will have to be bussed in from other neighborhoods since enrollment has plunged in Echo Park. Still, the idea of opposing a public school is not a popular stance for Garcetti or any other politician. The LAUSD, backed by the power of eminent domain and billions of dollars in construction bond money, has also proved that it can get what it wants even when the local council member opposes a school, as is the case in Wilmington.

How long will the stand off over Marathon Street continue? Well, LAUSD faces the loss of $16 million in bond money if a final project is not approved by the middle of June, according to Garcetti’s office. So, expect a resolution soon, and, judging by the past, the LAUSD to get its way.



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