Plans to renovate Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy that have met with considerable resistance from neighbors remain in limbo while the city continues to prepare an environmental impact report for the extensive project.

Although environmental scoping meetings to gather public input were held a year ago, the report is not expected to be released until March, according to Fred Buss, senior planner for the city.

“We have the application in, we have studied the specific plans. [Flintridge Sacred Heart] is looking at what they are trying to do with the specific plans,” Buss said this week.

Protect LCF, a coalition of neighbors that says it aims to minimize the impacts of unchecked development in a hillside residential area, remains concerned about the project, which would include the renovation of classrooms, improve tennis courts, build a larger auditorium and construct a 3 1/2 story parking structure.

“There are a number of concerns that the neighbors have,” said David Gershwin, a public affairs consultant who has been working with Protect LCF. “First and foremost is traffic. There is an inordinate amount of traffic going up St. Katherine Drive on any given school day. One of the aspects the group worked on is to make sure the school adhered to its enrollment cap. Protect LCF would like to reduce the potential for additional traffic in addition to what we already have.”

Ben Rezniki of the firm Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell, representing Protect LCF, said that the risk of fires at the school is an additional, “crucial” consideration. “The site does not have adequate water pressure, and if there is a fire on campus, it would surely affect the residents in the surrounding area,” Rezniki said.

One of the key elements of the plans regards the number and type of events to be held on campus. The school seeks to host 24 events annually, with 600 people or more. In addition, they propose an unlimited amount of smaller events, with 599 guests or fewer. These factors would only worsen existing traffic conditions, in addition to adding weekend days with increased traffic, opponents say.

Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy has taken measured steps to reduce traffic, according to Chief Development Officer Patricia Ostiller, who responded to inquiries via email.

“We at Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy have voluntarily developed and implemented a transportation demand management program to permanently and dramatically reduce vehicle trips on the hill,” Ostiller wrote. “This program, called the TOLOG Transportation Plan, requires all students to either take a bus to school or carpool with other students. The plan was implemented in August 2013 and is designed to permanently reduce morning peak hour vehicle trips by at least 40%. Not only are our students happy, but the program is also receiving rave reviews from our neighbors on the hill. Our preliminary analysis suggests that the program has succeeded in reducing traffic on the hill.”

Once the city completes its environmental impact report this spring, there will be a 45-day review allowing public comment, according to Buss. “We will respond to the written comments before holding meetings with the Planning Commission, paired with public hearings. Once the review period ends, everything moves to the City Council, who will hold a public hearing before coming to a decision.”

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