A Jewish group seeking to enlarge the Tarzana school it has operated for six years received an expansion permit--and a slap on the wrist--from Los Angeles officials Wednesday.
The Los Angeles City Council warned Friends of Lubavitch Inc. to grow more neighborly with others along Burbank Boulevard if it expects to grow at the site.
The Orthodox Jewish organization operates a morning nursery school and afternoon religious classes for children in a converted house at 18141 Burbank Blvd. Services for adults are conducted Saturdays.
Protests From Neighbors
Nearby property owners have complained of noise and crowding at the school, and of parking congestion that has occasionally blocked their driveways. They urged council members to revoke previously approved permits for the $1.2-million school expansion.
City Council members, however, voted 12-0 to uphold a zoning variance and conditional use permit that will allow classes to be held in temporary trailer classrooms during construction.
Officials said they had no legal grounds to overturn the approval granted the trailers in August by the city Board of Zoning Appeals.
But Councilwoman Joy Picus, who represents the West San Fernando Valley community, said emphatically that Friends of Lubavitch should not expect further city support unless it becomes friends of its neighbors.
'Put on Notice'
"There is a real problem with this facility in this location," Picus said. "I want them put on notice I intend to have Building and Safety inspectors observe very closely for compliance with the permits."
Picus complained that the city has had repeated difficulties with religious groups "that feel they're just a touch above the law."
The city has limited attendance at the present Friends of Lubavitch facility to 70 children or 25 adult worshipers.
Edna McCurry, who lives near the school, told the council that the group often has double that number of children and four times that many adults. She complained that the school uses disruptive loudspeakers for carnivals.
Doe Diesel, another neighbor, contended that the school is already too large for its site. She called the school inappropriate for the residential area.
Rabbi Joshua Gordon, executive director of the Valley Friends of Lubavitch chapter, acknowledged after the City Hall hearing that attendance sometimes hits 100 during children's sessions. But he denied that the adult Saturday worship service exceeds the city's permitted limit.
Vows Steps to Comply
Gordon pledged that his group will take steps to comply with the city's permit requirements. He said there is no timetable for the two-story, eight-classroom expansion because construction will be tied to fund-raising efforts.
Phil Krakover, a spokesman for Friends of Lubavitch, told council members that the complaints were "founded on personal greed" on the part of a nearby developer. Krakover charged that the builder, Murray Ozer, had stirred up homeowners because he wants to sell condominiums in the area.
Ozer's attorney, John Funk, testifying at the hearing, said the school was "inappropriate and out of character for the neighborhood."
After the debate over, Krakover said: "We'll prove we're good neighbors."