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Thorough Study Ordered of South Gate School Site

January 29, 1987|PATRICIA WARD BIEDERMAN | Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles City Board of Education has voted to authorize an unusually thorough environmental impact study before acquiring a 41.7-acre industrial site for the proposed South Gate Regional High School.

Robert Niccum, director of real estate for the Los Angeles Unified School District, said the environmental study will assess air, soil and water quality as well as other environmental factors at the site east of Atlantic Avenue in South Gate. It will be the most extensive such study the district has ever undertaken, he said.

Niccum said that a comprehensive study of the site is necessary because of its longtime use for industrial purposes and its proximity to commercial operations that may present health and safety hazards.

Could Open in 1991

The district hopes to build a $40-million to $50-million regional high school on the site. Scheduled to open in 1991, it would serve 2,000 or more students from South Gate, Bell and Cudahy, where overcrowding has resulted in some Southeast students being bused to schools in nearby Watts and in the San Fernando Valley, more than an hour way.

The district also hopes to relocate Tweedy Elementary School to the site. Tweedy, which had to be evacuated last February after a chlorine spill from the nearby Purex Corp. bleach plant, is about half a mile north of the Atlantic Avenue property.

The site is 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 Chakemco Street is excluded from the site.

Parts to Be Subcontracted

Keeton Kreitzer, who heads the Santa Ana firm of Environmental Perspectives, will supervise the environmental impact report, school district officials said.

Kreitzer said he expects to subcontract portions of the study to technical experts who will evaluate possible contamination of the soil and likely traffic patterns.

A community meeting will be held the first week in March to accept public comment on environmental concerns about the plan, district officials said. The results will be included in the environmental impact report and presented to the board.

The school board expects Kreitzer to deliver a draft of his report in August. The site could be approved for acquisition as early as mid-September, district officials said.

Willing to Start Over

Byron Kimball, director of building services for the district, said he knows of no other appropriate site for the school in the area. But school district officials, including Kimball, also said they are willing to look elsewhere if the Atlantic Avenue site fails environmental health and safety tests.

To allow the district to abort the plan early, if necessary, Kreitzer is expected to make monthly progress reports to the district building committee.

District officials favor the site, in part, because its development would displace only 45 families. In contrast, development of a nearby site that the district also considered would disrupt 325 families.

"If we're going to continue that (moving families out to build schools), we're not going to need any more new schools," said John Sheehy, mayor of South Gate and a supporter of the district's plan.

Jobs May Be Threatened

South Gate business groups have protested the plan, claiming it threatens 42 firms now on the site and about 500 jobs. Both sides have expressed concern about the safety of the site, which some fear may have been contaminated over the years by toxic chemicals and other industrial wastes.

Concern also has been expressed about two large foundries that would remain in operation near the proposed schools.

"This site has a lot going for it in terms of not displacing housing, but we want to make sure we don't jump into it on that basis alone," Niccum said. "If the site has serious problems, we need to know that as soon as possible."

Niccum said the district had not yet received a firm estimate of the cost of the study, but that it would have a "floor of $30,000."

"It's going to run into the tens of thousands of dollars," Niccum said.

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