San Vicente Blvd. Preschool Design Is Praised, but Its Traffic Impact Is Not

West Hollywood’s Planning Commission delayed approval of a preschool on San Vicente Boulevard  on Thursday night, sending it back for revisions after concerns were raised about its traffic and noise impacts in the neighborhood.

Illustration of preschool planned for 972 N. San Vicente Blvd. (Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects)

Located at 972 N. San Vicente Blvd., just south of Sunset (two lots south of the London Hotel), the three-story preschool would have space for a maximum of 72 children, aged 18 months to 5 years. The new building would replace a single family home with a detached rear garage and upstairs apartment.

Designed by architects with the Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects firm, the 8,300-square-foot building has six classrooms and outdoor areas for both play and learning activities in the rear. With an exterior of plaster, glass and translucent metal panels, the building does not resemble the typical preschool.

The Commission was impressed with the project, Commissioner Rogerio Carvalherio calling it an “incredibly elegant building.” They also liked the fact that the owner, Nasim Pahlavan, put so much care into planning her preschool for an underserved city which has approximately 1,000 children under age 5, but only enough preschool space for 250 children.  

However, the Commission had issues with the plan for dropping off and picking up children in the underground parking area. The circular driveway has enough space for nine cars to line up to drop off/pick up, but queuing to get into that driveway would not be allowed on San Vicente since it is so close to the Sunset Boulevard intersection.

Pahlavan explained her staff could get a child into or out of a car seat in 25 seconds, a figure several Commissioners questioned. Pahlavan further explained that the preschool would have staggered drop off/pick up times to prevent cars from queuing up on San Vicente to get into the driveway. But if a line did develop, parents would be instructed to drive around the block while the cars in the driveway cleared.

During the public comment period, resident Jon Viscott, who lives directly across the street, called this queuing plan “ludicrous,” and said the idea of putting a preschool on busy San Vicente was  “ill conceived.”

When asked what the Plan B was if the drive-around-the-block plan didn’t work, Pahlavan said they would “figure it out.” The answer was not acceptable and the Commission said the drop off/pick up plan would have to be worked out before they could approve the preschool’s Conditional Use Permit.

Concerns were also raised regarding noise from the outdoor play area.  An acoustic report suggested the playground would only produce an average 46 decibels of noise, on par with a library. However, Commissioner Lynn Hoopingarner said that noise from children playing tends to have spikes that are considerably louder than 46 decibels and worried about the impact on surrounding neighbors.

Resident Christina Bermudas, who lives on Larrabee Street directly behind the preschool, said sound tests were done from her apartment balcony, but failed to take into account the echo chamber effect of sound bouncing off the surrounding concrete buildings.  She worried noise from children playing would impact her, noting that she can already hear conversations held on balconies of the London Hotel perfectly in her apartment.

The Commission concluded the acoustic study was inadequate and must be redone taking the echo chamber aspect into consideration.

Once the traffic and noise issues are addressed, the preschool will return for another hearing before the Planning Commission.

8120 Santa Monica Blvd.

The commission also gave thumbs up to plans for the city to build a temporary parking lot on the southwest corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Crescent Heights Boulevard.

That city purchased that property in 2016 after the Walgreens drug store chain abandoned plans to construct a four-story retail-residential building on that lot which previously had a strip mall that included a dry cleaner, donut shop, restaurant, etc.

The city plans to eventually develop the lot, but is not yet ready to hold public meetings to determine the correct use for the site. So, rather than leave it a dirt lot, the city plans to construct a 78-space surface lot that includes six electric vehicle charging stations.

The lot will have entrances and exits on Santa Monica Boulevard and Crescent Heights Boulevard, plus an exit only on Havenhurst Drive.

The lot will be open for public use from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m., but residents who purchase a $9 per quarter permit can use it for overnight parking.  An eight-foot concrete wall will be constructed on the southern end of the lot to cut down on noise and light impacts to the adjacent residential buildings.

Since this is a city-sponsored project, the Planning Commission was not being asked to approve it, but rather just determine if building a parking lot there complied with the General Plan, which guides development in the city. The commissioners unanimously said it was in compliance.

Construction on the parking lot should begin shortly after the City Council gives its blessing.

Although the dirt on the site was contaminated by toxic chemicals from the dry cleaner that was once housed in the strip mall, facilities and field services manager Helen Collins told the Commission that dirt had already been removed. However, Collins added that once the city decides what to build on the site, further remediation of the dirt may be necessary. 

  1. I love how Weho’s so concerned about potential traffic and noise from this little preschool while Weho has all but approved construction of the world’s biggest hotel/ shopping complex/ helipad 300 feet away from this preschool on Sunset between Vicente and Larrabee.

    I mean, a f–king *helipad.*

    Because what fun is there in being a billionaire hotelier unless you can brag to your friends about how you avoid street traffic by landing your f–king helicopter right in the middle of residential Weho?

    1. The planners were dreaming so hard about getting helicopter rides they forgot to focus on simple traffic issues🤣🤣🤣🙄🙄🙄. Folks will no longer need to travel to Disneyland we will have 1.9sq miles of amusement, rides and wall to wall hotels. Who could ask for more.😍😍😍

  2. It would be helpful if the Planning Department would match the resourcefulness of Ms. Pahlavian in this needed and elegant project. Potential traffic issues should have been high on their radar and they could have been actively at work to provide scenarios in which traffic flow and safe drop offs/pick ups could be implemented for the two 30 minute windows Monday through Friday.

    Rather than nit picking Ms. Pahlavian’s elementary demonstration of timing the commissioners immersed themselves in non productive anecdotal evidence of their less that resourceful thinking. The city and the commissioners could learn a great deal from Ms. Pahlavian.

  3. I am a working parent with two small kids. We desperately need more preschools and childcare options. This city should make it a PRIORITY to work with the operator and get this site open, instead of blocking them. LET the kids play outside and learn to be healthy rather than sedentary. Work WITH the owners to figure out the drop offs and pickups. The same thing – MAJOR neighborhood opposition – happened to the proposed daycare on Sunset – it got blocked at the last minute by concerned neighbors. The city seems to care more about dogs than it does for kids and families.

  4. John Heilman pointed out similar problems with traffic and circulation during the discussions of the Art Club but as we saw there, common sense is apparently in short supply at West Hollywood’s Community Development Department.

  5. I live in the building right next door and it’s impossible to even get out of the garage during peak times. There is no way this is a good idea. Buses won’t help either unless they can get into the underground lot. You can’t see past them making the whole mess even more unsafe.

  6. I walk daily first thing in the morning on a route that has me crossing San Vicente on Cynthia. If my timing coincides, I am witness to the lines of cars turning off San Vicente to head westbound on Cynthia to drop off their kids in front of West Hollywood Elementary on Hammond. With the four-way stops at Hilldale and Hammond, traffic is often solidly backed up throughout that route. Adding another school in the neighborhood and solving the drop-off issue by telling parents to go around the block and come back will only put those cars onto the same already overburdened route.

  7. The intersection of Sunset and San Vicente has been a problem for many years.
    At one time, it sometimes took over 20 minutes to get through or turn left at that intersection if you were traveling north on San Vicente. It was equally difficult trying to turn left onto Sunset if you were headed southward from Clark Street.
    Thankfully, new traffic lights, arrows, and stop lights have been installed and it is better now. Please don’t make it horrible again!
    Even though it is better now, starting at around 3 o’clock, traffic is very heavy again headed up the hill. I’m sure this prr-school will be valuable to the area, but I agree wholeheartedly that they need to think of a better way to drop off and pick up the children.
    Interestingly, one of the problems for the pre-school which had been proposed for the old Spago location, was the congestion that it would have formed on Horn, which is a very narrow street. For that reason and for several others, the planning commission turned that location down.

  8. If they have to drive around the block now we will have all these extra cars turning onto Sunsent and no doubt onto Larabee up Cynthia and back onto San Vicente? We don’t need 72 cars on this loop.

    They need to stage the drop off/ pick up somewhere else and bus the kids in.

  9. Go 1 block west on Harratt and see the clusterf..k that is happening when the elementary school kids are being dropped off and collected.

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