MONTEBELLO — Despite strong opposition from local and state officials, the Montebello Unified School District has named the former Uniroyal plant as one of four potential sites it will study for a new high school.
The inclusion of the Santa Ana Freeway landmark in the final four frustrated Commerce city officials, who have been lobbying to have the plant dropped from consideration. Commerce owns the 35-acre parcel at Telegraph Road and Hoefner Avenue and wants to see a $90-million hotel-office complex built there.
Montebello Unified's Board of Education narrowed its original list of 22 school sites last week and will further reduce it at a special meeting Thursday.
"There's going to be a political upheaval" if the Uniroyal site is not excluded, said Commerce City Councilman Arturo Marquez, who attended the Wednesday night board meeting.
Further Study Sought
The board was on the verge of eliminating the Uniroyal site, but then decided to study it further during a field trip this week. At the Thursday meeting, the board will designate two or three of the four sites for an environmental impact study.
"I think there are too many disadvantages that outweigh the advantages," said board member Herbert M. Stearns, summing up what appeared to be the view of the majority of his colleagues toward the Uniroyal site.
Nevertheless, the board followed the recommendation of Supt. John P. Cook and included the site for further study.
Earlier, Commerce City Administrator Louis Shepard told the Board of Education that the hotel-office project would create 2,000 jobs and generate $1 million a year in lease and tax revenue for Commerce.
An aide for state Sen. Art Torres (D-Los Angeles) told the board that selection of the site would be a "serious mistake" because it is close to a freeway in a heavily industrial area.
Trammell Crow Co. of Dallas, which won a competition to build the hotel-office complex, also opposed using the site for a school. The developer has promised the city that it will leave largely intact the famous facade of the abandoned tire plant, which was built in 1929 to resemble an Assyrian castle.
"We're very disappointed, but hopefully the fact that it was a low-priority selection will be a significant consideration," said Trammell Crow spokesman Kevin J. Staley.
The school district and the Los Angeles County Facilities Management Department began searching for school sites last February. While no formal action has been taken, the board has virtually eliminated 18 of the sites from further consideration, said district Business Manager Stephen Phillips.
Soil Hazards Considered
Those sites were discounted as too small, too close to other schools, or dangerous because of soil contamination or other hazards. In addition, some of the sites are undesirable because they are being developed and would be too costly to acquire, said F. L. Coates, senior real property agent for the county Facilities Management Department.
In a report to the district earlier this month, a consultant from the state Department of Education rated the Uniroyal site as one of the top seven locations for a new high school. But it was listed as a "low- priority" site along with four others. Two sites, including one that has been eliminated from further consideration by the board, received higher ratings.
The other three sites selected by the board last week are:
A 51-acre site south of Washington Boulevard between Greenwood and Maple avenues in Montebello that is home to several trucking operations and some residences--four homes, two duplexes and a triplex. This site received the top rating from state consultant Henry Heydt.
A 42-acre industrial area in Commerce bordered by the Long Beach Freeway, Randolph Street and Eastern Avenue to a point just north of 61st Street. An old C & H Sugar plant is on the property.
A 42-acre site bordered on the east by Commerce City Hall, on the west by Strong Avenue and on the north and south by Harbor and Jillson streets. The campus would be bisected by Eastern Avenue, and a bridge would be built so students could cross. The site includes modern factories. A small residential area along the western boundary has been excluded from the potential school site.
If the board on Thursday narrows the list to three sites, the environmental review will cost $60,000 to $100,000, Phillips said.
For the past year, the state Department of Education has been discouraging districts from displacing residents to make way for new schools, said Coates, the county real property agent.
Only the 51-acre site includes residential property, and that could be excluded from a final plan because the district needs only 40 acres for a high school, Phillips said.
Montebello school officials say the district is seriously overcrowded, with enough classroom space only because portable buildings have been installed at each school, cutting into playgrounds and lunch areas.