Echo Park council votes not to support new charter school across from Belmont High

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

A charter school operator that wants to build a new campus in Echo Park failed to win the support of the Echo Park neighborhood council.

The council was admonished during Tuesday night’s meeting by a representative of the city agency that oversees neighborhood councils for delving into the “philosophy” around charter schools instead of focusing on the land use aspects of the new school. Jay Handel told the members of the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council that they were violating the Brown Act, the state open meeting law,  by discussing whether the school was viable in an area with several under enrolled high schools, the merits of spending public money on a building to be owned by a private company and the fate of the building if the charter school folds.

Alliance College-Ready Public Schools is seeking variances to city zoning codes to build a two-story school with 48 parking spaces, up from a handful in their original plans, on a lot in the 1500 block of Beverly Boulevard  that has sat vacant for several years. The school required a conditional use permit because the building is zoned for residential purposes. The lot is across the street from Belmont High School, where the charter operates at the moment.

Board member Susan Reimers of the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council supported the new campus  because the charter school operator already had a presence in the neighborhood.

“It’s analogous to going for birth control after the baby is born and slightly grown up,” she said.

Many students from the school spoke at the meeting, saying their school offered more one-on-one attention than public schools, including free after-school tutoring.

“We built a family. We won’t leave our family,” said one female high school student.

Board member Oscar Torres questioned whether teachers will be able to maintain their close knit relationships as the school grows because the new building will be able to hold 600 students. School representatives shouted at Torres during his address; the board member also had to pause and wait for other board members to stop side conversations, which he said distracted from his speech.

Board member Tad Yenawine opposed the building of the school, but said voting against the endorsement for philosophical reasons, as opposed to issues with land-use, would damage the credibility of the board.

“If someone wanted to build a strip mall on the lot and there were 10 other half empty strip malls, we might have a problem with that as well,” he said.

Board member Luiza Padilla-Mavropoulus introduced a motion to not endorse the project because constructing the school would limit access to residents on Rockwood Street.

Residents also brought up concerns about alleged low test scores, remediation rates and the number of students with disabilities at Alliance College-Ready’s other schools. Stakeholders also pointed out there was no investigation into the presence of methane gas, which caused problems for Belmont high, at the site, a concern not raised in previous meetings about the issue.

The council is an advisory body; it it has no power to enforce its recommendations regarding land use.

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.


  1. Well, great! The council listened to Jackie Goldberg and sensibly opposed this give-away to corporate profiteers. I applaud the result. As for the Brown Act violations….I’m going to have to learn more about that. It seems sensible that a neighborhood council would be permitted–expected–to act at least partially on the basis of philosophical concerns. Can anyone enlighten me? I’ll take another look at the Brown Act.

  2. Here’s the Brown Act: http://www.oaklandcityattorney.org/PDFS/GovCodeBrownAct.pdf

    I don’t see anything related to the substance of what may be considered in a meeting.

  3. whatever. this is like me taking an “official stance” against the way Idaho enforces parking regulations.

  4. Good for you EPNC. The last thing we need in Echo Park are good quality schools! Bunch of big dummies!

    And Tad, your attempt to compare a charter school to LAUSD is pathetic. The reason the high schools are under attended (your half empty strip mall) is LAUSD is filled with union teachers who know they cant get fired and “teach” accordingly. These charter schools fill up and stay full because they offer something the others can’t, an education.

    It’s a good thing your vote counts as NOTHING!!!!!

    • Are you, by chance, the same Graham Wellington who was banned from the “Straight Dope” message board due to inappropriate and borderline-racist comments? I realize your name is spelled differently here – you omit the “a” in “Graham” – but your post here seems consistent with those on the other message board.

      • Like i would ever 1) read anything associated with something called “strait dope” 2) be banned from anything because of my logic and much needed insight…

        And what is borderline racist? That’s like being “borderline” pregnant.

        • What you call logic is actually a gross overgeneralization and a disparagement (look it up) of Belmont’s teachers, most of whom work very hard and are quite conscientious. There are teachers who don’t push their students as hard as they should, and some teachers seem to have given up the battle to get students to put their phones away, but the majority of Belmont’s teachers are solid, competent, hard-working professionals.

          From what I’ve seen, the quality of teaching at Belmont is no different from that of Roybal or Miguel Contreras High School, and although I haven’t observed or worked with the teachers at the charters, I’m fairly certain that they’re not reinventing the wheel at those schools. Why don’t you put a clean shirt and pants on and see if you can observe a few classes at Belmont?

          • Wanna talk about facts? Attendance at charter schools are increasing while attendance at conventional schools are decreasing. Look it up. Why? The unions have bled the schools dry and made them unusable. In charter schools, the teachers perform better because it is more like a private sector job. No performance? No job. LAUSD is by your own admission is exactly opposite. The teachers have the option of “giving up the battle” as you say. Big difference there. Boy if one of my employees said ” well I’ve given up on my job boss” well, you know what I’d say. That’s the problem with unions, it promotes and sustains complacency. You get the compensation you get because you buy your political seats and in a quid-pro-quo politicians sign the checks. And if they don’t, you stomp your feet like a tantruming child and strike. You are all over paid but you are convinced by the union that you deserve more. It’s sad really.

            For the future of education in this state, I hope we go toward a voucher system so I wouldn’t have to pay the 10’s of thousands of dollars in taxes to the state that funds these horrible and unusable schools and in turn pay 10’s of thousands more for private school. Know what would happen to your union when people have a choice? I’d say you do and that’s probably why you started off with “Hey are you that racist” and finished with “go put on a clean shirt” because you know I’m right and that truth is really getting to you.

            Well, at least you’d be qualified to be a checker at Von’s. I hear they have a union too!

          • I don’t agree with everything that teachers’ unions have done (or not done) over the past few years, but you paint with an awfully broad brush when you dismiss the majority of public school teachers as complacent and ineffective. Incidentally, when I mentioned that teachers had “given up the battle,” I was referring to the issue of phones in the class; please don’t misquote (or partially quote) me in order to make a spurious argument. What kind of work did you do for a living, Grahm? And lastly, what do you have against clean shirts?

          • Giving up on any level should not be an acceptable. Yet, somehow you get by with that accepted mediocrity. That is the problem. Are there good teachers in the LAUSD? Sure I’ll bet there are but the environment is not set up to serve and promote the good ones, rather it’s set up to protect the teachers who have “given up the battle on -fill in the blank-”

            What do I do for a living? I’m a business owner who has had the option of dealing with union contractors and non-union contractors. I’ll let you guess which ones I choose to service my jobs and clients.

            What do you have against soiled shirts? Oh wait. Union regulations…

          • I’m nearly 100% certain that the following analogy will fall on deaf ears, but regardless, here goes: Let’s assume that you’re a general contractor, and that 25% of the 2x4s you purchase are warped, 25% of the copper pipes you purchase have pinholes in them, and 30% of the electrical breakers you buy are faulty. There’s nothing you can do to change that; you have absolutely no control over the manufacturers or the raw materials.

            You spend many evenings and weekends attempting to compensate for the faulty materials; you frequently call the manufacturers and ask them to work with their product, though your efforts only lead to limited success. You develop a method to straighten out some of those warped 2x4s and you patch the pinholes in the pipes to the best of your ability.

            Yet, despite your best efforts, your bosses – and the public – constantly blame you for the faulty finished product and accuse you of mediocrity. After a few years, you’ll either leave the profession, modify your expectations, or continue to do your best in spite of the overwhelming odds against you.

          • Oh cry me a river, James…

            You will get no sympathy because people understand that you demand to be paid at levels you would never be able to get without your union holding the taxpayer hostage. The ONLY reason you get paid what you do is because of your union! How depressing! Don’t you fear that one day you may have to actually compete in the private sector without your union crutch?

            To follow your analogy, these suppliers that keep sending me defective material (probably because they are unionized and can’t get fired for their poor performance haha!)? Well, now I have another choice in suppliers. Charter and private schools.

            TIC TOC Hear that? It’s time running out on dumb REDUNDANT unions.

          • It’s amazing that despite our cushy salaries and union protection, nearly 50% of new teachers leave the profession within five years. Turnover at charters is reportedly higher:


            As for me, I’ve left the classroom, so time will tell whether or not I can surpass the $60,000 annual salary I earned after fifteen years of teaching. I don’t think it’ll be difficult to match my former salary within two or three years, but whether or not I manage to do so, I can tell you I feel a weight off my shoulders now that I don’t have to deal with the increased class sizes (around 40 students per class), ridiculous dictates from an out-of-touch LAUSD administration, and absurd pronouncements from clueless people who never stepped foot in a classroom.

            I’m so happy to hear that working as a contractor is a pure meritocracy. I guess all of the flaky contractors I’ve dealt with as a property owner – and all of the corrupt contractors who manage to secure no-bid deals with the city – are the exception, not the rule.

  5. As a tax payer I’m already taxed to death knowing this charter had a separate non profit to deal with the land if the school goes bust. It can become according to Allience own paperwork a 29 unit apt. We the taxpayers pay the non profits profit frm our hardworked tax dollars. Do your home work people charters where started by Richard Riordan a billionaire you want change reform LAUSD. IMnot paying for 263 so called special students as they called themselves all students are special and gifted. They just have realized it yet. My grankiDs go to public school, have two who will graduate with honors one who graduateS one year early , pepperdine wants her. THEIR MOM is an LAUSD TEACHER.

  6. On @Grahm Wellington’s specious statements on “good quality schools.” The Alliance Charter Corporation’s abject performance was already addressed on Patch last week.


    If Alliance Corporation’s 6 of the 80 lowest SAT performers in Los Angeles County, 5 of the 75 lowest SATs in LAUSD, and 50% English proficiency on the CSU entrance exam is what Wellington considers good quality, then it sound like they themselves are a charter graduate. Our community deserves better than handing our resources over to a private, unelected board whose interests are solely in real estate investments.

    As @anon mentioned above, Alliance’s own paperwork mentioned the “possibility” of eventually converting the structure to luxury apartments since even though we pay, they get the title. Pretty slick of Riorden, Ressler, and Burton to want to build on a prime real estate location in 90026. At the end of the day, they are one of the few charter school companies that openly admit that they’re all about the revenues. They’ll trot out students as window dressing, but for charter executives like Judy Burton with an annual income of over $455,067, it’s all about the money.

  7. I note, there seems to be some idea that the council (or any other governmental body) must have a justification for opposing a variance. No, they do not. A variance is a request for special treatment, a request to do something otherwise illegal to do, that violates zoning or planning laws. There is no standard by which someone is ENTITLED to have the variance. A variance is a method the governmental bodies can work with developers to get something that both actually want. If you don’t want it, no matter why (other than for an illegal reason, such as discrimination), you don’t have to give the variance.

    This point applies to all development, not just this school. It appears to apply to most of the larger development all around, which seems to most often want or need a variance to do the project, where to reduce setbacks or other requirement.

    Unfortunately, our neighborhood councils, and the city at all levels, seem to approach variances as if they have no choice but to grant them unless there is some truly egregious issue. No, not so. In fact, a variance is supposed to be a very uncommon thing to be handed out, but in practice, they are being handed out almost as a matter of requirement.

  8. As a member of the Echo Park Neighborhood Council, I was glad the Eastside was there to cover the meeting. The Brown act was instituted to make sure that the protocols regarding public meetings are followed and everything is transparent to the public. The council meeting was open to the public. The mission of the council is “to provide a public forum for stakeholders in our neighborhood to express their thoughts, ideas and concerns on community or citywide issues.” This is precisely what happened at last Tuesday’s meeting when the council voted that it is not in the best interest of our community to endorse what would be the 9th high school in the area, all but one of which is under-enrolled. It is interesting to note that although, the vote against the Alliance Charter was advisory and not binding, the charter corporation thought that getting the endorsement of the neighborhood council was important enough to send about 40 students, a number of staff, the principal, their real estate agent, their land use lawyer, and their CEO, Judy Burton, to lobby for a yes vote. I was proud to make the motion to oppose the endorsement and I thank Luiza Padilla-Mavropolous for seconding it. We need to continue being the voice of Echo Park to the City Council.

    • Wow Cheryl is a lawyer as opposed to an LAUSD hack with a bad dye job! DONE advisor told the board they were engaging in a Brown Act violation, but Cheryl disagrees. Clearly she really knows what she’s talking about, because of her vast training and knowledge. Oh wait – she’s a committee chair that’s too lazy to have her own meetings! Where the hell was the GEPENC president in all of this??? MIA?

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