We have the most beautiful and vibrant neighborhoods in the city - and some of the most congested roads. Like you, I can’t drive down Sunset in the afternoon without planning for maddening traffic delays. That’s why traffic is my first and top concern with any development proposal. Looking at potential traffic impacts is the lens through which I have approached the Archer School for Girls’ application to expand and modernize its campus on Sunset Boulevard.
The Archer proposal is one of the more controversial developments I have dealt with since taking office last year. Archer is a world-class institution in a terribly complex location. A phenomenal school for bright, talented young women, surrounded by a residential neighborhood and one of the worst traffic choke points in the City. In considering support for this project, I need to weigh three major concerns: the regional impact on traffic; the quality of life impacts on neighbors; and the educational impact on the bright young women and girls who attend Archer.
Archer’s expansion plan laid out in its Draft EIR is ambitious - and it is immediately obvious that that plan would cause more traffic and congestion, and detrimental impacts to neighbors, making it a bad fit for Brentwood and the surrounding communities. As much as I love the school and admire its mission, that plan is clearly not right for our neighborhoods. I have told the applicant that I cannot support a proposal unless dramatic changes are made.
Hearing the concerns of neighbors, the Brentwood Homeowners Association, the Brentwood Community Council and many, many others, I am insisting that Archer make the following changes, big and small, impacting traffic concerns, neighborhood issues, and the physical footprint of the proposed project:
Eliminate ALL significant traffic impacts from school operations.
Maintain or improve all of the traffic management practices that Archer currently has in place. Archer does a great job of managing its school-related traffic, including by mandating and achieving a high percentage of students who take the bus.
Increase the required percentage of students who must take the bus to get to school.
Continue to ensure that all student carpools (whether driven by a student or a parent) have at least three Archer students in the car.
Expedite the construction schedule.
Reduce the size of the subterranean parking garage to reduce the amount of traffic that can come to the school and to reduce the construction and excavation-related impacts.
Further reduce the size and number of events and carefully schedule the timing of the events to minimize traffic impacts on the neighborhood and the region.
Implement operational measures to reduce or eliminate all potentially significant and unavoidable impacts from outdoor athletic activity.
Hold no non-Archer related events at the school - in particular, no weddings, summer school, or non-Archer related speaking events.
Host no interscholastic athletic tournaments.
Install no lights on the athletic field.
Reduce the size and configuration of the North Garden area to ensure that it is not a gathering space, but instead a passageway from the subterranean parking into the gym.
Redesign the project to add an underground tunnel for access to the parking garage from the building for evening events, and require that everyone attending evening events use the underground tunnel to access their cars when they leave.
Eliminate the row of parking spaces along the southern edge of the parking structure that was proposed to remain uncovered, and replace that with an expanded landscape buffer.
Move the parking structure farther from the western property boundary, resulting in an increased setback from the adjacent residential uses.
Design the buildings to have main entrances opening to the interior of campus to minimize any noise spillover into the neighborhood.
Move the existing athletic field farther from adjacent residences to allow for additional landscaping and buffering.
Return the softball field to its original orientation at the southeast corner of the athletic field.
Reduce the proposed hours of operation for field use, and strictly limit Saturday field use.
Reduce the number of school functions and events.
Eliminate school functions on the athletic field except for Upper School Graduation.
Prohibit school functions in the North Garden.
Strictly limit the time and size of athletic competitions.
Eliminate the aquatics center proposed for the residential property on Barrington.
Carve out a residential parcel on Barrington that will not be part of the project.
Reduce the size of the proposed performing arts center on the residential lot on Chaparal Street from 650 to 395 seats.
Mandate that the performing arts center on Chaparal Street comply with residential development standards such as front-yard setbacks and height limits.
Install additional trees along Chaparal Street and a second row of trees on the south side of the wall to create a double row of landscaping on Chaparal Street.
Reduce the North Wing renovation by approximately 9,000 square feet.
Reduce the massing, width, and length of the multipurpose gym facility, and improve the design and articulation of the building.
Relocate the visual arts center to behind the performing arts center on the Barrington side of the site.
Reduce the overall square footage of the project.
Retain a significant amount of the existing campus as open space.
Even if Archer makes those changes, there will, of course be outstanding issues and many details to resolve as the project moves through the planning process. For example, neighbors continue to voice concerns about a multipurpose gym facility proposed on the school’s current footprint. The neighborhood cannot handle another building that generates traffic or noise impacts - and I am insisting that Archer demonstrate that there be no significant operational impacts from the building.
Archer is a great school, with deep roots in our community, and it provides a transformative experience for many young women. I want Archer to continue to thrive on the Westside, but as I consider its development proposal, its stellar reputation does not erase the considerations created by the complicated location of its campus.
As Archer continues its mission to build a first-rate school, it should also strive to be a first-class neighbor. I believe it can do that — and I believe that, working together, we can all make this project right for Brentwood.
Contact Mike Bonin at: 11thdistrict.com