On Wednesday evening, about 80 people gathered in the historic auditorium of John Burroughs Middle School for an update on the design of the comprehensive modernization scheduled for the school. It was the first of the public meetings called for by the environmental impact process.
Principal Dr. Steve Martinez welcomed everyone to the school, expressing his hope that the building could match the excellence of the efforts of his students and faculty, and fit into the historic neighborhood of Hancock Park. Martinez noted that he has spent more than 20 years at the school and is committed to making sure the much needed modernization project will have the support and involvement of the neighbors.
Scott Singletary, LAUSD facilities official, presented an overview of the process, which began in February 2016 when the district agreed to allocate more than $100 million dollars to the modernization of the John Burroughs campus, to improve student health, safety and education. According to the initial study, Burroughs MS was identified as one of 11 schools in the District most in need of an upgrade, due to the physical condition of the facilities.
Whitney Wyatt, Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects, presented the most recent version of the campus design, which calls for demolishing a number of buildings – including the Shop Building – and replacing them with new classroom buildings, girls locker rooms, and a new cafeteria and eating area, among other new or renovated facilities. In total, new project would add about 20,000 square feet of renovated or new space onto the campus for students and faculty use. Wyatt presented drawings of the proposed new building facing on McCadden, called Building B. The three-story building would include food service and a multi-purpose classroom with locker space. It would contain approximately one student store, boys’ and girls’ lockers, food services, and indoor dining/MPR facilities on the first floor. Approximately 14 standard classrooms would be on the second floor, and approximately 2 standard classrooms and 8 science classrooms on the third floor. The building would be built of brick and glazed tile. The architects are trying to use similar proportions and compatible materials for the new buildings, so they would not overwhelm the existing buildings, explained Wyatt.
Next, Scott Baker, landscape architect and president of Relm Studios. presented an overview of the landscape design, which seeks to green the campus by adding landscaped areas where students gather informally or as a groups for classes, along with teaching gardens that support the academic curriculum. The gardens would be located in the center of campus, returning a quad space that was part of the original school built in 1923. (LAUSD staff offered to provide the slides presented at the meeting, for distribution to the public, but they were not yet available at the time of posting this story. We will update the story when we get the presentation.)
During the comment period, neighbors from Hancock Park expressed their concerns about the construction phase of the project, and the attendant issues of noise, dust, parking for construction vehicles, etc., and the design…which several people felt was not appropriate for a historic building in an Historic Preservation Overlay Zone.
David Gajda, a resident on June street who serves as the liaison between the school and the Hancock Park Homeowners Association, expressed reservations about the proposed design of the new buildings. He pointed out that, unlike a residence or commercial project, which is designed and submitted to the planning department for review, LAUSD can design and approve its own projects.
“We just want to make sure that LAUSD looks at all the alternatives to demolition of the historic buildings and makes the new buildings more like the existing buildings,” said Gajda. “We are asking the architects to go back and come up with a solution that will keep the historic nature of the buildings.”
He added that he would be presenting two lists of comments to LAUSD; the first from the closest neighbors, and the second from the homeowners association more broadly. He also invited those in the audience to email him if they have any comments they would like to be added to the record. Gajda can be reach at [email protected]. The comment period for this phase of the project ends on March 20.
Teresa Atkins, LAUSD Community Relations staff member, said they will be presenting the project to the Hancock Park HPOZ at its meeting on March 14.
After design issues, the next most common area of concern was traffic. Several neighbors expressed their concerns about traffic safety and congestion at the school. One asked why cars couldn’t be re-routed to use the same drop off areas off Wilshire Blvd. which are now part of the new plan. She noted that the school district said safety was its primary focus in the modernization project, but traffic safety is a major problem right now that is not being addressed. She urged school officials to come up with a solution now, and not wait for the construction project…which is not slated to start for several years. Finally, another neighbor invited the designers and LAUSD officials to spend the day at her house, located across the street from the school on McCadden, to see how long it takes to drive around the block.
Dr. Martinez acknowledged the continuing challenge of traffic and urged everyone to help him get more resources from the Council office, the City’s Department of Transportation and others by coming to the public meetings on this issue. The Buzz will make sure to post information about those meetings our calendar.
All the comments from the evening were recorded as part of the CEQA process, which CEQA project manager Ed Paek said would be all about public engagement. He added that all written comments will be responded to in writing.
Members of the public can also submit by email at [email protected] or by mail to Ed Paek, CEQA Project Manager at the following address: LAUS-OEHS, 333 South Beaudry Avenue, 21st Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90017. Please include Burroughs Mod Project in the subject line.