With the passage of Measure S, a $59 million general obligation bond in June 2016, the Hermosa Beach City School District has the opportunity to rebuild its ailing North School, which is expected to have an enrollment of more than 500 third and fourth grade students.
But before demolition can even begin, The North School Reconstruction Project Draft Environmental Impact Report must be considered. The 480-page document details any potentially significant impacts on the surrounding community, from noise to traffic.
A draft EIR public meeting takes place Monday, Nov. 27, beginning at 7 p.m. at the Hermosa Beach City Council Chambers, located at 1315 Valley Drive. It will be the only public meeting focusing on North School. Comments are welcome at the meeting as well as in writing through Jan. 2, 2018, no later than 4 p.m.
Superintendent Pat Escalante said the district was “excited” to release the draft EIR.
“The neighbors and community at large have been very patient with the process and it feels good to enter into this phase of CEQA,” said Escalante of the California Environmental Quality Act. She added that the public meeting is not required, but the district wanted the public to have an opportunity to ask questions.
Set to relieve overcrowding
After failing to pass two previous school bond measures, Hermosa Beach voted for Measure S with 59 percent of the vote. The proposed North School plan calls for construction of a two-story classroom and administrative building, a multipurpose building, loading and parking areas, play areas and associated school improvements.
One of the main objectives of building North School is to relieve overcrowding at Hermosa Valley and View and eliminate portable classrooms at both campuses. North School will be the home of third and fourth graders, while Hermosa View will shift from kindergarten to third to kindergarten to second grade. Hermosa Valley will shift from fourth to eighth grade to fifth to eighth grade.
“During the multiple meetings that the district has held with the public, traffic and the retention of the original buildings have surfaced as the main areas of focus,” Escalante said. “These ideas, as well as alternative projects that have been proposed, are included in the draft EIR findings.”
A parking lot with 46 stalls will be added on the western side of the site. Traffic will enter on 25th Street, which will be widened by 10 feet for an added traffic lane. The existing driveway on 26th Street will be for delivering and loading goods.
“The increase in traffic is typical for schools during drop-off and pick-up and the surrounding streets would be able to handle the increased traffic flow,” according to the draft EIR. “However, because the streets are narrow, mitigation measure have been identified to further improve safety concerns.”
Residents push back
In August, claiming the Hermosa Beach City School District is improperly using funds from the bond, the newly formed Hermosa Beach Taxpayers Association filed a complaint in Los Angeles Superior Court seeking a temporary injunction in demolishing and rebuilding North School.
The claim said the school district is not abiding to the bond to “construct, renovate, modernize, and equip” classrooms, but plan to “destroy the historic North School, which has been a beloved part of the Hermosa Beach community for more than 80 years.”
According to the draft EIR, there is no historic significance regarding North School, even with the main building that was constructed in 1924. After the 1933 Long Beach earthquake, which did major damage to the school, renowned architect Samuel Lunden was hired to rebuild North and Pier Avenue School.
“Due to reconstruction in 1934 after the earthquake (the building) lost the majority of the Neo-Classical architectural elements and features of design, materials, workmanship and the feeling that would have conveyed the building's original appearance and its association with Hermosa Beach of the mid 1920s,” according to the draft EIR.
During the construction phase, the draft EIR reported some issues with noise as well as ground-born vibrations will arise, but those will be mitigated when construction is complete.
“Control of construction noise is difficult,” the report states. Construction will only be allowed 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m and construction is prohibited on Sundays and federal holidays, based on the draft EIR. Construction also will not cause short or long term air pollutant emission issues and will not generate a total net increase in greenhouse gas emissions, the document stated.
The draft EIR also looked at everything from potential archaeological findings to the impact of native wildlife including the California least tern and the western snowy plover, which are both endangered birds.
“(The project) shouldn't have an impact on animal species or vegetation communities, but if project implementation occurs during the avian nesting season, (between Feb. 1 to Aug. 3) it is possible the removal of vegetation would affect nesting migrating birds.”
The draft EIR did lay out some “significant irreversible changes” that will occur during construction and throughout the operation of the school in terms of using electricity and fuel.
Send comments by email to email@example.com. You can also mail comments to Hermosa Beach City School District 425 Valley Drive, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254 Attn: Angela Jones, Business Manager or FAX them to (310) 376-4974.
For more information and to read the draft EIR, visit hbcsd.org.