Archer School development project divides Brentwood community

An artists impression of Archer's proposed multipurpose facility.

Artists Impression of Archer's Proposed Multipurpose Facility.
Artists Impression of Archer’s Proposed Multipurpose Facility.
The ongoing neighborhood controversy surrounding the future development plans of The Archer School for Girls in Brentwood is continuing, with new concessions from the school falling short of demands by community groups.

Archer presented their most-recent proposal, coined “The Concession Plan,” at the Brentwood Community Council (BCC) meeting Oct. 7 in response to three years of community backlash and outreach and to requirements laid out by councilman Mike Bonin.

The new approach, “is still too large, the impacts are still too great and more needs to be done to address the size and use of the proposed project,” Residential Neighbors of Archer (RNA) spokesperson Thelma Waxman told Brentwood News.

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“The RNA continues to advocate for a downsized alternative that will allow Archer to improve its campus and preserve at the protections the neighbors were afforded in the first instance when Archer moved to the most congested area in Brentwood,” Waxman added.

Archer development proponents argue that the school is in dire need of a serious re-vamp that goes beyond initial concept plans, in order to keep up with today’s standards of education.

“Archer is an exceptional school whose mission of empowering young women in a girl-centric environment is critically important to Los Angeles,” said Elizabeth English, Archer’s Head of School. “Archer is seeking essential, modern facilities in order to meet our mission of educating girls for the 21st century. These are facilities that nearly every other school in Los Angeles – independent or public – already enjoys.”

Archer moved into Brentwood in 1999, taking over the historic Eastern Star Home for Women senior-living building and premises. At the time, Archer agreed to adhere to a strict Conditional Use Permit (CUP), issued by the City in 1998. Resident groups believe that current stipulations in the existing CUP regarding noise, outside use, hours of operation, the number of athletic and special events, and the amount of cars allowed on campus, should remain.

“Fifteen years ago Archer, despite other options available, chose to move into a residential neighborhood,” Waxman said. “Extensive negotiations took place… and resulted in a carefully balanced agreement.

“I believe, as a matter of fundamental fairness, that the need for new buildings and updated facilities does not justify nor require Archer to throw out the existing CUP and unwind all of the protections that were put in place that allowed them to come into the neighborhood in the first instance.”

The main bone of contention is the increase in traffic flow that new facilities could result in, including during the three to five year construction window, and the environmental impact of new construction.

“Traffic is clearly the number one issue in Brentwood, and we agree,” English said. Adding that the school has worked hard with neighbors and local leaders to eliminate significant traffic impact from school operations.

“We currently implement the most stringent transportation management program for any independent school in Los Angeles…we are agreeing to a minimum of 70 percent busing,” English said. “Transportation planners estimate that only three percent of the morning peak traffic on Sunset Boulevard is related to Archer.”

The school has agreed to more than 30 changes to the original project, according to English.

The revised plan reduces the physical scale of the project; restricts proposed campus hours and operations, including the number of competitions and school functions; and adds landscaping, noise protection, and other features to preserve neighborhood character, the school stated.

The reduction in total building size from the initial development plan of 164,578 sq ft to the current plan of 150,203 sq ft is only 14,375 sq ft, according to RNA data. The current building size at Archer is 84,178 sq ft.

The “Concession Plan” reduces the multi-purpose center to 39,300 sq ft, the performance art center to 395 seats and 19,025 sq ft, the north wing renovation to 300 sq ft and the underground parking structure to 185 cars, expanding to 250 cars. The proposed visual arts center (7,400 sq ft) remains unchanged. The proposed aquatic center was taken off the table.

RNA is calling for a further reduction to a gym of 19,000 sq ft, a performing arts center of 19,000 sq ft (350 seats) and underground parking for 150 cars. They are also insisting that the original CUP conditions of no lights on the field, no outside use of the facilities, limited field use on Saturdays and for the softball field to be placed away from residences, be upheld, along with a shorter build timeline.

“The construction time period has been reduced,” explained English. “The plan also eliminates non-Archer related events at the school, restricts Saturday athletic field use, and mandates use of an underground pedestrian pathway, connecting the parking garage to the multipurpose facility and the performing arts center, for events ending after 8 pm.”

A community meeting between concerned parties Brentwood Homeowners Association, Councilman Bonin’s office, BCC, RNA and Archer was held Thursday October 9. No agreement was reached.

The next meeting is scheduled for Oct. 30.

What do you think about Archer School’s development proposal? Email your thoughts to 
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8 COMMENTS

  1. We fully support all comments made by Thelma Waxman and the views of the RNA. Archer’s proposed plan is ridiculous and goes against everything they agreed to in their original CUP when they moved into the neighborhood back in 1999. We strongly opposed Archer’s move into the neighborhood then and we will only support what the CUP allowed for Archer at that time. The original CUP was negotiated at length by Archer and the neighborhood, and the neighborhood made many many concessions at that time. Archer can move to another neighborhood if it would like to make its campus into what it feels it should be. This locale simply cannot handle any more traffic or construction or growth.

    • I have lived in the area for 24 years and strongly disagree. Archer widened Sunset and we all know the simple truth behind the increase in traffic — commuters going in and out of the West Side. Archer appears to have severly reduced their plan and the RNA seeks more? What happens after that? They won’t stop until they kill the project — it’s more than transparent. Re the construction period, many of us have had construction right at our property line — we live in a world of tear-downs north of Montana, San Vicenter, and Sunset. As for the ludicrous suggestion that Archer move, I have one just as ludicrous — sell your house. Archer has been a high;y prestigious addition to the neighborhood and a good neighbor.

      • Bill.
        Archer has “severely” reduced their project, you say.

        Archer has reduced their project by only about 10-15% from their gargantuan ask.

        The neighbors have SUPPORTED a substantial increase to their CUP, but Archer has behaved like small children who aren’t satisfied until they get all that they want.

        No one is saying Archer has currently increased traffic, but that is BECAUSE of the strict CUP. The new plan calls for 100.000 + vehicles over a five year construction period.

        Who is the one not being reasonable?

  2. I cannot believe anyone who has ever been on Archer’s campus, or walked in a classroom or been to one of our events would begrudge these girls and our dedicated staff a facility to do our job.

    • I agree with Theresa!
      I love seeing the development of a neighborhood based around its youth! Brentwood has many large and highly developed schools along with many parks for dogs and people! With a great school system in place and with more plans to improve archer, this movement will bring more educated students along with parents, visitors, and other service vendors and construction workers that will contribute to the growth of the entire community of Brentwood.

      I support archer for equal opportunities for all girls.

  3. We live north of Sunset and have suffered the hideous traffic eastbound in the evenings on Sunset far too many times. However, as Archer parents, we know Archer’s not the problem. In most cases we are not permitted to drive on campus and our children must take the bus to school. This isn’t the case with other institutions. Archer has done more to alleviate traffic than any other business or organization on Sunset. With Archer agreeing to all the alterations suggested by Mike Bonin’s office its hard to continue to see what the issue is here. Those who are fired up and wanting the carry the torch should take on the traffic issue in more productive way. Maybe other organizations can adopt Archer’s traffic reduction plan?

  4. I’m surprised to see residents arguing the expansion of a school that is trying to further develop their property to benefit students and their education. A school is one of the most positive developments you could ask for in a residential area.

    I understand Archer agreed to the Conditional Use Permit, at the time they came to the area, but that was 15 years ago and the school has grown. Archer is asking to expand to meet the needs of their students and faculty, and I don’t see why this needs to be argued or reduced. Archer is not kicking residents out of their properties or expanding their property further into the neighborhood. It should be accepted by the RNA that maybe their original guidelines will need to be altered, because those were created 15 years ago.

    I also don’t think it is an acceptable comment to tell an educational institution to relocate, because they want to expand. If residents are truly unhappy, then why don’t they relocate?

    There’s not much validity in the opposing argument, which states “The main bone of contention is the increase in traffic flow that new facilities could result in”.
    This argument baffles me.

    Brentwood is a neighborhood of West Los Angeles, which is one of the most heavily trafficked areas of the entire city and country! Therefore, if you have a problem with space and traffic then move away from the Westside! You’ve chosen to reside in a extremely busy area.

    If there’s not enough space in Brentwood for a successful school to develop, then why is there enough room for residents who live at large properties and estates in Brentwood?

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