July 17, 2024 The Best Source of News, Culture, Lifestyle for Culver City, Mar Vista, Del Rey, Palms and West Los Angeles

A Community Perspective on Development

BrentwoodSchool

Jeff Appel’s response to Lauren Cole’s Brentwood School editorial.

After reading the article from your Guest Editor, Lauren Cole, I had to respond. There is absolutely nothing in the City’s approval of Brentwood School’s Master Plan that in any way increases traffic. How it can even be construed as such is mystifying. I’ve read the Planning Commission Report and it has not, as Ms. Cole puts it, been “gutted.”

I live in the neighborhood adjacent to Brentwood School’s East Campus and am a member of the RNBS (Residential Neighbors of Brentwood School) and the BHA (Brentwood Homeowners Association), so I have been watching this process carefully for several years. But even if I hadn’t, a read of the conditions makes it clear that the school will reduce traffic and is required to start with a minimum 12.5 percent cut, effective when the new school year begins in September.

And that is only the beginning. Mike Bonin has somehow gotten the school to agree to a whopping and unprecedented 40 percent reduction over time. This is way beyond what the City can legally require, and I am confident from past interactions with the school that they are honest in their commitment and will meet this challenging requirement.

Brentwood School has made it clear that it is, and will be, using a number of methods such as increased carpool size, mandatory busing, remote vanpool drop off and pick up locations that are at least two miles from campus, and moving evening events out of peak traffic hours. They have already begun implementing many of the initiatives.

When Ms. Cole says that Brentwood School could “contribute 45 percent less peak hour traffic than it does today, if it had similar requirements as The Archer School for Girls,” I have to assume she is referencing busing.

The final conditions approved by the PLUM Committee have a 40 percent requirement for busing on their East Campus, which it did not have before. Even so, I do not believe this is the one-size-fits-all solution she imagines it to be.

I think it would be a nightmare for the only solution to be many more large school buses to clog up Sunset Boulevard six times every day – in and out in the morning, then in and out again, and then out again after sports. Archer did not volunteer out of the goodness of its heart to have such a large busing requirement. They were required to do this as a condition of being allowed to open a school at their current location.

Since the inception of this process, Brentwood has taken a different approach from Archer by negotiating a tough private land use covenant with BHA and its closest neighbors, RNBS. Moreover, Brentwood School has been operating as a school continuously at its current location since 1930, and on the same footprint of land – no expanding into the residential neighborhood, ever, and no intention to do that in the future.

In addition, Ms. Cole’s contention that Brentwood School can “substantially reduce its requirements by helping Paul Revere Charter School students get buses,” is incorrect, or at least incomplete. I checked, and the largest trip reduction credit the School can get is 10 percent, no matter how much they help Paul Revere or any other schools along Sunset reduce their own traffic.

This is a program that is a win-win for everyone, and I think Ms. Cole is short-sighted not to see the benefits. I called Brentwood School about Ms. Cole’s claim, and confirmed that they have filled four buses for next year with Paul Revere students and are working on a fifth bus. They are also working with other schools to expand the program, which comes with no credit but is done because it is the right thing to do.

I find it interesting that Ms. Cole is now holding up the Planning Commission’s action as the greatest thing in the world, when she filed an appeal of that very action that included 16 pages of scathing criticism. If she focuses on the overall benefits of the comprehensive trip reduction package, rather than getting lost in the weeds of the condition language, she will come to appreciate the PLUM Committee’s action just as she did the Planning Commission’s.

I thank Mike Bonin for pushing Brentwood School to meet this unprecedented level of traffic reduction, and I’m proud of the school for rising to the challenge. BCC may be unhappy with the final language, but my neighbors and the Brentwood Homeowner’s Association are strong supporters of such a community oriented institution.

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