Loyola Marymount University (LMU) is planning to embark on a 20-year master plan that will evaluate and upgrade virtually all portions of the school’s infrastructure and transform and influence activities on campus.
University officials have taken the first steps toward a long-range planning and environmental undertaking that will incorporate the anticipated physical changes that the private institution will undergo over the next several years and create a blueprint for educational, residential and recreational uses for the next two decades.
In a letter dated March 17th to homeowners, business organizations and neighborhood associations in close proximity to the school, LMU president Robert Lawton invited all interested parties to participate in the environmental process as the university begins its upgrade.
“We would like for you to be a part of this process, helping us to remain a local and regional resource while continuing our vision as one of the premier universities on the West Coast,” the university president wrote. “Our plan is to upgrade educational buildings, provide additional and improved on-campus housing opportunities for undergraduate students, improve on-campus recreational facilities and enhance the campus’s landscape and pedestrian features.”
Kathleen Flanagan, LMU’s vice president of communications and government relations, believes that there are two important features of the university’s modernization that will assuage any anxiety that some residents might have when they become aware of the master plan.
“We are not looking to increase the number of students on campus,” Flanagan said. “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.”
LMU officials plan to file documents with various city agencies in Los Angeles soon to begin the environmental review process.
Bringing its academic facilities up to the demands of the 21st century and improving the sustainability of the campus through increased use of water and energy-efficient building systems and drought-tolerant landscape are additional goals of LMU’s master plan.
An environmental impact report (EIR) will be submitted to Los Angeles officials, which will detail what the university is planning to examine and how its infrastructure and the surrounding Westchester neighborhoods will be impacted.
“The university is working to prepare a comprehensive EIR for its master plan,” George Mihlsten, a land use attorney with the law firm Latham & Watkins, who will be assisting LMU in the environmental process, told The Argonaut. “The EIR will look at all of the traditional issues associated with land use, such as air quality, noise and traffic,” Mihlsten said.
The university’s highly regarded waste recycling operation will also be addressed, said Mihlsten. “All of the university’s facilities will be looked at,” he confirmed.
Several homeowners from nearby McConnell Avenue have accused LMU of violating municipal building codes by expanding its recycling waste center within 12 feet of some of their property lines, and have demanded that the university move the recycling center.
LMU officials have offered to build a sound wall to buffer the noise from the recycling machines, as well as other mitigations, but both sides remain at an impasse.
Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, whose district includes Westchester, praised LMU’s decision to upgrade its facilities and requested that they conduct extensive public outreach for the environmental process.
“I am grateful that LMU has chosen to engage in a master plan process,” said the councilman. “A comprehensive, holistic approach to development of the campus is better for the community.
“Like any major development proposal, it will need thorough vetting from people in the surrounding communities.”
Jerry and Nina Sullivan of the nearby Loyola Village neighborhood received Lawton’s letter regarding LMU’s master plan. The couple — in Westchester since 1971 — would like to see some of the things that they and their neighbors have complained about for many years addressed during the many public hearings that will be conducted.
The Sullivans say students from the university have littered their block with refuse after late night parties for years, and have taken parking spaces along adjacent neighborhoods which prevent guests of many of the residents from finding convenient parking. They say that their complaints have largely fallen on deaf ears.
“LMU doesn’t take responsibility for the actions of its students,” said Nina Sullivan. “They have not been very responsive to our concerns.”
“Things have changed so much since we’ve been here,” added Jerry Sullivan, a retired Los Angeles fire captain who attended the university in the 1950s. “Loyola seems to have no regard for anything outside their boundaries.”
Lawton sought to assure residents of Playa del Rey and Westchester in his letter that they would have an opportunity to voice their fears and concerns about the potential impacts on the residential neighborhoods that surround the school.
“We are proud to be your neighbors and part of the Westchester community, and we look forward to working with you on our plan for modernization,” Lawton wrote.
Mihlsten said that the purpose of the master plan is “to create a long-term plan to get a sense of what the campus will look like over the next 20 years.”
Ross Williams, another Loyola Village homeowner, is skeptical of the university’s claim that there will be no expansion or increase in student population.
“This is the same story that they gave us when they said that they would limit student enrollment to 6,200 several years ago,” said Williams, a 20-year Westchester homeowner. “In my opinion, Loyola is no better a neighbor than many of the developers [in the area].”
Gina Koshack, who lives on the Westchester Bluffs, was very involved when the university developed the Leavey Campus, one of the more recent improvements at the university.
“At that time, what they were doing was almost cutting-edge,” said Koshack, a landscape architect who feels that for the most part, “LMU tries to be a good neighbor.”
Rosendahl has pledged to make sure that the public comment period is transparent and that his constituents’ concerns will be addressed.
“As with any development proposal, I have concerns about the impacts on the surrounding community.
“I will ask tough questions and demand real answers about traffic, noise, security, and the effect on the environment,” the councilman promised. “The outreach must be an opportunity for LMU not just to sell its proposal, but to shape it.”
He added, “If done properly, this master plan process can resolve old problems, allay new concerns, and shape a new, positive relationship between the community and the university.”
LMU’s master plan must be approved by the Los Angeles City Council before it is implemented. The entire process, according to Lawton, will take approximately two years.