Despite a report that spoke glowingly of the benefits to be gained by selling the campus of Hollywood High School, city and school officials have vowed that the school will stay at Sunset Boulevard and Highland Avenue, its site since 1904.
“Schools are not about money,” said Los Angeles school board member Jackie Goldberg. “We are not real estate speculators. We are not involved in business. We’re involved in educating youngsters.”
Her comments came during a press conference last Friday with City Councilman Michael Woo and Community Redevelopment Agency Chairman Jim Wood. The three tore up a copy of the report, which was prepared after a developer asked about buying the site.
‘Dead Piece of Paper’
“There has never been any serious consideration of this idea,” Woo said. “I myself had never seen it. It was a dead piece of paper.”
However, neighborhood activists, who forced the release of the document as part of their lawsuit against the Community Redevelopment Agency, said they still have their doubts about the future of the campus.
The press conference was a “publicity hoax,” said Norton Halper, a local homeowner who was elected last week to a citizen’s advisory panel on Hollywood redevelopment.
A neighborhood group called Save Hollywood Our Town has sued the redevelopment agency, asking that the redevelopment process, which has been under way since 1983, be set aside because the group claims that the process was dominated by business interests.
“That (school sale) plan is not dead in the water at all, because there’s no mechanism to ensure that it’s dead in the water,” he said.
If Woo and Goldberg are succeeded by other officials, there would be no guarantee that a hard-pressed school board might not sell the land someday, Halper said.
However, Wood said the cost of buying land for another high school in the Hollywood area would be prohibitively expensive.
He also said the developer’s agent who brought up the idea of buying Hollywood High School has since turned his attention elsewhere and is now involved in another project on Hollywood Boulevard.
In any case, he said, “the numbers were speculative and verbal.”
Hollywood High students who watched the press conference greeted the announcement with cheers.
“I don’t believe they should tear down the high school, because the high school is more important than a shopping mall,” said Frank Texada, a junior in the Hollywood High Performing Arts Magnet.
High School Needed
“The people who live around here need this high school to go to,” said Maya Goodwin, a junior. “There’s just no need to tear it down.”
Teacher Joyce Keith had another perspective. “This school should be relocated,” she said. “I worry about their physical safety. When you kids go up to Hollywood Boulevard, how many are buying drugs?”
Assistant Principal Carol Gorton said she, too, would rather see the school in a “more quiet, serene situation, but I don’t see where there is that kind of land in this area.”
On the other hand, she said, the school’s location is convenient for students who commute by bus. Hollywood High School has about 2,000 students, with another 250 in the Performing Arts Magnet.
She said teachers and administrators do not expect the school to be sold.
In a report dated Jan. 3, 1986, Tom Sargent of Halcyon Ltd., a San Francisco consulting firm, found the Hollywood High School campus to be a strong retail location.
The report cited the site’s easy access to the Hollywood Freeway, proximity to the upscale residential community in the Hollywood Hills as well as well-known Hollywood landmarks and its size. The parcel is large enough to house a major development.
In addition to a major shopping mall, the site could accommodate hotels and theaters, all of which would provide income and employment in the area, the report said.
The drawbacks to developing the site would include increased traffic and a possible drop in business for existing shops on Hollywood Boulevard, the report said.
“We have no solution to the traffic,” Sargent said in the report. “Good ideas and places attract people, and people (especially in L. A.) don’t come without their cars.”
Link to Boulevard Needed
Although he said the campus would be one of the biggest development sites available, Sargent noted that it conversion to retail would only pay off if it could be linked to Hollywood Boulevard itself.
He said the land on which the high school stands might have sold two years ago for up to $75 a square foot, or as much as $45 million. The more valuable land connecting the site to Hollywood Boulevard would cost even more. The site is two blocks south of Hollywood Boulevard.
Additionally, the “the costs, logistics and potential emotional/political problems associated with this move (of the high school) will be obviously enormous,” Sargent said.