Why Shouldn’t the Hermosa Beach City School District Destroy North School?

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I represent a group of taxpayers and Hermosa Beach community members who are concerned about their local school district’s $36M plan to tear down and rebuild one of their local elementary schools, North School.

Currently, North School is safe, built to code and accommodates 300 elementary students.  Until summer of 2017, it was used to accommodate 300 preschool and younger students.  It has maple wood floors, floor to ceiling windows, and irreplacable architectural details designed by famous architect Samuel Lunden.  It could be upgraded and modernized for a cost of $6M according to the Juge Brothers, general contractors who have remodeled at least 50 Southern California schools.

The District wants to tear it down and rebuild a brand new school for $36M instead.  Some members of the community are rightfully concerned about this, as it is hardly a careful stewarding of taxpayer dollars.  Hermosa Beach is a small community of only 19,000 residents (give or take).  There’s not a whole lot of wiggle room for more taxes if something else were to happen – like, if there were a big natural disaster and they needed to repair or replace a lot of local infrastructure, or if sometime in the next 30 years, the sewage system needed expensive maintenance.  It’s shortsighted to spend such a huge proportion of Hermosa’s available tax money on something simply because people like the idea of having a brand new school.

The residents in opposition have many other arguments besides waste, such as:

  • The school district manipulated the ballot measure and used public funds to lobby for and ensure passage of the bond;
  • The bond language was highly misleading and did not alert voters to why the money was allegedly needed – to demolish North School;
  • Demographic studies show that Hermosa’s student population will decline for the foreseeable future, rendering a giant new school excessive;
  • The environmental impact on the sensitive coastal region of heavy construction and trucks rolling in and out will be unmitigable;
  • The traffic impact of 500 drop-offs and pickups twice a day on the small neighborhood will be incredibly disruptive to the residents;
  • The extremely small size of the streets in the area will create risks to children when drivers break traffic laws in frustration to try to get around the lines; and
  • Numerous reasonable alternatives were never meaningfully explored nor accurately presented to the voters before seizing on the demolition of North School as the “best” option and presenting a uniform message that voters had no other options.

The District recently released a draft Environmental Impact Report.  The City of Hermosa Beach – a different entity – issued a blistering 13-page critique of the methods and analysis in the District’s draft EIR, and requested that the District essentially re-do a lot of its initial studies to be more rigorous and address obvious problems.

Check out the photos below.  I see a school that needs a bit of spit and polish – not a tear-down.

Stay tuned for more on this case.

Front of a building with two windows and lettering reading "North School".
Historic North School, in danger of demolition.

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