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Board to Weigh Fate of Beverly Hills High : Report Includes Plan to Develop School Property to Raise Money for District

June 15, 1989|JOHN L. MITCHELL | Times Staff Writer

Despite an overwhelmingly negative public reaction, a controversial proposal to tear down historic Beverly Hills High School and replace it with a high-rise development will be considered this month by the Board of Education.

The proposal to redevelop the high school site near Century City was one of several options included in a final report issued by the Beverly Hills Unified School District's real estate committee. For nearly three years, the committee has been examining ways of developing district properties to raise money for the schools.

The committee touched off a storm of protest in March when it introduced in a preliminary report the idea of tearing down the high school. Since then, the committee has held five public hearings, incorporating public reaction in its final report. The Board of Education plans to discuss the findings in the report at its June 27 meeting.

"We dealt with a number of different proposals in our report, but the one that everyone wanted to talk about was the redevelopment of the high school and the reaction was negative," said committee chairman Kenneth Goldman.

Difficult Choices

The committee chairman added that the community will have to make some difficult choices. "It's like comparing apples and oranges," he said. "How do you balance the educational needs of children, the needs for smaller class sizes and teachers salaries with the environmental concerns like open space, density and traffic."

The committee said the district could produce annual revenues ranging from $500,000 to $16 million from the various proposals to develop district properties.

The money generated would be used to help bail out the district, which has a $26 million budget and projects an annual shortfall of about $1 million a year over the next three years.

The 27-acre high school campus sits in the shadow of Century City high-rise office buildings.

Under the proposal, the district would raze the existing high school and construct a new "state-of-the art high school" on the northern 19 acres. By using the 19 acres more efficiently, most open space and playing fields would be preserved, according to the proposal.

The remaining eight acres at Olympic Boulevard and Spalding Drive would be leased to a developer for construction of an office complex. Depending on the size of the development, the district could earn $10 million a year from the venture, according to the report.

The report noted that before the plan could be implemented, the district would have to figure out a way for the high school to function during the construction period.

The committee's report also suggests using the district's headquarters as a potential site for other development. It also lists parking lots and playgrounds as potential sites for development.

For example, the report suggests that a portion of the playground at Horace Mann Elementary School be used to build a row of one-story retail stores along Robertson Boulevard. Students would use the roof as playground space and parking would be provided under the stores.

At Tuesday's board meeting, a group of parents presented the board with a petitions bearing 450 signatures protesting redevelopment of the high school site.

"It is some of the best open space in the city," said Dr. Brian Kahn. "Once you build on it, it's gone forever. . . . That's the wrong moral message to send."

School board member Betty Wilson praised the committee. "It gave us all the options available to us. It did just what it was supposed to do."

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