By Lynne Bronstein
Observer Reporter 

Council Approves Three Projects


September 12, 2012

7-11, Help Group Prevail

The City Council endured a long meeting on Monday night, adjourning at approximately 1 a.m. But the three public hearings that took up that time yielded victories for several private schools’ plans for expansion and victory also for a planned 7-11 store at Sepulveda Boulevard and Braddock Drive.

The most controversial of these victories was the denial of an appeal of Planning Commission approval of the Administrative Site Plan review for the 7-11 at 4436 Sepulveda Boulevard. The Council’s vote was 4-1 in favor of the site plan, with Meghan Sahli-Wells the only dissenting vote.

The project as submitted to the Planning Commission and approved by the Commission on May 23, 2012, involves a 2,500 square foot one-story 7-11 convenience store, at 4436 Sepulveda Boulevard. An appeal was submitted on June 8, citing inadequate traffic studies, inadequacy of conditions to mitigate potential impacts, store safety, and traffic risks.

The item drew numerous speakers for the public comment segment (25 speaker cards were submitted), many of them armed with handouts that listed the problems with the project. Traffic was the main concern, with citizens worried about traffic in and out of the store impacting the flow on Sepulveda.

In letting stand the approval by the Planning Commission, the Council added two conditions: a requirement for review of the traffic conditions after six and 12 months of operation with the developer paying for the costs of installation and maintenance of any traffic control devices being deemed necessary; and installation of a speed hump on the Braddock Drive side driveway.

The Council also approved an appeal of the denial of a CUP (Conditional Use Permit) Modification for a planned expansion by The Help Group, an educational facility based in Culver City at 12095-12101 Washington Boulevard.

The Help Group’s plan involves two schools, Summit View School and Village Glen School, which serve students with learning disabilities and autism. According to Barbara Firestone, CEO for The Help Group, one in every 88 children in the United States today is affected by autism and the need for special education for these children is increasing rapidly.

The Help Group had submitted an application on December 13, 2011, to modify its existing CUP to allow an additional 250 students, thereby increasing enrollment from 400 to 650 students. The proposal was to convert a building at 12095 Washington Boulevard from medical offices to classrooms and other needed facilities. This modification request was denied by a 3-2 vote by the Planning Commission on May 9, 2012.

The reason for the denial had to do with traffic and parking concerns, as well as noise that impacted the surrounding residential neighborhood.

The Help Group made some significant changes to its original proposal, including dropping its request to expand by 250 students to 200, agreeing to build a 14-foot high wall along shared property to reduce the noise in the play area, and agreeing to compensate the City for lost revenues due to the conversion of the building at 12095 Washington.

The City’s Traffic department admitted that the project will not have significant impacts on traffic. However, during public comment, several speakers complained about buses and taxis that drop off and pick up students. They also said that parents of students were parking on streets where there was only permit parking.

Council members were deeply sympathetic to The Help Group for providing the area with schools for special needs students. Sahli-Wells agreed with the comments made by a local businessman that The Help Group “has improved the area.”

“I toured the schools—I saw the students. I’m proud to have this school and this service in Culver City,” said Sahli-Wells.

But the Council also wanted to clarify the caps on student body and staff size.

While the special conditions of approval included the stipulation that staff be limited to 177, no one on the Council wanted to presume on a number, knowing that The Help Group knows what its needs are. The cap for staff was set at 230, while the cap for student enrollment was set at 200—with the option that in the future, should the need arise, another hearing might be set in order to determine how many more students the school could take in.

Prior to the public hearing on The Help Group, the Council held a public hearing to introduce an ordinance amending a section of the city zoning code to permit expansion of private school facilities in the industrial area.

The request was made by the Willow School, located in the Hayden Tract in the northeast portion of Culver City. Two other schools, Turning Point and Park Century School would also be affected by the zoning change.

The Council passed a motion to introduce the ordinance as presented, by a 5-0 vote.


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