A developer who plans to construct a three-story office complex at a busy intersection next to Horace Mann school in Beverly Hills is running into opposition from parents who fear that the building will pose a threat to the safety of their children and add to traffic congestion in the area.
Developer Paul Amir said that children attending Horace Mann School will not be endangered by his proposed $35-million office complex with an underground parking garage on Wilshire Boulevard between Robertson Boulevard and Arnaz Drive.
"I have built next to schools and I have built next to hospitals. I don't think that you will have any problems with us," Amir assured a group of parents at a Board of Education study session Tuesday. "We are as concerned about the safety of the children as you are. We are willing to work with you."
Safety Hazard for Children
However, Shelley Kravit, Horace Mann's PTA president, and other parents have objected to the project on the grounds that it would tie up traffic and create a safety hazard for children walking to and from school.
"We have a number of safety concerns," said Kravit, who told the board that she would prefer to see a park built on the property. "We need another park, especially in this area of the city; it is a reasonable alternative."
Kravit said she feared that the underground parking garage would attract unsavory people who might seek to harm children. "Underground parking garages are dangerous; people get trapped in those things," she said.
The parents also said they were concerned that the board might seek to negotiate a financial deal with the developer to sell that part of the school's playground that is next to the development and is zoned commercial.
"We want to eliminate the possibility that the playground will be used as a commercial development to raise money," Kravit said.
School board President Betty S. Wilson said the district's real estate committee is investigating whether to sell or lease surplus properties owned by the district, but she said there have been no plans regarding Horace Mann's schoolyard.
Work Out Differences
Mark Scott, city director of environmental services, who attended Tuesday's board session, said the city council last week asked the developer to work out differences with the parents. The council also asked its staff to zone school properties to require that developers maintain a 10-foot-buffer between their projects and a school. The office complex is planned to be constructed two feet off the property line of the Horace Mann school.
Amir, the developer, promised to install mirrors and employ crossing guards and speed bumps to reduce the danger of cars entering and exiting the property from Arnaz Drive and Robertson Boulevard. The complex will contain 418 parking spaces, 100 more than required by law.
The developer plans to tear down the two buildings remaining on the site. During the demolition, the developer said he would place plastic covers on the schoolyard fence to keep flying material out of the schoolyard. The district also plans to erect barricades to prevent students from wandering too close to the fence.
Attorney Murray Fischer, who represents the developer, said the city's Environmental Review Board plans to hold a hearing on the 100,000-square-foot office development Wednesday.
Fischer said the developer has been willing to listen to the concerns, but the parents and the residents are not cooperating.
"They have not been willing to provide me with a list of their concerns so that we can address every issue," Fischer said. "We can't second-guess what is in their minds."