Lake View Terrace residents lashed out Wednesday night at a proposal they said would merely trade the eyesore of an abandoned hospital for the crime, drug and decreased property values of a boarding school for former drug users.
A meeting, held in the Lake View Terrace Recreation Center, was called to discuss a plan to locate the 150-student high school on the grounds of Lake View Medical Center, which closed in 1986. The school would be named the Nancy Reagan Center because it was the First Lady's brainchild.
But the handful of men and women who spoke from the crowd of more than 100 residents said the prestigious title didn't impress them.
"Let's go beyond labels," said Randy Jones. "To the homeowner, it makes no difference. You could call it the Gary Hart Rehabilitation Center or the Mikhail Gorbachev Rehabilitation Center or even the John Doe Center. No matter what kind of names or celebrities you attach to it, the effects will be negative all around."
Elizabeth J. Tarnove, who lives within a block of the site, suggested that if Mrs. Reagan was "so hot to trot to get a center, let's put it in Santa Barbara," where she and the President own a ranch.
Using the slogan for the First Lady's anti-drug campaign, Tarnove told her neighbors to "think about your children, think about your safety, think about your property values and 'just say no.' "
Public opinion will play an important role in the Los Angeles Planning Commission's ruling on the special permit the school will require, according to Greg Jackson, planning aide to Councilman Ernani Bernardi.
But any action by the Planning Commission is months away because the proposed operators of the school must first buy the land and apply for a permit.
Two years ago, Lake View Terrace residents successfully blocked a juvenile detention center proposed for the same property.
During a presentation Wednesday night by top executives of the private, nonprofit agency Mrs. Reagan chose to run the program--Phoenix House--William Smith, a company vice president, reported that he had heard of no problems in neighborhoods surrounding any of the other programs the company operates.
But Lynne Cooper said she and other members of the Lake View Terrace Improvement Assn. had spent the day talking with people in communities around other Phoenix House operations.
What they found is that no other Phoenix programs are in purely residential areas and many are in either rural or industrial settings, Cooper said. She said that real estate agents had reported some difficulties selling property near the schools and that police had indicated problems with runaways from the programs and with arson.
Phoenix House was chosen by Mrs. Reagan in March to run not only a drug-free high school, which she hopes will eventually offer an accelerated academic curriculum, but also a drug-abuse research project and several clinical treatment programs.
The company is the nation's largest drug-abuse service agency. It has six centers in New York and four in California, including an adolescent treatment center in Venice.
Preliminary plans call for the Lake View Terrace school to offer classes, chores, counseling and other structured activities, as well as an outpatient, after-school program for teen-agers with less serious drug problems. It would also have a 60-person treatment program for young adults.
Students would come voluntarily, be enrolled by their parents or be referred by schools, drug detoxification programs or juvenile detention centers, Smith said.