New West Middle School Plans Campus at Santa Ynez Inn Site

New West Chairman David Eagle with Christina Porter and her son Jack, who is a 6th grader at the school's Pico site, stand at the Santa Ynez Inn site, located at Sunset and Los Liones.
New West Chairman David Eagle with Christina Porter and her son Jack, who is a 6th grader at the school’s Pico site, stand at the Santa Ynez Inn site, located at Sunset and Los Liones.
Photo by Rich Schmitt, Staff Photographer

New West Charter Middle School has signed a letter of intent to lease the former Santa Ynez Inn on Sunset from the Self-Realization Fellowship and hopes to open a campus on the 1.5-acre site in September. ‘After we sign a lease and receive various government approvals, we’ll work very hard to raise money, mostly through private donations,’ said New West chairman David Eagle, a Highlands resident. ‘Once we know that we can raise $600,000 to $700,000 to pay for the renovations, we’re in. Our rent will be very reasonable and the per-student funds we receive from the state will be enough to sustain everything after classes begin.’ But Eagle added, ‘If everybody yawns when we seek donations, then we’re out. That will be the end of it. We have a little seed money that we can utilize to get started, but we don’t want to commit until we know we can pay for the whole thing.’ Based on his group’s ability to raise a similar amount of money a year ago ($500,000) to renovate a commercial building on Pico Blvd. in West L.A. and open for classes last September, Eagle felt confident that New West will have a second campus this fall. He also emphasized that ‘we’re not going to be draining any resources from the Pico site.’ A public school chartered by the State Board of Education, New West started the school year with 275 students in grades 6-8 and currently has about 260, of which about 20 percent are from the Palisades, according to Eagle. His Palisades-dominated group is studying three scenarios for Santa Ynez, located just below the SRF Lake Shrine and across from Los Liones Drive. ‘One possibility is to have a second middle school with about 100 students in each grade. The second is to have sixth graders at Pico and seventh and eighth graders at Santa Ynez. The third is to have Pico remain our middle school and consider making Santa Ynez our high school of the future,’ though not this year. ‘We’re open to other possibilities,’ Eagle said. Once New West officials are confident about their fundraising campaign, they plan to convert the former restaurant/motel into a school with about 12-13 classrooms, several administrative offices, a library and a science lab, while respecting the original architecture of the building, Eagle said. ‘A portion of the existing parking lot will be turned into a playing field and basketball/volleyball courts and will still leave enough room to park more than 60 cars on the site.’ The total area is about 67,000 square feet. ‘I know some nearby residents might be concerned about additional traffic in the area,’ said Dr. Donald Gill, the school’s executive director, ‘but we think we have a great plan that will result in little or no effect on current traffic. At our Pico site we require our families to carpool and that has resulted in literally no negative effect on traffic in the area. We have taken a 250-car potential down to under 100 cars visiting our campus per day. At the Sunset site, we think we can reduce that number even further because we will not only require carpooling at drop-off and pick-up times, but we also expect to provide bus transportation for some of our students, which will reduce the number of cars into the area.’ When Eagle presented his plans at last Thursday’s Community Council meeting, traffic impacts were indeed the main concern of council members. ‘My immediate concern is people making left turns off Sunset into the school,’ said Norm Kulla. ‘If a traffic light can be installed at Los Liones, people could make a safe left turn into the parking lot,’ said Eagle, who noted that there’s already a median strip to work with in creating a left turn only lane. New West will hold two meetings next week to answer questions from members of the community and to show the property and their plans to those who are interested. The first meeting will take place on Thursday, April 22 at 7 p.m. in Mort’s Oak Room. A tour of the Sunset site will take place on Saturday, April 24 from 2 to 4 p.m. Free parking will be available on site. New West officials will be on hand at both gatherings to answer questions, listen to suggestions and concerns and show the plans for the site. Anyone who would like to contact the school or make a 100 percent tax-deductible contribution or offer support to this effort should contact David Eagle at NewWestCharter@aol.com, or at 441-8555.