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Oakwood School Abandons Plan to Move to Calabasas

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Times Staff Writer

In a move that left opponents stunned but delighted, operators of a North Hollywood private school said Tuesday they have abandoned a controversial plan to move the school to Calabasas.

Officials of Oakwood School said they will sell a 17-acre parcel next to exclusive Calabasas Park and look for a campus site where neighbors are friendlier.

Calabasas homeowners vigorously fought Oakwood’s plans for a $15-million, 682-student campus off Old Topanga Canyon Road. They charged that the school would bring traffic, noise and flooding problems.

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The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors had scheduled a hearing for Thursday to discuss those issues and vote on a conditional use permit sought by Oakwood operators. That hearing will be canceled, officials said.

Oakwood Headmaster James Astman said school trustees dropped the Calabasas plan after deciding the dispute could delay their relocation by a year. The school’s two small campuses in North Hollywood are overcrowded and need to be replaced quickly, he said.

“It’s been a very painful process,” Astman said. “It would be foolish to say I don’t feel considerable frustration. I remain astonished at the level of intensity of a few of the people out there.”

Purchased for $2.5 Million

Negotiations have begun to sell the Calabasas site to a residential developer. The school purchased the land for $2.5 million two years ago, he said.

Calabasas homeowners said Oakwood’s pullout caught them by surprise.

“We’re very pleased,” said Rosemary Lichtman, a leader of the homeowners’ protest against the school project. “Through whatever means, they chose to see this is not the place for a school of that magnitude.”

Lichtman said her neighbors hope to see 16 one-acre estate homes built on the site. She said they will oppose any high-density development plan for the property--even for a residential project.

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