Sacred Heart

A parking lot under the watchful eye of Mother Mary at Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy in La Canada Flintridge. The school wants the city to create a specific zone for the campus. (Tim Berger / Staff Photographer / August 10, 2012)

After Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy's campus revamp master plan stalled this summer, the school regrouped and now is asking the city to create a specific plan zone for its property.

Margaret Kean, Sacred Heart's director of development, said that with a specific plan, the school will be better able to achieve its own goals while accommodating the concerns of local residents and abiding by city rules by establishing up front with the city what the rules should be for its property.

“The specific plan really sets the parameters for all our building standards and operations up front, and it will be a law that we follow that really guides our land uses and our physical development,” she said.

Kean said the decision to ask for a specific plan was made by school officials over the summer when they realized they could not achieve what they were hoping for under the school's current conditional-use permit.

Over a five-year period, the school plans to build a four-story parking structure, add classroom space and replace its auditorium with a larger humanities and performing arts building.

“What they were trying to do is fit these buildings in that conditional-use-permit process, which didn't really achieve the goal,” said Robert Stanley, the city's director of Community Development. “In the long run, it will be better for the community in that area and for this project site [to have a specific plan in place].”

Stanley said putting together a specific plan will entail setting general zoning guidelines for the campus while addressing specific issues.

“They're trying to deal with all the issues that have come up … traffic issues, building-height issues,” he said. “This will get down to specifics to what the building can look like, not just height and setbacks. [The plan] will possibly get into design.”

Stanley said the city staff's review of the specific plan likely won't appear before the Planning Commission until February or March due to the amount of study involved, including a full environmental impact report. At that point, the Planning Commission will vote on whether to approve the plan.

Protect LCF, a group of residents who have banded together to protest the proposed renovation, has continued its pressure on the city and the school.

Protect LCF sent five emails to the La Cañada Flintridge City Council, City Manager Mark Alexander and City Atty. Mark Steres in October asking that the city stop the planned revamp and make the school stick to the enrollment cap imposed in 1994.

These emails have also accused Councilman Michael Davitt of having a conflict of interest because he sits on the school's board. Protect LCF has retained public affairs consultant David Gershwin and law firm Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell.

Representatives of Protect LCF did not immediately return emails seeking comment.

Kean said that the new specific plan asks for the enrollment cap to be updated to a ceiling of 425 students, but that the school had heard a different concern when it reached out to neighbors.

“The one common theme that we've heard is traffic management, and we're in the process of a plan that will reduce the cars on the road,” Kean said.

Stanley said that because the school is pursuing a specific plan, community members will have more chances to voice their concerns.

“I think it'll give the community more protection,” he said. “It can specifically deal with a lot of the issues that they've raised that are kind of gray areas in a conditional-use permit.”