Trade-school vision becomes old school

Ryan Carter

A group of residents who spent weeks fighting a proposed trade school

near their homes in Burbank and North Hollywood are breathing a

collective sigh of relief.

A zoning administrator for the city of Los Angeles has denied

parking and zoning variances requested by developer Christopher

Knight so that he could open a school for recording engineers on the

former Kaiser Permanente site at 10407 Magnolia Blvd., near the

corner of Clybourn Avenue.

"It was a victory for small-town America," said Gregory J. Zedlar,

a Burbank resident who helped lead the effort against the school. "It

is nice that the little guy's voice can still be heard and make an

impact."

Zoning Administrator Jon Perica ruled Oct. 1 that not enough of a

hardship was placed on Knight in the current zoning of the site.

Knight had argued that he needed a parking variance that would allow

him to reduce the number of parking spaces on the site from 180 to 90

in order to erect two more buildings. He also sought a variance that

would allow him to operate as a trade school -- a use not permitted

in the area.

Perica took Knight to task for not knowing the zoning restrictions

before he bought the property.

"This use restriction has been in effect since 1989, so anyone who

wanted to verify what the zoning permitted had plenty of time to do

their homework," Perica wrote. "The fact that the applicant didn't

check to see if his use was allowed under the current zoning is not

the city's fault."

Knight, who came under fire from residents who argued the project

would create traffic and parking problems, seemed to take the ruling

in stride.

"We respect the zoning administrator's ruling," he said. "We will

not appeal. We've placed the building up for sale, and we welcome the

neighbors' input on what we should do next."

Knight, who was forced to move out of his Lankershim Boulevard

location to make way for redevelopment, said he has found a

33,000-square-foot building in Hollywood that is a good fit for the

school. He is working out a lease agreement, and stressed that he

made sure it was zoned for a trade school.

The ruling was cheered by leaders of the neighborhood, who were

worried that if the variances were granted, a precedent would have

been set to build anything from hotels to museums in an area not

zoned for them.

"As an organizer, I couldn't be happier," Burbank resident Mark

Stebbeds said. "We were never against the trade school. We were

against the zoning variance that would have allowed it to happen."

Knight tried to put it in perspective.

"I understand the neighbors' reaction," he said. "I think it was

somewhat irrational, but I can't say I wouldn't have had the same

reaction. I think we would have been good neighbors."

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