Disney day care site OKd

DOWNTOWN — Design Review Board No. 1 on Thursday approved the design for a private day care facility to be built for the children of Walt Disney Co. employees, moving another element in Disney’s Grand Central Creative Campus project in northwest Glendale closer to completion.

The company has proposed building a 23,426-square-foot day care facility on a 2.1-acre area bound by Flower Street, Paula Avenue, Davis Avenue and Truitt Street in northwest Glendale.

The site houses three Disney-owned buildings and a parking lot. The company will level those buildings to construct a five-building child care complex that will include two outdoor courtyards, as well as 53 surface parking spaces.

The private day care can be used by children who have at least one parent employed by Disney.

After hearing from Disney officials, project architects and landscape designers about the goals and virtues of the project, as well as a handful of residents who voiced concerns about its impacts on neighborhood traffic and parking, the board voted 4 to 0 to approve the project with several conditions.

Board member Gio Aliano was absent from the meeting and did not vote.

The board members sung the praises of much of the facility’s design — such as lower-than-allowable building heights to blend in with the neighborhood and environmentally conscious features such as solar panels and a green roof.

“At the end of the day, it’s very sensitive to its context,” board member Art Simonian said.

Disney is seeking LEED — or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design — Gold certification for the building’s environmental friendliness. It would be the first building in Glendale to reach that standard, Disney officials said.

“It’s commendable that they’re trying to reach such a high standard,” senior planner Jeff Hamilton said.

Before the vote, several neighborhood residents voiced their concerns about how the development would affect traffic and parking in the area.

Margie Liu, who lives in the neighborhood where the day care facility will be, said Disney employees already use street parking rather than nearby Disney lots, and that the staff using the day care center might do the same.

“This hasn’t even happened yet, and they park in our neighborhood,” Liu said.

She said many in the neighborhood wanted to obtain preferential street parking for residents to avoid that problem.

Carla Haskell, who lives on Davis Street, said the facility would exacerbate traffic problems.

“As it is now, I don’t make left turns onto Flower from Davis,” she said.

Haskell said she supported the idea of a day care center, but not one next to a residential neighborhood.

“Not on this street, not in this area,” she said.

But Ed Chuchla, Disney’s senior vice president of corporate real estate, said the volume of people using the day care facility would be smaller than the total number who used to work on the site before the company vacated one of those buildings in anticipation of the new development.

The facility will hold up to 236 children and have a staff of 77.

The traffic will also be spread throughout the morning, as employees arrive to work at different times, Chuchla said.

“It’s a slow trickle of folks that come in,” he said.

“This is not a crush of people coming.”

Disney would be willing to work with the city and residents to mitigate any traffic issues that develop in the short term, before more significant upgrades are made to Flower Street further down the line, Chuchla said.

“Our goal is to always be a good neighbor,” he said.

Under the conditions approved Thursday night, Disney must fill in trees along the section of Truitt Street that borders the development, at the request of property owners.

The board also asked the applicant to consider working with the city’s traffic managers to address any traffic impacts in the short term, maintain an open line of communication with neighbors, and add some greater articulation to a section of perimeter wall that will border Truitt Street.

The day care facility is one element in a much larger Disney development project planned for the San Fernando Road corridor.

The City Council signed off on the master plan for that project in 2000. So far, Disney has built 250,000 square feet of office space in the area.

Residents have seven days to appeal the board’s approval of the day care project.

 ANGELA HOKANSON covers education. She may be reached at (818) 637-3238 or by e-mail at angelahokanson@latimes.com.

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