SECRETS & LIES: What the Archer is not telling parents about the Archer Forward expansion project

What the Archer is not telling parents about the Archer Forward expansion project

0 Archer wish for

It seems like the last thing Elizabeth English or the Archer wants is questions and input from Archer parents and students about: 1) the scope and nature of the ongoing series of concessions that substantially dilute the benefits of the project, 2) the impact of the project on educational and social experience of current and future students, and 3) current estimates of the total cost of the project.

(As a result of our willingness to stand up to the authoritarian style and deceptive practices of the Archer administration on issues directly affecting students, this site has received many communications from parents and community residents about things they think the Archer community should know but they are too afraid to bring up)

OTHER NEW POSTINGS: 1) RESIGNATION OF MS. ENGLISH?http://josephsonvsarcher.com/elizabeth-english-to-resign-facts-speculation-rumors/  2) PARENT REBELLION?  http://josephsonvsarcher.com/what-archer-is-not-telling-parents/   3) LAW SUIT WOES. Decision by Archer lawyers to prolong Josephson v Archer case by refusing to accept Arbitrator’s decision re: fees and Josephsons’ right to file new and additional claims.  http://josephsonvsarcher.com/josephson-v-archer-prolongs-case/ http://josephsonvsarcher.com/josephson-family-banned/

THE FACT IS ARCHER FORWARD IS GOING BACKWARDS.

SECRETS & LIES: What the Archer  is not telling parents.

  • The carefully controlled public relations campaign trying to mobilize parents and students to support the current  (very much diluted) expansion project seems to depend heavily on keeping the Archer community in the dark about the continuous revisions required by the city which removed some of the most attractive features of the original plan).
  • Many believe that if most parents knew and understood the true state of affairs, a simple cost/benefit analysis would result in abandonment of the project.
  • Reading the recent communications of Archer’s administration posted on the Archer Forward website and elsewhere would lead parents to believe that the decision of the planning commission to approve the revised, revision of the Archer forward expansion plan was a complete victory. There is no mention of the fact that before voting the commission imposed a series of additional limitations that will most certainly diminish the benefits and increase the cost and inconvenience of fulfilling the schools ambitions to renovate the campus.
  • Even more important, the administration said nothing of the letter (posted below) sent to the Brentwood Community on April 23 by Councilman Bonin which explicitly states that he will oppose the plan (which is certain death) unless Archer agrees to still more restrictions

0 Archer's lack of candor

A growing number of Archer parents are very concerned about their children’s educational and social experience if and when construction on the Archer Forward expansion project begins — and they have very good reason to worry.

  • As the project is continually diluted, the cost and aggravation bound to result from the disruption increases, and fundraising efforts have floundered, one would think that the Board of Trustees would seriously re-think Ms. English’s seeming desire to make this project her legacy.
  • Parents and their children are the primary stakeholders and they should have a dominant voice in deciding whether to proceed and they are entitled to complete information including this letter. We’ve added some comments highlighting the significance of certain statements.

Parents considering enrolling their students at the Archer School for Girls in the next few years and parents who plan to keep their children enrolled at Archer must consider whether their children will have the kind of educational experience they want and will be paying for.0 Archer 3 yrs construction

  • Although parents and teachers at Archer have been encouraged to rejoice at the news that the planning commission approved the school’s most recent and much watered down version of its expansion plans, the facts may suggest a different reaction considering that the new plan envisions that all students will be forced into  temporary, cramped and unequipped classrooms (probably installed on the athletic field – so what happens to sports and physical education?) OR as yet undesignated OFF-CAMPUS facilities.
  • Is there any way the quality of the education and social experience of the students won’t be greatly reduced?
  • The current “Archer Forward Plan” will most certainly negatively affect the quality of the educational environment (and probably the education) of Archer students for AT LEAST the next three years.

Parents are entitled to know:

1. When construction starts how will the school assure that the educational and social experience of my child will not be negatively affected?

2. Where will my children be learning (e.g., in an off-site environment or temporary classroom trailers) and what assurances can you give that the facilities will  be conducive to the first rate education I am paying for?

0  Archer temp classrooms

3. If education is to continue during construction in temporary classrooms where will they be installed? 

4. Are you currently thinking of moving classes to an off-campus location during construction? And if so, what kind of environment are you envisioning and how far are you willing to go from the current campus?

5. Construction is phased to take three years. How will three years of attending school either off-site or in a construction zone affect my child’s educational and social experience? Will there be any health or safety concerns?

0 Archer pollution

6. How will the construction affect my access to the school and busing and car pool requirements?

7. How is this disruptive construction going to affect sports, drama and other campus activities?

8. How will this construction affect faculty recruitment and retention?

9. For parents of students in 8th grade or higher, how will the new facilities benefit my child’s educational and social experience?

10. What portion of the needed funds has been raised and what happens if the remaining funds cannot be raised?

Incidentally, Archer has already paid over about $8,000,000 (over $4 million to lawyers in fiscal year 2014-2014 -ending in June) in hard to raise funds just for attorney fees, architectural changes and other professional consultants making the possibility of raising the additional funds (which keep escalating with every change) more and more remote. This amount probably exceeds the funds raised for the project already.

THE TRUTH, THE WHOLE TRUTH & NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH

ANNOTATED LETTER FROM COUNCILMAN BONIN

Read this letter carefully to see whether you think the expansion project is worth the cost and hassle.

April 23, 2015:

Last fall, I sent an open letter to Brentwood regarding the Archer School for Girls, promising that I would not approve a project that worsened traffic, or that had harmful impacts on the neighborhood. I promised I would fight for the community, and I did. After months of negotiations with neighbors and school officials, today I outlined to the Citywide Planning Commission a series of changes to the project so significant that they will actually reduce Archer’s traffic impact on the Sunset Boulevard corridor while allowing the school to improve the campus for its students.

Yes, you read that right. Under my changes, the Archer School for Girls will create less traffic with its new project than it currently generates today. This ground-breaking traffic management program is one I hope will be replicated at other institutions on Sunset. If that happens, we can actually make a real impact on the gridlock that plagues that stretch of Sunset.

As I have said from the beginning, traffic was the main metric by which I would judge this project.

Archer is a phenomenal school for bright, talented young women. I support the school, and I applaud its mission. But it sits at one of the worst traffic choke points in the City.

In a public letter I wrote in October 2014, I opposed the Archer Forward proposal that was circulating at the time. I asked for 33 changes, many of them dramatic. To their great credit, the school revised their proposal several times, meeting more of my demands with each version. The version recommended by the Planning Department incorporated many of my changes – but not all – so I stood firm and kept asking for a better project. Today, with the proposal before the Citywide Planning Commission, my staff reiterated my demands and insisted the proposal be changed in order to fulfill my strict requirements to protect Brentwood and reduce traffic congestion.

The Commission modified the proposal to meet some of my demands, but not all of them. When this issue is appealed and comes to City Council in several weeks, I will apply the changes to the project myself, until we get this project right.

I am eager to share with you the specifics, in great detail. The best way to do that is to list the demands I made last fall, and annotate them, explaining the victories we have secured for the community. My requirements fell into three categories: traffic, neighborhood impacts, and the physical footprint. All of these items are things I requested last year, and Archer committed to do.

TRAFFIC

Like you, I can’t drive down Sunset in the afternoon without planning for maddening traffic delays. That’s why traffic is the primary lens through which I review development – and my first and top consideration for the Archer project. Archer is a wonderful school, but it is in a very problematic location. I simply refuse to let any institution on the Sunset Corridor move forward with a project that would make traffic worse. Therefore, I insisted that the project:

  • Eliminate ALL significant traffic impacts from school operations. With the combination of the recommended conditions, the additional conditions that the Planning Commission imposed today at my request, and the further steps that I will take at City Council, the project will not only eliminate all significant traffic impacts from operations, but will actually improve Archer’s traffic impacts as compared to today’s operations.

Every new traffic restriction that will be imposed in order to get Councilman Bonin’s (and therefore, the City Council’s) approval will directly impact access to the school and, while improving the traffic situation overall, will dramatically increase the inconvenience to parents and students even after the project is completed — probably in 2019. During the three years of construction the inconvenience will be even greater. It may be a sacrifice most parents are willing to make but, at the very least, the administration owes parents a clear and complete explanation of the scope and impact of the new restrictions. (It is possible that these restrictions, combined with the incredible difficulty of providing the educational experience Archer parents expect will cause the school to re-locate most or all instructional and athletic activities to a new venue during the three years of construction. This could dramatically affect the desirability of enrolling or staying at Archer.

  • Maintain or improve all of the traffic management practices that Archer currently has in place. Archer does an exemplary job of managing its school-related traffic, including by mandating and achieving a high percentage of students who take the bus. That percentage far exceeds what other schools in the area are required to do. The conditions imposed today along with the additional limitations I will require will ensure that Archer’s traffic management practices are the gold standard.
  • Increase the required percentage of students who must take the bus to get to school. The conditions that the Planning Commission imposed along with the additional busing restrictions that I will require ensure that Archer will create less traffic under its new plan than it generates today.
  • Continue to ensure that all student carpools (whether driven by a student or a parent) have at least three Archer students in the car. This requirement has been met, and robust limits will continue to be imposed for student carpools.

The combination of reducing sharply the number of parents/students permitted to avoid the bus and the requirement of at least 3 students in each authorized car pool will virtually eliminate any means of coming to and going home from the school.

  • Expedite the construction schedule. With the additional conditions the Planning Commission included at my request today, the construction period for the project will be limited to 3 years – from when construction starts to when construction stops.

The required compressed construction schedule (Archer sought 5 years) will make it very much more difficult to conduct classes or have other activities during the construction which is required to coincide with school hours. This will most certainly negatively impact the overall educational and social experience.

  • Reduce the size of the subterranean parking garage to reduce the amount of traffic that can come to the school and to reduce the construction and excavation-related impacts. The size of the garage has been reduced from the original proposal, the Planning Commission today further restricted the number of parking spaces that can be provided in the garage, and I will require additional reductions to ensure that the amount of traffic that can come to school is further limited.

Note the Planning commission reduced the number of parking spaces and Councilman Bonin will require further reductions. Thus there may be an issue as to whether faculty and staff have on campus parking and parents and others attending any school conference or event are likely to be forced to park a substantial distance away.

  • Further reduce the size and number of events and carefully schedule the timing of the events to minimize traffic impacts on the neighborhood and the region. Today, at my request, the Planning Commission limited the number of events to 65, which is a significant reduction from 98 – the number of events originally proposed. With the additional conditions imposed today at my request, the number of special events will be appropriately limited and the timing of those events will carefully managed.
  • Implement operational measures to reduce or eliminate all potentially significant and unavoidable impacts from outdoor athletic activity. The Planning Commission took steps today to lessen the impacts of outdoor activity on the surrounding neighborhood. I will require conditions to reduce the number of days that athletic events may occur on campus in order to further reduce any impacts from outdoor activities.

Having a project on Sunset Boulevard that actually reduces its traffic is a game-changer. Archer has long had one of the best traffic management programs around, and now that program is going to include even more protections for the community. This traffic management program is a model and, if it is duplicated at other institutions along Sunset Boulevard, it will make a real difference in traffic congestion on Sunset Boulevard.

NEIGHBORHOOD IMPACTS

I have lived next door to a school, across the street from a school, and down the block from a school – so I take very seriously the concerns neighbors have with how the school impacts them at home. I insisted on significant changes to the project to ensure that Archer would continue to be a good neighbor.

  • Hold no non-Archer related events at the school – in particular, no weddings, summer school, or non-Archer related speaking events. Although the conditions the Planning Commission approved allow for summer school, I will insist that summer school and non-Archer related events are not allowed.

This limitation could seriously limit educational options for Archer girls as Archer may be the only private high school in the city without this option.

  • Host no interscholastic athletic tournaments. With the changes that I requested today, interscholastic athletic tournaments will not be held at Archer. The athletic facilities will be used only by Archer and the teams that it plays.
  • Install no lights on the athletic field. The lights on the athletic field were removed from the project.
  • Reduce the size and configuration of the North Garden area to ensure that it is not a gathering space, but instead a passageway from the subterranean parking into the gym. With the conditions imposed by the Planning Commission and the additional requirements I will impose, the North Garden area will be operated as a transition area from the parking garage to campus and not as a gathering place or a space for classroom instruction.
  • Redesign the project to add an underground tunnel for access to the parking garage from the building for evening events, and require that everyone attending evening events use the underground tunnel to access their cars when they leave. At my request and at the request of the neighbors, the project includes an underground pathway that will be used by guests for evening events to minimize noise impacts on the surrounding area. With my additional requirements, use of the pathway will be required earlier in the evening and on Saturdays to further address noise concerns of the neighborhood.

The administration has not been forthcoming about how significantly these design revisions and the requirement of the underground parking adds to the cost of the project (which makes it even less likely that the funds can be raised). Moreover this requirement requires a huge excavation and the removal of soil making the construction certain to affect air quality and make attendance during this period uncomfortable and possibly unhealthy.

  • Eliminate the row of parking spaces along the southern edge of the parking structure that was proposed to remain uncovered, and replace that with an expanded landscape buffer. The project has been revised to remove these parking spaces and increase the landscaped buffer area.
  • Move the parking structure farther from the western property boundary, resulting in an increased setback from the adjacent residential uses. The project has been revised to move the parking structure away from the western property boundary and provide an increased setback from the neighboring residence.
  • Design the buildings to have main entrances opening to the interior of campus to minimize any noise spillover into the neighborhood. The main entrances to all the buildings will face the interior of campus to ensure that noise spillover is minimized.
  • Move the existing athletic field farther from adjacent residences to allow for additional landscaping and buffering. The athletic fields have been moved farther east to enable an enhanced landscape buffer to be installed on the western property line.
  • Return the softball field to its original orientation at the southeast corner of the athletic field. The project was redesigned from the original proposal to retain the original orientation of the softball field.
  • Reduce the proposed hours of operation for field use, and strictly limit Saturday field use. The conditions the Planning Commission imposed today provide detailed restrictions on hours of operations. I will call for some additional limits on Saturday field use to make sure that the need for students to practice and play games is appropriately balanced with the need for the residential neighbors to enjoy the peace and quiet of the weekend.
  • Reduce the number of school functions and events. Today, at my request, the Planning Commission limited the number of events to 65, which is a significant reduction from 98 – the number of events originally proposed. I am going to require additional reductions to the number of days athletic events can take place on campus to further ensure that the campus is operated in a way that is compatible with the community.
  • Eliminate school functions on the athletic field except for Upper School Graduation.Under the conditions imposed today, Upper School Graduation is the only event allowed to take place on the athletic field.
  • Prohibit school functions in the North Garden. With the conditions imposed by the Planning Commission and the additional limits I will require, the North Garden area will be operated as a transition area from the parking garage to campus and not as a gathering place or a space for classroom instruction.
  • Strictly limit the time and size of athletic competitions. The Planning Commission imposed conditions that lessen the impacts of athletic events on the surrounding neighborhood. I will require additional conditions to reduce the number of days that athletic events may occur on campus and the number of days that games can be played on the athletic field, and I will limit games to weekdays to ensure the quality of life for the neighborhood is protected.

PHYSICAL FOOTPRINT

From the beginning of the process, I was very clear that traffic and operational impacts were a far bigger concern than the physical footprint of the project. Having modern facilities and campus amenities comparable to other schools made sense so long as the operation of those facilities did not create traffic and quality of life impacts. However, at the request of the community to ensure that the campus was developed in a way that was compatible with the surrounding residential character of the area, I required that Archer:

  • Eliminate the aquatics center proposed for the residential property on Barrington. At the request of the community, Archer eliminated the aquatics center from the project.
  • Carve out a residential parcel on Barrington that will not be part of the project. The project carves out a residential lot on Barrington that will be preserved for residential use and will be maintained by Archer in a manner consistent with all residential development standards and requirements.
  • Reduce the size of the proposed performing arts center on the residential lot on Chaparal Street from 650 to 395 seats. The performing arts center was reduced to 395 seats from the originally proposed 695.
  • Mandate that the performing arts center on Chaparal Street comply with residential development standards such as front-yard setbacks and height limits. Not only does the performing arts center comply with residential setbacks and height limits, as requested by the community, but I am requiring that building to meet the maximum floor area limits that apply to residential uses under the Baseline Mansionization Ordinance.
  • Install additional trees along Chaparal Street and a second row of trees on the south side of the wall to create a double row of landscaping on Chaparal Street. The project includes two rows of mature trees that will be installed along Chaparal Street to buffer the project from the street.
  • Reduce the North Wing renovation by approximately 9,000 square feet. The size of the North Wing renovation was reduced by 9,000 square feet. The significant improvements to the North Wing facilities will be accomplished in a renovated building that is essentially the same size as today.

How, then, will it be possible to increase the size of all classrooms from about 300 square feet to 500 square feet as currently being touted as a great justification for the expense and inconvenience of this project?

  • Reduce the massing, width, and length of the multipurpose gym facility, and improve the design and articulation of the building. The multipurpose facility was scaled back to reduce the overall massing, width, and length, while improving the building’s design and articulation.
  • Relocate the visual arts center to behind the performing arts center on the Barrington side of the site. The visual arts center is located behind the performing arts center and next to the North Wing, in a location on campus that is not visible from Barrington, Chaparal, or Sunset.
  • Reduce the overall square footage of the project. With the changes to the site plan requested for the community, the buildings in the project were reduced by a total of over 16,000 square feet.
  • Retain a significant amount of the existing campus as open space. With the revisions to physical footprint, 74% of the campus will remain as open space.

This has been a long and complex process for everyone involved. From neighbors most affected by the project, to community groups like the Brentwood Homeowners Association that have been actively involved since day one, to parents, alumni, and supporters of Archer – many, many people have worked tirelessly to achieve the progress we have made. I am sincerely thankful for the time, effort, and dedication of all those who helped get us this far. We have made tremendous progress.

Today’s Citywide Planning Commission was not the end of the road, but we’re getting close. As I said above, when the Planning Commission’s decision is appealed to the City Council and comes before me in several weeks, I will apply the remaining requirements listed above to make sure that we get this project right.

Regards,

MIKE BONIN, Councilmember 11th District

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