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Pedestrian Bridge Spans Coldwater Canyon
Posted by Joann Deutch on Sep 29, 2013 - 1:59:58 AM

LAUREL CANYON—If you can visualize this - a pedestrian bridge, three stories in the air, spanning the entire width of Coldwater Canyon - just north of St. Mike’s church.  Do we live inside Sim City, the video game, where players can build anything anywhere?  In this instance it’s for real, although it does boggle the imagination.  Apparently this pet project of the Harvard-Westlake School is on the drawing board.  The school unveiled its project to the local population a few months ago.  It was greeted with such outrage that the school has retreated from the public eye, which should not be mistaken with them having abandoned the concept or the project.  


The school appears to have very little official contact with community groups, Neighborhood Council, SCRA, etc. where some advance work might have been useful.  So when they popped up asking for community support for their project it was met with skepticism.  The plan is to build a three-story, 750 space parking garage with an illuminated turf football/soccer field on the rooftop.  The project lies in a known “Landslide Hazard;” zoned for ”˜Minimal and Low Residential’ use;  the school has a self-reported enrollment of 876 students, of which only less than 50 percent are age eligible to drive; an 8:1 teacher student ratio. With the exception of the 30 or so cars which have historically parked north of the school on Coldwater Canyon, all these cars have been parked on campus.  This raises questions about what the real plans are down the road for the campus.

The arroyo where the new structure will sit.


Why the overhead pedestrian bridge?  It’s to bring students from the parking lot onto campus, and from the rooftop practice field. Something about this plan does not feel right.  Is this one of the 800 pound gorilla projects (like NBC/Universal) where the real goal is a more scaled back plan, but the developers recommend that their clients start with outrageous demands in order to ultimately arrive at a modified plan which is more in line with their actual intentions?


In the recent past another local school learned that it had inadvertently over-enrolled its campus by about 2 percent.  It came to the community asking for exceptions to make modifications to the campus (before the recent massive overhaul they just completed).  The school officials pledged that they would not ask for further exceptions if they were given support by the community to allow a revised enrollment quota.  Within a blink of the eye, the school was embarked on a massive retooling of its campus.


The Harvard-Westlake project abuts the Coldwater Canyon Park open space, which served as the field office (1916) for William Mulholland, the pioneer Los Angeles water system engineer, while he was building the Franklin Canyon Reservoir.  In 1924, LAFD took over the site for Mountain Patrol #1 - the city's first wildfire-fighting station.  From the patrol station, firefighters in green uniforms and Stetson hats on horseback were dispatched across the eastern Santa Monica Mountains to man lookout towers and watch for signs of smoke. The mountain patrol endured until 1968.


Clearly the school’s choice of a location is a tricky technical spot upon which to build.  The city employees need to be plenty sure that they get it absolutely right considering all worst case scenarios.  Should we be concerned that this pedestrian crosswalk will lock up Coldwater Canyon for all time?  Will the school own the airspace and have absolute control of future requests?  Certainly any widening will be prohibited for all time.  Is this a silver lining?


Logon to: to keep up-to-date on this project.


Cliffside Malibu




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