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District Plans to Raze Residences to Build Classrooms

February 08, 1987|JEFF BURBANK | Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles Unified School District intends to purchase and demolish nearly 200 housing units at seven school sites on the Westside as part of a $400-million countywide effort to build more classrooms in areas of increased enrollment.

District officials plan to spend up to $16.5 million to buy 10 acres of Westside land and $1.6 million to relocate dozens of homeowners and tenants. Six of the schools are in Hollywood, where officials say increasing birth rates and newcomers are overloading classrooms and forcing the district to bus hundreds of pupils to other schools.

The seven schools are:

Joseph Le Conte Junior High, 1316 N. Bronson Ave., 0.9-acre expansion, 54 housing units, $2-million land costs, $300,000 to relocate residents.

Ramona Elementary, 1133 N. Mariposa Ave., 0.9 acre, 24 housing units, $1 million for land, $200,000 to relocate residents.

Santa Monica Boulevard Elementary, 1022 N. Van Ness Ave., 0.8 acre, four housing units, two commercial properties, $1 million for land, $125,000 to relocate residents and commercial tenants.

Selma Avenue Elementary, 6611 Selma Ave., 3.7 acres, 37 housing units, $8 million land cost, $400,000 for relocation.

Grant Elementary, 1530 N. Wilton Place, 1.8 acres, 32 housing units, $2.25 million for land, $200,000 for relocation.

Lockwood Elementary, 4345 Lockwood Ave., 0.8 acre, 35 housing units, $1.25 million for land, $250,000 for relocation.

Wilton Place Elementary, 745 S. Wilton Place, 0.95 acre, six housing units, $1 million for land, $100,000 for relocation.

The school district, which plans to expand 85 schools countywide, wants to acquire 1,600 to 1,800 properties, mostly in the southeastern part of Los Angeles County, where the most overcrowding occurs.

Land and relocation costs for the entire project will run from $350 million to $400 million, said Robert Niccum, director of real estate for the district.

The district will finance the expansion by state bond issues approved by voters in 1982, 1984 and last November, Niccum said.

"Our student population is growing by about 15,000 students a year," Niccum said, adding that it costs $1,000 to bus each student to an uncrowded school. "It's obviously a big drain on our resources."

The Los Angeles school board has approved the environmental reports for 32 sites, giving the district the authority to condemn and buy the properties involved, Niccum said.

Once the property is bought, Niccum said, it usually takes two or three months to complete escrow. Residents would have about three months to vacate the property.

"It's not a pleasant prospect for us to look at (condemnation) as our best option," Niccum said. "We would like to look at open land, (but) you're displacing someone no matter where you go. There just isn't enough plain dirt out there."

Niccum said the closest areas with enough vacant land for new schools are Chatsworth and Sylmar in the San Fernando Valley. But new schools there would involve busing children from Hollywood and other overcrowded areas about 40 miles each way, which would be both time consuming and costly, he said.

"People are coming from everywhere to Los Angeles. We have so many students and we simply have to find a place to house them," said Rita Walters, president of the Los Angeles school board. "Parents have come to us and they say they want their children to be as close as possible to their neighborhoods."

Principals at some of the schools intended for expansion welcomed the plan, which they said would reduce the number of students bused away from their neighborhoods.

"The expansion would allow us to enroll about 240 more students," said Richard S. Torchia, principal of Ramona Elementary in Hollywood, which is slated for nine new classrooms. The school, which runs year-round, has 1,078 students enrolled. Nearly 500 students from the area are bused to four other schools.

It's Not Enough

But even with the expansion, he said, "we would still have to bus about 200 to 300 kids because we continue to grow."

At Grant Elementary in Hollywood, Principal Beverly Neu said the school has 700 students. About 700 pupils from the area are bused to other schools.

Neu said the expansion project "would keep the kids in their neighborhoods. We'd house many of those (bused) students here" at Grant Elementary.

David Sower, principal of Le Conte Junior High in Hollywood, said his school has 2,100 students and transports about 350 to other schools. The expansion means new classrooms for the 65-year-old school, where facilities are old and crowded, he said.

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