Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Does Echo Park need another new school?

Proposed new charter high school would be built across the street from Belmont High football field.

By Tony Cella

Apparently so, according to a charter school operator that wants to build a high school campus on vacant lots across the street from the Belmont High football field.

A proposal by Alliance College-Ready Public Schools to build a 1.22-acre campus in the 1500 block of Beverly Boulevard campus met with some skepticism among members of the Echo Park neighborhood council’s planning committee, which was briefed on the proposal earlier this week.   Committee members  questioned the necessity of adding another school because multiple new and existing public high schools, including Belmont, and a character school, already have campuses near the proposed location.

“We like to think we’re the best at what we do, and kids will want to come here,” said a representative of the non-profit charter, which currently leases space on the Belmont campus for its College-Ready Academy.

The new Alliance campus will require a zoning change and exemptions because the plans only account for only 38 parking spaces—30 to be used by staff—to make room for more “play areas” at the high school. The school would be built to handle up to 600 students.

Representatives of the company said parents were asked to sign agreements to send their students to the school, which allows the charter to prevent students from driving to school. The company claimed they would dispatch parking monitors into the neighborhood to prevent the teenage students from ignoring driving rules and parking on side streets.

Stakeholder and committee member Christine Peters was skeptical.

In addition to students of driving age, Peters believed the two-story, 24-classroom campus would attract more visitors than the planned parking could handle. She cited the presence of an auditorium, dubbed a multi-purpose room by the company representatives, and the participation of students’ guardians as reasoning for more parking.

“Parents will want to come see their kids’ performances,” she said.

Council board member Luiza Padilla-Mavropoulos, who attended the meeting, sided with Peters. She said the existing schools exacerbated scarce parking opportunities, hurting the community members.

Former neighborhood council member Patricia Mendoza was also worried the school would attract non-neighborhood residents. Once a charter school amasses 600 students, a mandated lottery takes place to determine which students are eligible to attend. Bringing students from other parts of Los Angeles would create a dual problem, according to Mendoza, in that it would no longer serve the community and residents of other parts of the city would take up parking spaces.

 “It would be horrible for the community to wait 20 to 30 years to get something beautiful just to find out our kids can’t go there,” she said.

 The council was also concerned the poor public transportation service endemic in the neighborhood encouraged driving. Meeting attendees pointed to other schools where neighborhood residents drove their kids one or two miles to campus.

Alliance boasted their schools draw 80 percent of their student body’s from the neighborhoods they serve. Representatives said they encourage walking students to walk to school and also provide bike racks.

 Michael Woodward, who arranged the presentation, said the school had commissioned a traffic study of the area.

Gentrification and the aging of the neighborhood’s population has shrunk the pool of potential students in the area that has led to dwindling enrollment at the Belmont High School, in addition to local students heading to charter schools.

 The charter company dismissed the idea by saying they’d looked at the demographics and were able to control the number of students attending the school because they add one grade at a time.

 If attendance dropped, Vice President of Real Estate for Alliance Megan Hadden said they could adjust the programming because of a charter school’s innate flexibility.

 Hadden was, however, confident the neighborhood had the potential to sustain the potential campuses student body because of the neighborhood’s demographics. When asked how she drew the conclusion, the vice president only said through “internal analysis.”

Tony Cella is a freelance reporter who has covered crime and grime in Los Angeles, New York City and the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska. Click here to contact Cella with questions, comments or concerns.

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  1. Is the proposed school actually undesirable for reasons nobody wanted to say? I say this because the stated reasons opposing this school are so comically weak. Starting with…”..might attract non-neighborhood residents”: in print, this statement comes across as so xenophobic that it shouldn’t even be necessary to comment on it. Instead of seeing the positives of a vacant site on Beverly Boulevard being developed into a school that enables a choice of education for the Los Angeles community at large, the former neighborhood council member can only dwell on the the idea that there could exist the possibility that her kids mights not be able to attend this school. Given that the building will have only 24 classrooms, it is not a certainty that the school would actually reach the necessary 600 student threshold, and if it did, so what? Is Beverly Boulevard the dominion of any neighborhood? Should I not be allowed to use my ticket for a sold-out Hollywood bowl concert because I’m not from the Hollywood Hills?

    Likewise the parking arguments are weak. There are many other educational institutions nearby. If there should in fact come a time when parents need to park their cars to see their children’s play, why can’t the other nearby institutions, for a fee, share their parking lot?

    If anyone would bother to look into it, Los Angeles is in fact disgustingly over run with parking and parking lots. Even downtown! Especially downtown! What isn’t needed is more parking. What is needed is better management of the parking lots that have already been built.

    And the assertion that “poor public transportation service is endemic in the neighborhood” is comical. If you want to see endemic poor public transit, please visit Orange County. Or Memphis. Or Simi Valley. I would hardly call a bus corridor (Beverly Boulevard) that has buses running from 5AM until 4Am daily, with rush hour headways of 5 minutes poor public transportation! This bus (the 14) goes directly into downtown, where one can transfer to the subway, light rail, even MetroLink.

  2. Echo Park citizens –

    Get ready because the Alliance Charter School is run by Eli Broad Foundation representatives. They could give a rats ass what the community thinks. They will shove their charter high school down your throat.

    This was the same thing Alliance Charter is doing at the Van de Kamps campus in Glassell Park/Atwater. The community college was supposed to open there but then things got political and our scumbag Mayor wanted to take it over for Alliance Charter School and office space for his buddy work training non-profits. The Alliance School thieved our community college away using the community college board trustees as their little puppet stooges.

    So Echo Park — You are about to receive the Alliance School’s special screwing of its neighbors. We have watched their horrible and deceitful actions in Glassell Park and we feel sorry for you already.

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