The Hermosa Beach City School District gave the green light for the North School Reconstruction Project with unanimous approval the final Environmental Impact Report on the project at its Jan. 9 meeting.
A general obligation bond, Measure S, was passed in June 2016 by Hermosa Beach voters, which funds $59 million to rebuild North School, to help relieve overcrowding at Hermosa Valley and View and eliminate portable classrooms at both campuses.
“I am very proud of the work that the community and the board of trustees has put into the CEQA process for the North School Reconstruction Project,” said Superintendent Pat Escalante on Monday. “The thoughtful comments from both the community and members of the board, illustrates the complexity of the process and the diligence from all stakeholders, to examine any potential environmental impacts during the certification process. We look forward to continuing our work with the city as we move towards the building of North School.”
North School will be the new home to third and fourth graders. Hermosa View will house kindergarten to second graders, while Hermosa Valley will have fifth to eighth graders.
Many residents raised concerns about various issues including traffic, parking, safety and the scope of the project. Traffic concerns delayed the release of an Environmental Impact Report last year after the Hermosa Beach City School District voted to conduct a new traffic impact analysis.
Mark Teague, project manager for the EIR conducted by the company PlaceWorks Inc., said the revised EIR with new traffic analysis showed additional impacts.
“There are going to be traffic impacts, there will be parking impacts and a variety of other things that will occur in the area and it does require the district to continue to work with the city as we have been to solve these issues,” Teague said.
Some residents were concerned there has not been enough communication between the school district and and city to find mitigating measures to combat the issue of traffic. Escalante denied that, citing public meetings and a “fluid channel of communication.”
“There is this notion that the city and the school district aren't working together and aren't talking, but it's incorrect,” said Escalante at the Jan. 9 meeting. “ I don't know where that came from, but we have every intention of continuing to have those discussions.”
Jim Fasola, a Manhattan Beach architect who lives in Hermosa Beach, said the project is too large and he believes the current building is “historically significant.” After the 1933 Long Beach earthquake, renowned architect Samuel Lunden was hired to rebuild North and Pier Avenue School. Fasola said the building is in “pretty good shape” and should be saved.
“You should save our history, save our money, save our culture and save ... our quality of life,” Fasola said.
Another resident disagreed.
“The bottom line is our schools are old and still continue to be overcrowded,” the resident said. “We need more space and updated facilities for our students and schools to thrive.”
The school board said the project was not “perfect” but they said they will continue working with the city and they are “committed to modernizing the school,” according to boardmember Jennifer Cole.
“I'm proud of the community that I think has come together... Measure S is a good thing for our kids and its a good thing for all of us,” said boardmember Stephen McCall.