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Traffic Is Key Roadblock to School's Plans

Education: Opponents of Hillcrest Christian's expansion bid worry about rush-hour congestion in Granada Hills.

January 19, 2002|CLAIRE LUNA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Traffic flow was the main concern at a hearing Friday on the proposed expansion of a Christian school in Granada Hills.

The expansion would add five acres and 400 students to Hillcrest Christian School, doubling the acreage of the campus at Rinaldi Street and Shoshone Avenue.

Nearly 350 people--evenly supporters and opponents of the project--packed a ballroom at the Airtel Plaza Hotel in Van Nuys for the six-hour session.

The school's expansion would add to the rush-hour traffic on Rinaldi Street, a popular alternative to the Ronald Reagan Freeway, opponents said.

But supporters countered that the area's overall growth should not be blamed solely on the school.

"The traffic problem is not from Hillcrest," said Don Cosby, 75, who lives half a block from the campus. He said there are three other schools in the neighborhood and hundreds of new homes have been built there in the last few years. "Times change and we have to change with them."

Some opponents were suspicious of the modifications the school has made to its plans since buying the land five years ago. A proposal to increase enrollment by 600 students was reduced to 400, and a football field with stadium lighting was eliminated, Hillcrest representative Peter Elias said.

Daniel C. Lavery, 62, who lives next to the site, said he worries that the school will expand on its plans at a later date. "They're going to come back in five years or less and ask again, ruining our neighborhood piecemeal rather than all at once."

The hearing was postponed last week when the scheduled meeting room proved too small to hold the hundreds of people who showed up.

At Friday's hearing, opponents were rowdier than supporters--clapping, snickering and commenting on speakers' testimony. Both sides advertised their feelings on their shirts: the sunshine yellow "I love Hillcrest" buttons of supporters vied with the neon yellow cards reading "N.O.P.E. Neighbors Oppose Planned Expansion" worn by opponents.

Zoning administrator Lourdes Green, who mediated the hearing, said she will make a recommendation on the expansion to the city Planning Commission by Feb. 18.

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