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.