The three-year-plus $80-$100 million expansion project proposed by Archer School for Girls is the largest and certainly the most problematic construction project on Sunset Boulevard from the Pacific Ocean to West Hollywood since the Beverly Hills Hotel was completed in 1912.
The main issues are (1) whether a school of Archer’s size and outstanding merit belongs in a residential neighborhood, on a small 7-acre parcel that is 91% surrounded by residences, and adjacent to one of the most congested intersections on the Westside; and (2) whether the very ambitious scope of the proposed construction, and the very substantial proposed intensification of athletic, cultural and other activities on the current Archer site, impose unacceptable impacts on the neighbors and on traffic on Sunset, Barrington and other streets, in comparison with alternatives that should be considered.
The Archer Forward project as presented in Archer’s Draft Environmental Impact Report in April 2014 (DEIR) was detailed as encompassing over six years of construction. The DEIR was circulated, and the staff of the City Planning Commission held a hearing on that proposal in December 2014.
In February 2015 Archer filed “Errata 2”, in which the construction activity is now to be compressed into only three years – a very substantial change – but without updating any of the detailed information as to the now-overlapping construction phases (see the prior table in Appendix C-1 to the DEIR), the now-combined numbers of construction vehicles per week (see the table in Appendix C-2), or the levels of airborne toxicity that the overlapping construction phases would now create – and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) analysis under the new March 2015 rules regarding allowable levels of airborne toxins when schoolchildren and elderly people (now designated as “sensitive receptors”) are nearby.
Archer’s own traffic studies concluded that construction under the original six-year schedule would have “significant and unavoidable” impacts on six key intersections – which will result in substantially longer trip times along Sunset for commuters and residents. We are concerned that the compressed schedule of construction vehicles will extend trip times on Sunset Boulevard much more than under the original proposal, especially now that Brentwood School plans to undertake substantial construction on its own campus on Sunset less than half a mile away during some of the same months (not analyzed in Archer’s original filings, since it had not then been announced).
We also believe that the new overlapping phases of construction will generate levels of airborne toxins well in excess of the permitted limits for schoolchildren and elderly neighbors.
Archer does not plan to start construction until the summer of 2017. There was therefore no good reason for the City Council to make a final decision until Archer releases its final detailed construction schedule, its schedule of weekly construction vehicles by type, and an updated study of toxicity impacts under the new standards of review.
After announcing its intentions in 2014, Brentwood School has filed a formal preliminary notice with the City that it will undertake a major construction project only two blocks east of Archer School, also commencing in 2017 and entirely overlapping the new proposed construction schedule of Archer School, and that project will create “significant” impacts as to traffic on Sunset that will be “cumulative” with those caused by the Archer project.
Nearby, St. Mary’s College has also stated that it will undertake a major construction project in the near future, which will also cause “significant” impacts as to traffic on Sunset that will be “cumulative” with those caused by the Archer project.
In its Errata 2 filed with the City, Archer changed its proposed start date of construction to 2017 rather than 2015, thereby making the “competing” construction projects analyzed in its Draft EIR of April 2014 inapplicable, but failing to update its analysis to discuss the now-overlapping proposed major construction by these two other nearby schools.