A proposal to expand and modernize the Flintridge Preparatory School campus cleared a hurdle Monday, when planning commissioners approved permits and an environmental review for a 10-year master plan revised by school officials at the request of concerned neighbors.
Details of the plan were first presented in a June 27 meeting of the La Cañada Flintridge Planning Commission that drew a large and vocal crowd. After a discussion ran past midnight, commissioners advised Prep Headmaster Peter Bachmann and administrators to go back to the drawing board with residents over some of the project's more controversial elements, including a 40,000-square-foot parking structure across the street on Crown Avenue and 70-foot-tall LED pole lights for the athletic field.
The panel also asked for a field lighting study that looked at the glare and illumination associated with the 70-foot lights, requesting comparable data for 60-foot alternatives.
Bachmann said Monday officials met with neighbors in three open house meetings in August, during which residents asked questions and gave feedback on the project.
"You asked us to be comprehensive in our attention to your recommendations and to talking with the neighbors, and we've done so," Bachmann told commissioners Monday.
After the meetings, Prep leaders scrapped plans for the parking structure, a solar panel installation over the school's gymnasium and a shade structure fronting Crown Avenue. They also modified a fire access road and the height and placement of another shade structure and a 17,205-square-foot Collaborative Leadership Building on the northeast corner of campus, near homes on Crown and Nancy Way.
To ease traffic woes, school officials hired a crossing guard at Foothill Boulevard and Crown and drafted a transportation management plan outlining voluntary measures to control circulation during peak periods and asking students to carpool, bus, walk or bicycle to school.
Officials, however, did not yield on the 70-foot poles. The submitted plans described the need for eight light poles, instead of the original seven. Prep lighting expert Francis Krahe explained Monday taller poles would produce less glare than the 25-foot temporary lighting currently being used, as well as a 60-foot version.
"[They] would reduce the light trespass at the property line to the north," Krahe said, explaining additional height means lights can be aimed lower to focus more directly on the field.
Nancy Way residents, who expressed concerns in June about the intrusiveness of the tall poles and their potential for glare, said Monday they were displeased to see them included in the revised proposal.
"There's been a lot of talk about the lighting analysis, and that's appropriate, but there's been little to no talk about the aesthetics of the 70-foot-poles," said Bob Easter, who lives with wife Peggy in a property bordering Prep's northern end. "We just don't think there's any real justification for the higher poles."
Michelle Ametrano spoke on behalf of mother Sally Ametrano, who's historically quarreled with Flintridge Prep over noise and privacy issues at her Crown Avenue home, surrounded by Prep-owned land.
The proposed Collaborative Leadership Building, originally located 15 feet from Ametrano's property line, was moved back an additional 8 feet. That and other concessions, Michelle Ametano said, weren't enough.
"The few adjustments that have been made so far do not reduce the overall impact of the building to my mom's backyard and is definitely not eliminating the privacy issue," she said, indicating the family was in talks with school officials about some kind of agreement.
Commissioners discussed the issue, approving the proposal but possibly reconsidering a mid-block crosswalk across Crown and favoring 60-foot light poles over the proposed 70-foot lights.
"I think the difference of 10 feet would make a big difference to the neighbors," said Commissioner Henry Oh.
The panel voted 3-0 to move the project forward (commissioners Arun Jain and Jeffrey McConnell recused themselves to avoid conflicts of interest). Neighbors have 15 days from the decision to file an appeal.