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School buys Rancho facility

After months of intense neighborhood opposition, the developer of a proposed project for 50 single-family homes now plans to sell the roughly five-acre site in Burbank’s Rancho area to a private school for an undisclosed price.

The property, a former General Motors training facility on Riverside Drive now owned by New Urban West, is in escrow for a sale to Lycee International de Los Angeles, a college-preparatory school with a European curriculum, according to Tom Zanic, senior vice president of the development company.

The school approached Zanic in December about buying the facility.

“They thought the site and the building were perfect for their use,” Zanic said.


Its attractions include large classrooms, an auditorium and a full-service cafeteria, said Iain Whyte, a trustee and finance chair for the school.

“It’s ready to move in, and that’s a big deal,” Whyte said.

Lycee already has campuses in Pasadena, Los Feliz, Tarzana and Santa Ana.

Sixth through 12th grades will move from the Los Feliz campus to the school in Burbank, Whyte said, adding that about 220 students are expected to attend the new school initially, with plans to increase to 350 students within the next 10 years.


The vast majority of Rancho residents — who have succeeded in defeating other development proposals — are pleased to have a school like Lycee coming to their neighborhood, according to Jay Geisenheimer, a member of the Rancho Review Board.

The school doesn’t have a sports program, so there won’t be activities in the evenings or on weekends — a major plus for equestrian-friendly Rancho residents who like to ride their horses in the neighborhood during those times, Geisenheimer said.

And traffic isn’t expected to be an issue, she added.

About 100 cars and four buses will be used to transport students, Whyte said. That amount, which includes staff members’ vehicles, is reasonable, Geisenheimer said, particularly because there is a large circular driveway in front of the building.

She would prefer to see residential homes zoned for horses built on the site, but Geisenheimer acknowledged that people are not constructing those kinds of houses.

“We are lucky this school came along and can afford that land,” she said.

If the escrow doesn’t go through or the school decides not to buy the property, Santa Monica-based New Urban West will continue with its plans to build the 50 two-story, single-family homes and resume the entitlement process, Zanic said.

Because the land is zoned for office use, a zoning change would be required to build the homes.


A school would require only an administrative-use permit, which would be handled at the city-staff level, said Michael Forbes, assistant community development director for the city.

However, a traffic study will likely be required, Forbes said, which would mean the request would go before the Planning Board.

Zanic said New Urban West, which recently scaled back its original plans for 120 two- and three-story town homes, would not reduce the number of residential units further.

“Absolutely not,” he said, adding that the new plans address many of the concerns raised by Rancho residents including density, traffic and excessive height.