DISTRICT 4 Press Releases
Councilmember Raman Statement on Harvard-Westlake River Project
For Immediate Release: November 14, 2023
COUNCILMEMBER RAMAN STATEMENT ON HARVARD-WESTLAKE RIVER PROJECT
LOS ANGELES — Today, the Los Angeles City Council voted to unanimously adopt the proposed Harvard-Westlake River Park Project. Councilmember Nithya Raman, who represents the area, issued the following statement during Council:
I’d like to provide a bit of context for the project we’re voting on today – the Harvard-Westlake River Park Project. The initiation of this project not only predates my time as the Councilmember for Studio City by several years, it also predates my election as a Councilmember at all.
We are here today after a long, fraught, and frustrating process. The site was owned by a single family who operated it as a golf and tennis facility for decades – a beloved site with a lot of memories for many many people. That family no longer wanted to operate the facility as it was not profitable enough and they wanted to realize profits from the sale of the land and split it among their children.
Different potential buyers discussed options for the site with the community, including a proposal for 200 units of senior housing that included an onsite medical facility, as well as a scaled-back version that preserved the existing uses of the site. The community around the site vehemently opposed any housing, even in options that preserved the golf course – so much so, that elected representatives wrote letters saying they would never support housing at the site at all. Harvard-Westlake then bought the property in 2017, and applied for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to build a sports facility on the site, a pathway that didn’t require a discretionary zone change from the city.
Since we took over this area during redistricting, my staff and I have spent countless hours engaging with community members, city departments including the Planning Department and the City Attorney, and school representatives to try and address constituent concerns about the project, including increasing public access to green space, improving pedestrian safety, reducing the size and frequency of events, reducing construction noise and traffic impacts, and more.
Through our advocacy, we have been able to secure a package of recreational benefits for the community including:
- 5.4 acres of publicly accessible and ADA-compliant open greenspace and landscaped pathways connecting to the adjacent Zev Yaroslavsky Greenway, including pocket parks, trails, benches, shade, trees, walkways;
- Ensuring that publicly accessible green space is open 7 days a week, and that no school-associated athletic events, practices, or games will take place on Sundays;
- Ensuring public and individual access to fields and the track, the swimming pool, and the tennis courts when they’re not in use by the school, and;
- Ensuring that no Olympic-related events including athletic games or otherwise will be held on the project site.
These wins for the community were hard-fought. While we failed in truly downsizing the project significantly, we were advised by City departments that efforts to do more would tie the City up in more indefensible lawsuits. We also saw an EIR that showed no significant environmental impacts that couldn’t be mitigated by the efforts of this project. This is why I firmly believe that our land use regulations and processes need to be revised so that a low-barrier conditional use discretionary process, for which findings are straightforward and where the levers are much harder to push and pull to get to the outcomes we want, is not the sole method used for a project of this scale.
Though the previous owners no longer found it feasible to operate the site under its existing uses, and the City – which looked years ago for funding – couldn’t afford to purchase it, I deeply empathize with people in the neighborhood who feel a palpable emotional connection to the golf and tennis facilities; it has been a part of their community for generations. I myself have a personal connection to it: my father plays tennis three times a week, and when he visits me, this is the site where he plays – and he loves it.
My team and I have done our best to honor that connection and push the project in a direction that serves both the community and the school. I am grateful for the good faith collaboration among all who worked diligently to get us to this pivotal stage in the process. My office is committed – completely – to making sure that Harvard-Westlake School follows through on being a responsible and responsive owner and developer, and I am sure that they will commit their ample and sizeable resources to make sure they do that and look forward to working with residents to ensure the site becomes part of a new chapter for our community that I hope we can all be proud of.