Flintridge Prep Scraps Parking Lot Plan After Neighborhood Chats

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At an informal, amicable meeting with a few neighbors last week, Flintridge Prep indicated that it planned to exclude the proposed 40,000-square foot parking structure from its campus improvement plans, which were re-submitted to the city this week without that parking structure.
The two-story parking garage was the most significant of the plan’s modifications, several of which were presented to the seven neighbors who showed up to chat with Headmaster Peter Bachmann and architects on the evening of Wednesday, Aug. 23, in the school’s Norris Auditorium.
It was the third and final such dialogue hosted by Prep, conversations that stemmed from an hours-long Planning Commission meeting on June 27. Residents packed the council chambers that night and stayed past midnight sharing concerns about the school’s proposal, which initially included construction of 62,790-square feet of new floor area over a 10-year period.
Commission Chair Rick Gunter ended that meeting by suggesting the private school invite neighbors over to talk about those issues. So Flintridge Prep did.
Although only seven residents showed up to each of the meetings — including a couple of people who attended each one — those who participated found them productive.
“The city suggested it and it was a good idea,” said Peggy Easter, who was at each meeting. “They’ve been able to answer questions that the neighbors have had. They’ve taken the time because obviously they are interested in trying to mitigate as much as they can.”
The school told those who attended last week that they and their neighbors also will be invited to a future demonstration of proposed permanent lighting at the athletic fields. Currently, the school uses portable lights during nighttime sporting events. Prep is hoping, however, to introduce permanent 70-foot fixtures that experts say will focus the light onto the field and away from neighbors.
“We’ve talked abstractly about these lights and we’ve seen scientific theory,” Bachmann said. “But we’re going to try to set up a time for demonstrations. We want to see for ourselves, ‘OK, if you stand on Nancy Way, what would you see?’”
Architect John Dale said last week that Prep also intended to eliminate the hydroponic garden atop the proposed Collaborative Leadership Building, in addition to lowering the height of that building by 7 feet and, if possible, shifting the building another 15 feet back away from the school’s eastern property line.
Lowering it would help maintain more privacy for those living nearby and moving it east could create a more generous zone for landscaping that would accomplish the same, Dale said.
Easter said she appreciated the school’s plans to add foliage, but she wanted firm details before she would approve.
The school also planned to drop plans for a trellis at the school’s entrance and for a solar panel structure over the existing gymnasium.
As far as the parking situation around the school goes, Bachmann said additional staff has been hired to implement a new traffic mitigation and safety plan that will require students to cross Crown Avenue at the crosswalk.
He said neighbors’ feedback made Flintridge Prep rethink its plans for the parking structure, which would have added 50 more spots and been built in place of one of the school’s two current lots. For now, he said, that structure is on hold so the school can focus on more education-specific improvements in the plan.
“We thought, naively, that the neighbors would love the parking lot because we were just trying to clean up the neighborhood,” he said. “But what we heard was two points of view: One, from people who come from a research background, and say that the more you add parking, that contributes to the ‘L.A. problem’ [of needing more parking] and doesn’t really solve it. And others brought up issues like setback and that it would actually potentially create a blind corner.
“So the more we looked into that, that more we thought … it seems silly to let the rest of these very much student-enhancement-related projects get tripped up by a parking lot.”
While it’s not a priority now, the school might consider such a structure again in the future, Bachmann said.
“One of the comments that struck me the night at the Planning Commission is how much the neighborhood values the quality of the semi-rural aspect of the environment,” Dale said. “Our intent is not to build an urban fortress. Our attempt is to build an academic village, a little hill town that sits among the trees. We’re very conscious of preserving the landscape, and of enriching it, that’s part of our long-term goals, to make it green and to soften the edges.”

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