SANTA MONICA—The Santa Monica City Council decided to overturn an appeal to stop the establishment of a new preschool on a residential street.
In a 5-2 vote, city councilmembers put an end to the debate that started back in September 2017 when Lara Taslimi, a former elementary school teacher in the Santa Monica Public School District, purchased a home at 2953 Delaware Ave. Her plan was to convert the home into a preschool, first for 12 four-year-olds, and then later for 20 four- to five-year-olds. She planned to call the new school “Untitled No. 1.”
The school would take advantage of a recent change made to Santa Monica’s zoning laws that the city council approved a few years ago. The change allows for homes in R1 single-unit residential neighborhoods to be converted into “child care and early education facilities” and function as businesses during the day. Untitled No. 1 would be the first establishment to take advantage of the change.
Before the preschool was able to open, neighbors on the street spoke in opposition to the new school, creating a sizeable fundraising campaign that made over $8,200. Neighbors successfully appealed the zoning commission’s approval on December 1, 2017 and brought the issue to the city council.
Many of the neighbors stressed that, while they supported the idea of a new preschool, they did not want it on their street. During the zoning commission meeting, one resident stated that the inclusion of the preschool ran the risk of turning the street into a common cut-through and that it “allows for encroachment of commercial uses into quiet residential neighborhoods.”
In addition to the possible increase in traffic, neighbors worried about increases in noise and pointed out some of the requirements needed for the preschool by the zoning law, including a large fence, an outdoor play area, a passenger loading zone and a neighborhood liaison.
Taslimi planned to open the preschool to help both privileged and underprivileged youth by allowing scholarships and other financial aid opportunities not otherwise available to many families. The school would be a non-profit. Not all of the neighbors were opposed to the launch of the new preschool, with some residents in the area showing support for Taslimi.
The Santa Monica City Council dismissed the appeal and approved the launch of the preschool giving Taslimi a permit for the school which contains over 60 conditions she must follow including variances for employee parking as well as requirements for laws already required by the state.
Councilmember Tony Vazquez, one of the two to vote in support of the neighbors, stated that while he supported new preschools he could not support one with so much unified opposition against it. He told the Santa Monica Daily Press that Taslimi “hasn’t been able to convince me to this date that she’s able to follow through. I haven’t come across one neighbor that loves this thing, that wants it.”
“I’m just not understanding why it’s so difficult to accept a preschool: an early childhood education center,” said Santa Monica Mayor Pro-Tempore Gleam Davis to the Santa Monica Daily Press. “It troubles me a great deal and it troubles me because we’re talking two different languages.”