From its campus off Lincoln Boulevard in Westchester, the Otis College of Art and Design looks out onto its neighbor, Los Angeles International Airport.
Officials at the college say they have been pleased with the educational institution’s location within the Westchester community and as time goes by, they hope to maintain that presence.
But with time also comes the potential for growth and the need for additional space.
“Certainly Otis has been very happy at Westchester and it’s growing. A byproduct of that growth is that we need space,” Otis College President Samuel Hoi said.
“We have prospered in Westchester and have enjoyed the Westchester community. We want to find the appropriate space to be able to stay in Westchester and to grow.”
Hoi cautioned that the Otis College of Art and Design is not looking to expand dramatically beyond its current population of about 1,200 students but hopes to consolidate certain programs, such as in the graduate department.
A vacant piece of LAX property has piqued the interest of Otis College as a potential future acquisition for the campus and its consolidation plans. The eight-acre property, near La Tijera and Loyola boulevards, is located west of the current campus and has drawn the attention of college officials due to its proximity to Otis, Hoi noted.
“Since it’s right next door we would love it and it would be ideal for us,” he said.
The college president explained that the land acquisition consideration is just in the preliminary stages and Otis officials have been discussing the plans with airport officials. Otis representatives have also presented the proposal to the Neighborhood Council of Westchester-Playa to try to get community support for the effort.
While the airport has been in discussions with Otis regarding the vacant lot, airport spokesman Mike Molina said there is a detailed process involved before a parcel could be deemed surplus property by Los Angeles World Airports. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and City of Los Angeles would need to review the proposal before an airport property could be considered a surplus, he said.
If a parcel such as the vacant eight-acre lot is identified as surplus and the airport begins to seek buyers, Otis College could then submit a bid, he said. The airport is considering a variety of uses for its northside property and if a portion is later sold, officials would likely support the possibility of Otis acquiring the land for campus use, Molina said.
“The airport is interested in various uses of its northside property adjacent to Westchester,” he said. “We’ve already begun the community process to determine possible uses and should the community support an educational opportunity as a suitable use, I think it’s something we as an airport would certainly support.”
Some Westchester-Playa Neighborhood Council members have expressed interest in the potential for Otis to make use of the airport property as part of its goal to remain in the community.
“I’m very enthusiastic about it,” said Denny Schneider, who also serves as president of the Alliance for a Regional Solution to Airport Congestion (ARSAC).
Schneider said residents have proposed acquiring property on the airport’s northside for community use for a long time and he is encouraged that airport officials are reaching out to the community. Residents have valued the various contributions of Otis to the community, such as supporting the plan for a business improvement district (BID) along Lincoln Boulevard, between Otis and Loyola Marymount University, Schneider said.
“They’ve been very good community citizens,” he said of Otis.
Neighborhood Council Land Use and Planning Committee chair Steve Donnell also spoke of Otis’ support in Westchester and said council members would like to see the college remain a member of the community.
“Otis is a great member of the community and partner,” Donnell said. “Otis has really continued to increase its efforts to be community minded and to be involved. To the extent that this process will keep Otis in Westchester and allow them to consolidate, I think we will welcome them with open arms.”