Council Approves School Expansion Amid Complaints about Loss of Rent-Stablized Housing

Rendering of the Center for Early Education with a newly constructed center building on La Cienega.
Rendering of the Center for Early Education with a newly constructed center building on La Cienega.

The WeHo City Council has approved a proposal for a major expansion of the Center for Early Education (CEE) on La Cienega Boulevard at Melrose.

CEE is a private elementary school serving 535 students in preschool through sixth grade. It plans to expand its campus, adding 65,000-square-feet of new buildings on 2.32 acres. The expansion will require the demolition of two existing school buildings, some nearby shops and a nine-unit apartment building. The CEE campus currently has three school buildings, a central courtyard, three ground-level play yards and underground parking.

The council approved the expansion in a four-to-one vote, with Councilmember Lauren Meister voting “no.” Meister praised the school and said she was voting against the expansion reluctantly. “I’m sorry to say I can’t support this specific plan although the school is wonderful,” she said.

The specific plan to which Meister referred is an exemption to existing zoning regulations that cover the properties on which the school sits. The CEE project spans two zoning districts. One is zoned for public facilities and is the site of the Rosewood Elementary School. The other district, zoned for medium-density residential use, includes a house and apartment building at 523 North Alfred. By creating a “special zone,” the city lets CEE avoid some of the requirements of those two individual zones.

“If we gave out specific plans for good works, the center absolutely would get a specific plan,” Meister said. “But that’s not how it’s supposed to work.”

Meister said she also shared the concerns of some opponents of the project who objected to the demolition of nine rent-stabilized apartments and said it was likely to further reduce foot traffic on La Cienega, and thus hurt nearby small businesses.

Several opponents of the project noted that CEE is an expensive private school (tuition ranges from $19,050 a year for toddlers to $29,100 a year for sixth graders) and objected that it isn’t required to make a payment to the city’s housing trust fund, which is used to build affordable housing. Residential real estate developers are required to add affordable units to their projects or make an “in lieu” payment to the trust fund. However that is not required of businesses and other institutions. Councilmember John Heilman said that the affluence of the school’s parents was good for local businesses. Parents picking their children up from school could shop in nearby stores that he couldn’t afford, Heilman said.

Heilman also noted that only three of the nine rent-stablized apartments currently are occupied. The other tenants will be required to move out under provisions of the state Ellis Act. But he said the loss of affordable housing did concern him. “I think we need to have a policy that when residentially zoned land is lost to institutional or commercial use there needs to be an in lieu payment,” he said.

Councilmember John Duran said he didn’t think a non-profit organization should be required to contribute to the city’s housing trust fund. Duran did ask his fellow council members to condition their approval on CEE providing a bond that would cover the cost of sound reduction measures that might be needed during construction improviing lighting in an alleyway on the property.

Duran and Heilman expressed concern that the prominent art installation proposed by CEE for the wall facing La Cienega be of high quality. “I want to make sure that the La Cienega facade is something that is enlivened by that art and is not just a flat surface,” Heilman said.

0 0 votes
Article Rating

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

10 Comments
Newest
Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Zam Loomstein
6 years ago

Hank… Thanks for the clarification. I think this is a close call, but its clear that the rent controlled property owner wants out no matter what.

TR
TR
6 years ago

Good point, John H. All of the Uber drivers and nanny’s will be able to purchase a latte while lining up around the block to pick up the young master of the house! Was this really the best rationale that you could create?

Brad
Brad
6 years ago

Ah, got it. Thanks for the explanation, Hank.

Brad
Brad
6 years ago

I’m not following one point:

Could someone clarify how Rosewood Elementary School building/land fits into this plan?

That is an LAUSD public school, right?

Is a private school acquiring some/all of that public school’s building or land?

Former Staff
6 years ago
Reply to  Brad

Rosewood Elementary is not part of this plan. It sits nearby and is part of the same zoning district.

SaveWeho
SaveWeho
6 years ago

I think everyone is confusing the idea that rent-controlled apartments are considered “affordable”. When a tenant moves out of a “rent-controlled” apartment…the landlord puts the rent back to market rate. After that they can only raise the rent a certain percentage, but the turnover rate in the majority of rental units is pretty frequent. I would suspect many older apartments aren’t really affordable any longer. I do think its outrageous that a commercial property can purchase residential land and not contribute a certain percentage to any type of city fund, be it affordable housing or otherwise. I think that law… Read more »

Christopher
Christopher
6 years ago

Who cares if there’s less and less affordable housing in the city as long as it looks pretty.

Alison
Alison
6 years ago

More Ellis Act evictions ….this time for a rich school. I fail to see why they need such an enlargement. The school only has 535 kids and they already have quite a large campus. Slowly but surely, all the rent stabilized apartments are biting the dust in this City with the approval of our City Council. They forget that it was rent control that was a driving force behind becoming a City in the first place.

Todd Bianco
6 years ago

The City will also lose property tax revenue from these new structures as the entire school will be considered as being used for “charitable” purposes. Something tells me that the students attending this elite school have fairly wealthy parents. There definitely needs to be some provision in the code for payments to the housing trust fund, even if it’s a non-profit institution. This entity is charging a huge tuition for each student and is spending millions on this new facility. It can also afford a payment to the city for affordable housing.

Jonathan Simmons
Jonathan Simmons
6 years ago

First: Is John Duran now declaring HE the Arbiter Of Art? THE U.S. SUPREME COURT has ruled that “Art” can not be determined or controlled (but for the few Obsenity/Nudity/ etc).?

He sits on the dias of a small municipality and acts (and way too often speaks i.e. to wit:
“I want to make sure that the La Cienega facade is something that is enlivened by that art and is not just a flat surface,”

Click to Hide Advanced Floating Content

0 0 votes
Article Rating
10
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x