A joint working group composed of Los Angeles city and county departments overseeing the L.A. River reiterated its support for the proposed Harvard-Westlake River Park project, which has sparked frustration among some residents.
The Los Angeles River Cooperation Committee, which includes representatives from the City Engineer, Department of Recreation and Parks, Department of Water and Power, county Department of Public Works and the county’s Flood Control District, along with a non-voting representative from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers acting in an advisory capacity, voted Monday to recommend the River Park project for development.
Los Angeles city and county officials formed the committee to prioritize Los Angeles River projects by bringing multi-agency expertise and a collaborative implementation process.
The group considers projects at an early phase and assists in ensuring that projects are in compliance with major regionwide priorities, including the city’s Los Angeles River Revitalization Master Plan and Landscape Guidelines.
“The joint city/county LA River Cooperation Committee carefully reviewed the River Parks’ many community and environmental benefits, and we’re grateful that they have recommended our school’s project for development,” Rick Commons, president of Harvard-Westlake said in a statement.
Commons further stated that the committee joins other community organizations in supporting the project.
The proposed Harvard-Westlake River Park, a 17.2-acre development project, would bring an athletic and recreational facility to the Studio City area.
In October 2017, Harvard-Westlake School — an independent college preparatory school for grades 7-12 — purchased Weddington Golf & Tennis, a 16- acre property in Studio City bounded by Whitsett Avenue and the Los Angeles River, less than a mile from Harvard-Westlake’s upper school campus.
While the committee threw its support behind the project, last week during a City Planning public hearing, many Studio City residents criticized and shared their concerns about the project, which would be developed on the Weddington site.
Though the proposed project had its share of supporters, many residents opposed the project for its potential impact on local traffic, parking and neighborhood noise.
Judy Chaikin, a longtime resident of Studio City, disputed the idea that the project would benefit the community.
“This is a private facility with a dinosaur footprint in the midst of our little bedroom community,” Chaikin told city planners. “This will be the beginning of the end of our cherished way of life in Studio City.”
Chaikin added that the moment a homeless person sets foot on the Harvard-Westlake development, “fences will go up and the public will be locked out.”
A representative for Harvard-Westlake said that would not be the case.
Laurie Cohen, a Studio City resident of more than 30 years, further added she had “no faith that we’re going to really have public access.”
River Park would “transform” the property into an athletic, recreational and park center that would be used by the school and public, according to a statement from Harvard-Westlake.
The project would replace the existing par-3 golf course, driving range and tennis courts with two soccer fields, a running track, a pool, a gymnasium and eight tennis courts.
Nearly six acres of River Park would be set aside for public use daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., including a picnic area, a walking path, cafe and putting green. The public would have daily access to the tennis courts as well as all other facilities when not in use by the school, Harvard-Westlake officials noted.
Lastly, the project includes various green elements, such as a storm water capture system, solar power, additional trees, native landscaping and preserving some of the land.
The project will be considered by the city’s Planning Commission on Aug. 24.