City, Waldorf Find Compromise on Signal

At right, a car navigates turning off Los Liones Drive across from the Westside Waldorf School onto Sunset Boulevard.
At right, a car navigates turning off Los Liones Drive across from the Westside Waldorf School onto Sunset Boulevard.
Photo by Rich Schmitt, Staff Photographer

At a meeting last week with Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, the Westside Waldorf School committed to raising $100,000 toward the installation of a long-demanded traffic signal at the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Los Liones Drive. The first phase of the project could begin as soon as July 14. ‘I think that this has been a great community effort,’ said Andrea Epstein, Rosendahl’s deputy who helped craft a compromise. ‘We’re really happy the school is working with our office and that the Getty has contributed so much to the project. It will benefit the community as a whole.’ As part of the agreement, Waldorf will pay $50,000 by July 14 toward the design phase of the 14-month project. In a reversal, Rosendahl has pledged to spend at least $50,000 and will cover the difference between the estimated and final costs of the signal. The councilman’s staff and community members had worried that if he offered financial support for the project, other private groups would pressure the councilman for city funding. ‘We knew a solution was inevitable but that it would take a partnership,’ said Waldorf Executive Development Director Jeffrey Graham. ‘We want a safe and secure Sunset Boulevard and we are going to take our part to participate in that.’ The Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) estimates total cost of construction will be $350,000. Construction is expected to account for $270,000 of the total cost. According to the current timeline, the signal would be complete as soon as September 2008. The Waldorf School originally estimated that the total cost of the project would be $200,000. That estimate did not account for building concrete sidewalks and grading, according to LADOT. The K-8 school relocated from Santa Monica to the site of the former Santa Ynez Inn and Transcendental Meditation Center last January. Based on its original, faulty estimate, it had set aside $50,000 and received a $150,000 commitment from the Getty Villa Community Relations Committee, which receives funding from the Getty Villa. Until last week, the school faced a $150,000 shortfall and widespread community threats. At its first June meeting, many Palisades Community Council members vowed to oppose the renewal of the school’s temporary certificate of occupancy’effectively shutting down the school. Members and residents of Los Liones argued that the school reneged on its promise to fund the construction of a light at a dangerous intersection’which the school’s presence only made more perilous, they contend. There were also calls to decrease the school’s maximum occupancy below its current cap of 246. Last school year, 100 students attended Waldorf. Graham expects that 150 will enroll next fall. At last week’s meeting, council members applauded the recent plan and dropped those threats. ‘Councilman Rosendahl and his staff facilitated a satisfactory resolution,’ Vice-Chair Richard G. Cohen wrote by e-mail. ‘When the signal is finally installed the entire community should benefit from a significantly safer intersection.’ Graham said he expects a permanent certificate of occupancy ‘as soon as this summer.’ The school’s temporary certificate must be renewed by December. Epstein said the councilman will not support permanent occupancy until all funding for the project is assured. The Waldorf is currently planning one or two events to raise $100,000. Graham said he has already received offers of help from the Palisades community. The councilman has offered to attend fundraising events to help the school, said Epstein. The Getty Villa Community Relations Committee is scheduled to meet next week. Building a signal at that intersection is an expected agenda topic of the committee, one member said. It is unknown whether the committee will contribute any additional funds toward the project. —— To contact Staff Writer Max Taves, e-mail reporter@palipost.com or call ext. 28.