October 30, 2017
Dear Harvard-Westlake Families and Friends:
I am writing to share the exciting news that Harvard-Westlake has entered into an agreement to purchase Weddington Golf & Tennis, a 16-acre property in Studio City bounded by Whitsett Avenue and the Los Angeles River, less than a mile from Harvard-Westlake’s upper school campus. This land, which has been privately owned for more than a century by the Weddington family, is currently home to a nine-hole golf course, a driving range, and 16 tennis courts.
Over the next few years, the school will develop the Harvard-Westlake Community Athletics Center, which will offer athletic and recreational opportunities to our students and to the Studio City community.
In designing and developing the Community Athletics Center, Harvard-Westlake is committed to a transparent, thoughtful process that will be guided by a few key principles:
First, the school will engage with neighbors and stakeholders to solicit input regarding features that the neighborhood feels are desirable.
Second, we intend to allow public access to portions of the athletics center, and we look forward to developing joint use arrangements.
Third, we will make improvements to the property adjacent to the L.A. River trail, a citywide resource that should be treasured.
Finally, we value the tranquility of the Weddington property and know that its neighbors do as well. Our intention when designing the athletics center is to preserve as much open space as possible.
The Weddington property acquisition will enable Harvard-Westlake to re-evaluate the Parking, Safety & Athletic Improvement (PSA) Project that the school has proposed on land it owns just west of Coldwater Canyon across from the upper school campus. In response to feedback from our neighbors, the school will explore alternatives, including the addition of parking spaces on the main campus. Plans for the PSA Project as currently designed will be placed on hold, and we look forward to meeting with members of the community during this time.
In the coming months, I look forward to sharing updates and additional details about these exciting initiatives. I hope you join me in celebrating the next chapter in the history of Harvard-Westlake and our long-term commitment to Studio City and the City of Los Angeles.
Richard B. Commons
President and Head of School
October 30, 2017
Today, Harvard-Westlake made a tremendously important announcement: it is suspending its plans to build a parking structure on the west side of Coldwater Canyon Avenue, and will instead explore adding more parking capacity on campus. I want to thank the community for making its voice heard regarding the Coldwater project. I also appreciate that the school has listened to my concerns, and those of the community, and taken them seriously. The open discourse among the community, the city, the school and impacted neighbors highlights what makes our democratic process so great and important.
The administration and board of the school deserve credit for doing what we have asked of them by exploring other options to meet the school’s parking needs. An on-campus parking facility would certainly have much less community impact, in that it will avoid the significant excavation and other construction impacts that the earlier proposal would require, and it will avoid the loss of open space across Coldwater.
Harvard-Westlake’s announcement about the Coldwater Canyon proposal came at the same time it disclosed that it has reached an agreement to purchase Weddington Golf & Tennis from its owners. Although the school has only provided preliminary details about the future of Weddington, this transaction is a major financial commitment that shows the school is ready to move in a different direction.
Weddington is a property central to the history of Studio City. It is the largest privately-held open space facing the Los Angeles River in the entire San Fernando Valley. It is very near and dear to my heart, and I know many of you feel this way too. For more than a decade, since my days as a State Assemblymember, I have worked hard to preserve open space at Weddington and improve access to the LA River, while fighting successfully to block any plans to build housing or other intrusive structures on the site.
Harvard-Westlake has indicated that it intends to work closely with the community in developing a plan for Weddington. The school has been clear in stating that it respects my insistence that no housing or above-ground parking structures will be built on the property. The school has also acknowledged that it will respect the community’s desires by maintaining the tranquility of the property and preserving as much open space as possible, improving public access to the revitalized Los Angeles River, and enhancing community benefits from the property. If the right kind of plan is advanced with the full input of our community, this transaction could provide a historic opportunity to protect Weddington as open space and, once and for all, to permanently prevent the risk of condominiums or other housing development at this site.
As the school moves forward in developing its new plans, I will continue to advocate for Weddington to remain an environmental, aesthetic and recreational asset to Studio City. I will continue to work closely with the community and the school to find a truly suitable and beneficial community use for whatever project is ultimately proposed. Among other things, I will support increasing river access, implementing groundwater recharge, preserving open space, and allowing the public to use the property for recreation. I absolutely will not support any attempt to place housing or an above-ground parking structure on the site.
As further news develops, I will keep you informed about what is happening with Weddington. I will always insist that the community is engaged and protected from adverse impacts that may result from Harvard-Westlake’s plans to the greatest degree possible. My goal will be to work closely with the school and the surrounding neighbors to ensure the community has opportunities for input and guidance every step of the way.
Thank you for your ongoing interest in and advocacy on this issue. If you have additional questions or comments, please contact my Planning Director Karo Torossian at (213) 473-7002.
Very truly yours,
Councilmember, District 2