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Latest Belmont Plan Draws Some Powerful Supporters

Times Staff Writer

Under a new proposal for the long-delayed Belmont Learning Complex, most of the high school building would be left intact, structures that lie over an earthquake fault would be razed and adjacent land would become a 1,400-square-foot public park in downtown Los Angeles.

The plan was proposed by Los Angeles Board of Education member Jose Huizar and has drawn several powerful supporters including Mayor James K. Hahn, Councilman Ed Reyes and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, which would finance the park. They say that the plan would ease overcrowded schools and provide badly needed public space in one of the city’s densest neighborhoods.

But Huizar’s colleagues at the Los Angeles Unified School District are less enthusiastic about the plan for the abandoned oil field. The Board of Education will vote Tuesday on which of several options for the site to pursue.

In March, L.A. schools Supt. Roy Romer presented three options for the school.

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One was to sell the entire property, which has been plagued with environmental problems caused by underground gases. Those concerns were compounded last year after the discovery of a fault line under the building. By then, the district had spent $175 million on the project

Romer supports a separate proposal to sell the existing building and to build a smaller school on the bedrock portion of the property at the western edge of the site. It and another planned school near Vermont Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard would have a total capacity of 2,600 students within five years.

But Huizar and his supporters are pushing a modified version of the third proposal, which is to renovate much of the closed building and install a venting system to extract methane gases and hydrogen sulfite.

“This option would give us 2,600 seats in 3 1/2 years,” Huizar said.

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But most members of the Board of Education said Thursday that they oppose the plan, variously citing safety issues, support for the proposal backed by Romer or dissatisfaction with all the plans.


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