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Archer School for Girls expansion plan approved with reductions

Archer School for Girls has had its reduced Archer Forward project approved June 30 after agreeing to 25,000 square feet less than originally proposed plus a handful of other reductions.
Archer School for Girls has had its reduced Archer Forward project approved June 30 after agreeing to 25,000 square feet less than originally proposed plus a handful of other reductions.

After years of contention, months of negotiations, and days stuck in a room deliberating downtown, Archer School for Girls and the Brentwood Homeowners Association (BHA) have finally brokered a compromise for a scaled-down version of the Archer Forward project.

The covenant, unchanged and enforceable for 20 years, will allow Archer to modernize its facilities while ensuring the region and neighbors are protected from traffic, noise, and other impacts. The covenant in this case refers to a private agreement bolstered by stricter guidelines and enforcement potential than a city permit.

The Archer Forward expansion plan has been a Brentwood-dividing issue, often triggering worry about impact for neighboring streets and traffic on Sunset Blvd. – a number one concern.

Proponents of Archer, however, pushed for the school’s improvements through modern classrooms, adequate parking, better fields, and reasonable space in the face of supposed austerity.

Highlights of terms include caps on enrollment increases (20 years) and construction schedule (three years), busing and carpool requirements, restrictions on peak hour traffic and limits on summer and weekend activity on campus.

In return under the terms of the covenant, the BHA and Residential Neighbors of Archer agreed to support a 17,700 square foot, 350-seet Performing Arts Center; a six-week summer program for admitted students; maximum enrollment of 518 students; 76 percent busing of enrolled students; and a construction parking plan for on and off-campus with restrictions on permits and an egress plan during peak traffic hours.

A deal came to a head after three years of discussions with Archer, Los Angeles Councilman Mike Bonin, BHA, residential neighbors of the school, and the Brentwood Community Council (BCC), when the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Committee approved the terms on June 30.

Archer School was originally asking the city for permits to conduct a five-year, $70 million, multi-phase expansion project that would modernize existing facilities, develop new arts centers, upgrade the existing athletic fields and expand parking to a 200-car underground lot.

Instead, the compromise trimmed Archer’s project plans by 25,000 square feet, parking spaces from 212 to 164, athletic competitions from 149 to 98, special events from 98 to 65, years of construction from 6 to 3, and Saturday use of campus from unlimited to limited. Busing of students increased from a proposed 70 percent to 76 percent. And the proposed Aquatics Center was squashed.

During construction over the next three years, Archer will have to stick to a timeline that will keep trucks off residential streets, keep windows clean on residences within a 500-foot radius, and integrate a worksite traffic control plan.

Additionally, to combat noise, no special events will happen outdoors on the weekends or weekdays after 6 pm, no athletic tournaments will take place on campus and the athletic field will not be used on the weekends or during fall for extracurricular activities.

Bonin called the agreement “groundbreaking” and “a huge victory for all,” in his July newsletter, including a declared reduction in traffic levels to lower than what exists today on Sunset Blvd.

In a press statement, Archer said they were “pleased to have reached an agreement on a covenant” and “that the plan received a unanimous vote of support from the Los Angeles City Planning Commission and the City Council’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee. Archer Forward will provide much-needed facilities that support our mission to educate girls in the way that they learn best and to prepare them for leadership in the 21st century.”

Thelma Waxman, who has lead the charge against the Archer Forward program as a neighbor of the school, said the covenant was “big win for the community” and praised Bonin and his staff for ensuring the neighbor’s concerns were addressed.
She also expressed appreciation for the BHA and neighbors negotiations in reaching the covenant.

“The original proposal was detrimental to the surrounding neighborhood,” Waxman said in a statement to Brentwood News. “But with the support of the Councilmember, the conditional use permit will now include conditions that mitigate operational impacts to the neighborhood.”

To see the full list of terms, visit archerneighbors.com.

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