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Neighbors flunk Sacred Hearts' plans

They say construction will impact traffic on narrow roads in the area.

August 15, 2012|By Daniel Siegal, daniel.siegal@latimes.com
  • A Smart Board in an out-dated classroom at Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy in La Canada Flintridge. All classrooms have Smart Boards, but the school plans to add central air, modern lighting and windows. The school has plans pending approval by the city to renovate and modernize the campus.
A Smart Board in an out-dated classroom at Flintridge… (Tim Berger / Staff…)

Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy has run into an unexpected obstacle in its plan for a campus makeover — a group of nearby residents who say the proposed renovation will cause traffic jams and safety problems.

The school plans to build a four-story parking structure, add classroom space and replace its auditorium with a larger one, though officials say they are not seeking to add more students or host more events.

Members of a group called Protect LCF say the school already exceeds the number of students it is permitted to have and should not get the green light.

“Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy has flouted the law for years,” group member S.K. Durairaj said in a statement. “Protect LCF is united in its commitment to maintain the livability and safety of our neighborhood, and opposes the addition of hundreds of daily vehicle trips on narrow, winding, hillside roads.”

The group, which includes 40 residents of the area surrounding St. Katherine Drive, came together in April.

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This summer Protect LCF sent letters to the La Cañada Flintridge City Council and to City Manager Mark Alexander asking that the city stop the planned revamp and make the school stick to the enrollment cap imposed in 1994. It has retained public affairs consultant David Gershwin and law firm Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell.

For the past 12 years, the school's enrollment has exceeded the limit of 385 students set out in a conditional use permit granted by the city. Current enrollment is 415.

Protect LCF member Jay Pengra said that as long as Sacred Heart exceeds its enrollment cap, he won't support the campus changes.

“They make an agreement and they don't abide by it. It's untenable,” said Pengra.

Margaret Kean, Sacred Heart's director of development, said the school would be under the cap if the city does not count the 57 students who live on campus.

“We have the distinction of being a boarding school and a day school,” she said. “We need to clarify the intention of the cap and if it's addressing traffic and congestion on the hill, how we can distinguish that.”

Alexander said Sacred Heart has asked the city for an amendment to its permit, and that the enrollment cap issues would be sorted out in that process. That issue may be resolved this fall.

Kean said Protect LCF is mistaken in calling the revamp an expansion.

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