Yeshivath Torath Emeth Academy, a Jewish school at the corner of Clinton Street and Sycamore Avenue with buildings to the east and west of La Brea Avenue that abut residential neighborhoods, is proposing an expansion that has neighbors concerned about traffic, design conformity and safety.
The proposed project calls for construction of a three-story, 8,300 square-foot private school building, which would accommodate nursery school through kindergarten. The school would accommodate 120 children ages 2 through 6 and have approximately 20 staff people, operating from 8:00am to 4:00pm, Monday through Thursday, and from 8:00am to 12:30pm on Fridays. The existing 3,700 square foot private school building would be demolished. There are four existing facilities at Yeshivath Torath Emeth Academy, serving approximately 1,000 students: two separate boys and girls elementary schools, a junior high school and a pre-school. Since the new facility would replace an existing facility, Rabbi Berish Goldenberg, executive director of the school, said there will be no new enrollees.
The proposed project is located on a 9,064 square foot lot in an area that is zoned for residential use, a fact that necessitates various conditional use permits from the city, including one for height requirements. Current zoning laws allow for a maximum two-story, 30-foot building height on the lot. The proposed project has a three-story, 33-foot height. The school is also asking for a six-foot high fence along Sycamore Avenue, which exceeds the permitted fence height of three feet, six inches.
But neighbors say the building specifications are not the biggest factor in their opposition to the project. Michele Atkins, who has lived in the neighborhood for 12 years, said she is concerned mainly about the drop-off and pick-up of children at the school, a system that she said is already creating problems at the existing facilities. Atkins knocked on doors in January, when she first heard about the project, and got 100 signatures from people opposed to the expansion.
“We have major concerns about traffic and safety,” Atkins said. “There is no drop-off area so children are flooding the streets, parents are dropping off in red zones and in the middle of the streets.”
The carpool system at the school uses two alleys off Clinton Street. Parents dropping off students at the girls’ school, which is on the west side of La Brea, come up the alley, drop their students off at the entrance and proceed along Clinton. If they need to proceed to the boys’ school to drop off additional students, they receive a pass from a faculty member, cross La Brea, and are allowed to enter the alley next to the boys’ school.
“It’s a very exact system and we have security guards and faculty members out there to keep traffic moving and to keep things orderly,” Goldenberg said. “Of course, there are parents who don’t follow the system, and we try to stay on top of that, but it’s a very good system.”
The two alleys are lined with cars from 7:45am – 8:10am on school mornings. Atkins would like to see a bussing system implemented to reduce traffic, but Goldenberg said a bussing system would be too expensive for the school and for the parents. Atkins also wants the school to get a conditional use permit for an existing six-foot wall at the school before they are granted any new conditional use permits.
“Why are we giving new conditional use permits for an expansion project when the school is already in violation of existing conditional use permits?” Atkins said.
Paul Neuman, a spokesperson for Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz, 5th District, said Koretz is working with the school and the community on creating a project that works for all parties, but has not yet taken a stance in support or in opposition to the project.
Elizabeth Fuller, Secretary of the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, said the council’s land use committee opposes the project and that the full council, which was scheduled to hear the issue on Wednesday night, was likely to oppose it as well.
“The neighbors have been trying to get a postponement of the planning commission hearing so they can go through a full process of negotiations with the school and the city,” Fuller said. “We want to support them in their effort to be heard.”
A hearing for the project is scheduled in front of the Los Angeles Planning Commission today.
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