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Business Owners Not Sold on South Gate School Site

January 18, 1987|PATRICIA WARD BIEDERMAN | Times Staff Writer

Opponents of plans to build a regional high school on a 41.7-acre industrial site in eastern South Gate hope to persuade the Los Angeles Unified School District to look elsewhere, a spokesman for businesses in the targeted area said.

According to Roger Hutchinson, a professional lobbyist representing the South Gate Business Owners Assn., the district's plans to build on a largely industrial site east of Atlantic Avenue would be a financial hardship to more than 60 businesses located there and would threaten more than 500 jobs.

Hutchinson said that business owners and others are also concerned about the potential health and safety threat to schoolchildren and staff members that may be posed by two heavy-industrial operations that are scheduled to remain near the proposed site--Bell Foundry on Southern Avenue and Universal Cast Iron Manufacturing Co. on Tweedy Place. They also fear that soil at the longtime industrial site may be contaminated by toxic waste, Hutchinson said.

In addition to plans to build a $40- to $50-million regional high school, the district is also considering relocating Tweedy Elementary School to the proposed site. Tweedy was evacuated last year after chlorine gas escaped from Purex Corp.'s nearby plant.

The targeted property is on the east side of Atlantic Avenue, bounded by Wood Avenue on the north. The boundary runs south on Burtis Street to Tweedy Boulevard, west on Tweedy to Adella Avenue, south on Adella to the alley behind Aldrich Road and west to Atlantic. The post office at Atlantic and Chakemco Street is excluded from the site. Homes on Aldrich would not be affected, district officials said.

Hutchinson said that the business owners intend to plead their case Thursday morning at a meeting of the building committee at Los Angeles school district headquarters in downtown Los Angeles.

Feasibility Study

The school board is expected to vote Jan. 26 on whether the district should go ahead with a feasibility study of the site, including a mandatory environmental impact report, before it decides on whether it should be acquired.

The proposed school, which is scheduled to open in 1991, would serve 2,000 or more students in South Gate, Bell and Cudahy, where overcrowding has resulted in some Southeast students being bused to schools in nearby Watts and the San Fernando Valley, more than an hour away. School officials say the site is large enough to accommodate Tweedy School students as well.

School district building official Byron Kimball said that he understands the concerns of the business owners but knows of no better site for the new high school.

"We still feel very confident that this is the place to build," Kimball said. "If we don't go there, I don't know where we'll go. We know of no viable alternatives in the whole Southeast area."

Most South Gate officials also favor the proposed location.

The sole member of the five-person City Council who does not is councilman Del Snavely. He said he believes that the district's current plan would have a "devastating effect" on the South Gate business community, resulting in business failures and loss of tax revenue. He also said that transplanting Tweedy only a few blocks south would not alleviate concerns about students and staff and pollutants.

"If the pollutants travel to the present location, I believe they will travel four-tenths of a mile to the new location," Snavely said.

Air, Soil Noise Issues

Kimball said that the district would request that the environmental impact reports pay special attention to air-, soil-quality and noise-pollution issues.

The district official said that he did not believe that an area north of South Gate Park, which has been proposed by some business owners, is a viable alternative.

Building in that location, Kimball said, would displace more than 200 households. The site favored by the district includes 45 households.

Owners of property at the site will be paid its fair market value and those with businesses will be eligible for state relocation assistance, Kimball said. However, John Hanson said that he and other members of the owners' group fear that relocation will cost them far more than they will receive in compensation.

"I'm not really that sentimental about this place," Hanson said of Multi-Metals, the small metal-fabricating business he operates at 5136 Chakemco. "I'm willing to go if they convince me that I'm not going to have a big loss."

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