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With classes set to begin next week at Hancock Park Elementary School, parking remains a concern for parents dropping their children off at the school.
In past years, many parents have used the parking lot at the Ross Dress for Less, which is empty when school starts, to get their kids safety across the street to school. During the summer, however, school officials received a letter from Casden Properties, the developers who own the property where the Ross is located, instructing parents not use the lot anymore.
The letter articulated yet another reversal of policy with regard to use of the Ross parking lot. Last February, Ross security guards locked the parking lot in the morning; then, a few days later, a note at the security stand instructed them to let parents use the lot again. Darren Embry, community relations manager for Casden, said the company knew that parents used the lot, but never officially condoned it and had nothing to do with the changes in February.
Jessica Dabney, co-president of the Hancock Park Elementary Booster Club, said the club was considering several options to get their kids safely to school. First, they were recruiting volunteers to help staff a safe drop-off program in the mornings, though she said the program would require enough adult volunteers to oversee the kids. In addition, they were promoting a “walk to school Wednesday” program.
“We are a local community school, and many people should be able to walk,” Dabney said. “We hope if we get people to walk on Wednesdays, they’ll realize how pleasant and easy it is and walk on other days as well. And I guess people who have to drive will have to find alternative places to park.”
Casden has proposed a new housing development for the site where the Ross now stands. Embry said the project would help alleviate some of the current traffic concerns.
“We’re getting blamed for taking the lot away when it was never an approved use,” Embry said. “And we’re not getting thanked for the years when we allowed it to happen. We’re working very diligently with the school district to help create a real and well-defined pick-up and drop-off program.”
In addition to $1.53 million in fees to the Los Angeles Unified School District, if the project is approved, Casden has offered 25 on-site parking spaces for the school to use, plus funding for construction of a pick-up and drop-off location and lighting improvements.
Many parents, however, remain skeptical of the Casden project. Jeff Jacoberger, chair of the Mid-City West Community Council, said many parents worry about the impacts of the project on traffic and enrollment at the school.
“I think a lot of parents of students at Hancock Park have huge concerns about the project’s impact on the school,” Jacobberger said. “Generally in the neighborhood, people are fed up with the level of traffic congestion.”
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