Brentwood Bristles at Plan to Use Retirement Home for Girls School
It could be a perfect fit: Well-regarded girls school buys beautiful retirement home as its new campus and vows to preserve the historic building and fields in a busy corner of Brentwood zoned for more condos. The elderly residents of the Eastern Star Home leave their cherished Spanish Colonial Revival building in appreciative hands to move to a more modern facility.
But many of the neighbors are building an arsenal to fight the school’s efforts to obtain the permit necessary to open next fall.
Opponents contend that the Archer School for Girls will bring further traffic woes to an area that is still reeling from drivers lured along Sunset Boulevard to the newly opened Getty Center.
“There’s a ton of emotion” in Brentwood surrounding the Archer School’s plans, said Marybeth Raymond, its director of development. “It’s about what’s going on in the world today, people clinging to old neighborhoods.”
Moving into the Eastern Star Home--located on six acres near Barrington Avenue and Sunset Boulevard--will increase Archer’s space ninefold and let it expand to 450 students in grades six through 12. But it’s not as simple as forking over $15 million and picking up the keys.
To answer its vocal critics, Archer has pledged to spend more than $1 million creating left-turn and bus pullout lanes at five area intersections. Archer officials also have made paying for a school bus a mandatory part of tuition, to discourage individual car trips by parents dropping off children.
But members of Concerned Brentwood Homeowners and Residents say the Archer plan spells ruination for Sunset Boulevard, an already choked thoroughfare.
The group has devoted more than a year to opposing Archer’s plans, hiring traffic consultants to poke holes in the school’s environmental impact report and a public relations team to keep 2,500 people on the group’s database informed about all things Archer.
“It’s been hot as a firecracker for two years,” said Jon Byk, a 30-year resident who said his group will fight the school all the way to the California Supreme Court if necessary. “Apparently the fact that the community doesn’t want them there is not as important as having that trophy location for their school.”
Byk and others say Archer would be the eighth school in just under a mile that is reached via Sunset Boulevard, creating morning rush-hour waits of up to 20 minutes.
“That area is virtually at gridlock now . . . to put another 200 cars there is incomprehensible,” said neighbor John McRoskey, referring to the number of vehicles the school estimates will enter the campus daily. Plus, he said, traffic headed to the Getty Center has exacerbated congestion.
Archer administrators will apply for a permit to operate as a school in the next few weeks. Though they expect to face opposition at upcoming public hearings, Archer has plenty of backers.
Steve Wyler, whose home faces the fields behind the Eastern Star, strongly supports the school. “I am more afraid of what might go in there if Archer [does not] than I am afraid of what Archer’s going to do,” he said.
The private, nondenominational school opened in Pacific Palisades in 1995 and now enrolls 123 girls in grades six through nine. Its newly purchased building, erected in 1931, houses 34 elderly members of the Order of the Eastern Star, who will probably move to a new facility in Orange County, officials of the fraternal organization said.
Arlene Hogan, Archer’s head of school, said that by encouraging bus-riding and by fining parents who drive onto campus unnecessarily, traffic impact will be minimized. She said a series of meetings held in the area have persuaded many residents to see the school’s point of view.
“What Brentwood doesn’t understand is we’re the best deal on the block,” said Hogan, who said the school’s naysayers have a general fear of change. But given that change will come, she said, a girls school committed to busing will suit the neighborhood.
“I think people will realize that as soon as we get there.”