Sacred Heart plans expansion

Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy plans to renovate their campus. Shown here is a rendering of the proposed new arts building and auditorium. (Courtesy of Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy / February 14, 2013)

Residents who live near an 82-year-old all-girls Catholic school are worried that a plan to renovate the campus is too ambitious for a property in a hillside community.

At an environmental scoping meeting in the Council Chambers on Monday, several neighbors made public comments on Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy's planned expansion. City officials will consider their comments before preparing the environmental impact report.

“It is enormous,” said John Pridjian, who lives on Inverness Drive. “It's going to go on for months. This isn't a renovation. This isn't updating. What they've elected to do is double the size of the school.”

The plan includes a 31/2-story parking structure, a modern library with advanced technology and a new arts building with a 512-seat auditorium.

Pridjian said the city should split the environmental impact report into two parts, citing fire resources and a transportation plan as two main concerns.

The construction dates are still being determined.

Lee-Lueng Fu, a Jet Propulsion Laboratory scientist who lives on St. Katherine Drive near the school, said he has enjoyed living on the hill due to the “seclusion and the tranquillity of the environment.”

He said he is afraid that environment may change with an increased student body and construction traffic. “Missing in the report is a management plan for the safety for the heavy traffic and trucks going up and down the narrow road.”

A couple of residents who attended the meeting showed support for the plan.

Joe Mercolino, whose daughter attends Sacred Heart, said residents should not stand in the way of the school trying to modernize its campus.

“I think anyone that wants to build or rebuild or do something to their home would feel a little restrained if their neighbors all said you can't do it because you're going to have cars and trucks coming to your house to work on your house,” he said. “It's not really a fair thing, as long as people do it with sensitivity, and I think that the school is showing that.”

The proposed plan prohibits third-party events on the campus. Sacred Heart would not be able to host the summer Shakespeare festival or admit outside musical groups to perform at the new auditorium.

Margaret Kean, the school's chief development officer, said she will have to clarify that language with the city to see if other activities, such as the use of the campus for voting and Eagle Scout projects, is allowed under the plan.

Neighbor Charles Kenny said the ability to attend events is one of the things he loves about living close to the school.

“I urge [the school] to go back and amend your master plan to authorize the use of the facilities for third parties … for civic, charitable, community activities which benefit the neighborhood, benefit the community, benefit the city of La Cañada and its residents,” he said.

If the city prohibits civic and community activities at the school, it will set a “dangerous and destructive precedence” that other institutions may follow, he added.

Residents have until Feb. 28 to send comments to the city. Comments may be sent to the Community Development Department in City Hall, 1327 Foothill Blvd.

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