Loyola Marymount University (LMU) is planning a facelift for its 99-year-old campus, and the university’s administration has invited the Westchester community to take part in the initial planning process that will examine what the renovations will look like.
The draft environmental impact report (EIR) for LMU’s master plan was released to the public January 14th. The environmental review will analyze the potential impacts of the project and identify mitigation where appropriate, according to Los Angeles planning officials.
“The master plan is a crucial element guaranteeing that Loyola Marymount University remains a leading educational institution and a valued resource in our region,” said Father Robert Lawton, president of LMU. “This is an exciting time for the university, and we look forward to working with the city and its citizens to ensure that this vision is realized.”
The environmental document outlines the university’s vision for the educational, residential and recreational needs of the campus for the next 20 years, according to LMU representatives. The proposal includes upgrading, renovating and replacing a substantial portion of the existing academic/administrative, residential and athletic facilities at the school’s Westchester campus to meet the changing educational needs of students and faculty.
University officials insist that the master plan, which was announced in March 2008, does not recommend expanding beyond the existing boundaries of the campus or the current student enrollment cap imposed by the city government.
Some residents in the adjacent neighborhoods say they are concerned that LMU officials would in fact seek to go beyond its current borders, citing past events when the student population increased and the campus grew.
That cannot happen in this new renovation, said Kathleen Flanagan, LMU’s vice president of communication and government relations.
“We are not looking to increase the number of students on campus,” Flanagan confirmed in an interview last year after the renovation was announced. “We are capped at 7,800 from our last master plan several years ago.
“In addition, we will not be expanding the boundaries of our property.”
City Councilman Bill Rosendahl said he is very sympathetic to the concerns of his constituents in Westchester and its surrounding neighborhoods and said that prior to giving his approval to the master plan, several community meetings will be held.
“I truly believe the process has to be open, fair and transparent,” the councilman said.
“Sparky” Miller lives a few blocks from the campus entrance on Loyola Boulevard and while he is not against remodeling the university’s academic and residential facilities, he is wary of an expansion beyond its borders.
“If you’re doing a campus upgrade, that’s fine,” said Miller, who lives on Nardian Way. “But if you’re talking about making (the university) bigger, then that’s different.”
The proposed master plan aims to modernize the campus for the 21st century by renovating facilities and improving campus operations. Specifically, it outlines the university’s efforts to:
Allow more undergraduate students to live on-campus, thereby enhancing their educational experience at LMU and reducing the number of students who need to live in the surrounding community and commute to campus;
Provide state-of-the-art academic, research, recreational, and housing facilities to meet the evolving educational needs of students and faculty;
Improve pedestrian connections within campus and achieve greater integration of academic, administrative, athletic, and residential facilities; and
Replace aging campus facilities with sustainable buildings that reduce consumption of water, electricity, natural gas and energy, while incorporating green building and landscaping practices.
The university’s proposed modernization plan has engendered a passionate response from some Westchester homeowners. Some nearby who oppose the master plan were also engaged in a long, drawn out battle over the location of LMU’s recycling center and the LEED-certified William O. Hannon Library, which opened last summer.
Based on past experiences that he and some of his neighbors have had with the university’s recycling center and reduced parking on their streets, Doug Salkin is not convinced that LMU officials will keep their word regarding their intentions with the master plan.
“I don’t believe much of what they say right now,” said Salkin at an open house that the university hosted after its plans for the master plan where announced. “I’m very doubtful of everything that I read when they say that they won’t do something.”
Nina Sullivan, a longtime Westchester resident, feels that having more dormitories on campus could help alleviate the number of students renting homes in nearby neighborhoods.
“That would be nice,” she said. “There has been a housing problem among students for a while.”
The recycling center will be relocated to the Drollinger parking structure and will be analyzed in the EIR.
“If approved by the city, LMU will relocate the recycling and waste management operations as one of the first two master plan projects,” Flanagan said.
The draft EIR will circulate for public comment for a period of 45 days until March, but Rosendahl has asked the city’s Planning Department to extend the deadline an additional 15 days to allow interested parties to study the extensive environmental document.
“This is just the first step,” Rosendahl said. “It’s a 20-year development plan, and we’re in the beginning stages.”
Anyone interested in the master plan may provide verbal or written input during the comment period.
Rosendahl stressed that despite the apprehension that exists among some of his constituents, everyone will get an opportunity to weigh in on the master plan.
“Every bit of this project will be fully vetted by community groups,” the councilman said.
Copies of the DEIR will be available at the city Planning Department, Room 750, City Hall, 200 N. Spring St. in downtown Los Angeles.
Hard copies are available at the following locations:
The William H. Hannon Library, Loyola Marymount University, 1 LMU Drive; the Westchester/Loyola Village Library: 7114 W. Manchester Ave., the Playa Vista Branch Library: 6400 Playa Vista Drive, the Mar Vista Library: 12006 Venice Blvd. and the Julian Dixon Library in Culver City, 4975 Overland Ave.
The Planning Commission is expected to consider the master plan later this year. The document will require the approval of the City Council before any plans are finalized.