November 24, 2020 Your Source for Brentwood News

Brentwood Beat: Tight Traffic Standards For All Brentwood Schools, Not Just Archer

Brentwood Beat columnist Jeff Hall.
Brentwood Beat columnist Jeff Hall.

Brentwood School is close to releasing a DEIR (draft environmental impact report) discussing its plans to expand its East Campus so as to accommodate another 265 students, to be phased in over four years.

The East Campus, near Brentwood Village and close to the 405, at the north end of the VA property, is where middle (7-8) and upper school (9-12) students attend.

Brentwood School’s West Campus, at Sunset Boulevard and Saltair Avenue, currently accommodates K-6 students.

While new facilities are being proposed for both campuses, it is the East Campus (Middle and Upper) where the proposed increase in enrollment will take place.

According to the Brentwood School’s website, there are currently 230 Middle School students and 465 Upper School students at the East Campus. That’s a total of 695 students.

If an additional 265 students are added, that makes for a total of 960 students, an increase of 38 percent over current enrollment.

It is difficult to ascertain (as yet) what percentage of these students will arrive by bus, carpool, bicycle, skateboard or foot. From the point of view of a casual observer, it appears plenty of cars go in and out of the campus daily and that number will likely go up if Brentwood School’s plans are approved.

But immediate neighbors to the school don’t seem to mind much; there is a history of the Brentwood School and neighboring homeowner associations working closely together with an eye toward keeping traffic and noise impacts to a minimum.

Brentwood School is an outstanding school, something we should all be proud to have in the neighborhood. If there is a need to accommodate more students, that’s kind of the way of the world, is it not? As population continues to increase, we need more schools, wider roads, more offices, more restaurants – more everything, really.

But I’m still not sure I get why people came down so hard on Archer School when it said it wanted to upgrade its facility without ANY increase in student count. If traffic is the issue that makes everyone crazy, aren’t 265 additional students at Brentwood School far more impactful than zero new students at Archer? The two schools are within blocks of each other, all the same intersections will be impacted.

Of course, Brentwood School’s car trips can be mitigated via busing and carpooling. Archer, everyone agrees, has a very stringent busing policy, with more than 70 percent of its students bused daily.  If Brentwood School volunteered to agree to a similar standard, it’s possible car trips in and out of the school could actually go down, even with an enrollment increase.

I don’t have a firm fix on the numbers, I hope to soon.  I’ve been asking for this data for a while, but Brentwood School wanted to complete its DEIR first. As we headed to press, Brentwood School has informed me that more information will be forthcoming soon. By next issue I should know more.

I am not anti-Brentwood School, not at all. Brentwood News has been lucky to sponsor some amazing student interns who go to Brentwood School. These are absolutely terrific kids. But it does feel like Brentwood School gets something of a pass compared to the way people view Archer School, and it has never really been clear to me why this is the case.

I’ve asked around and there are two answers I have heard: 1) Brentwood School opened long ago when people didn’t worry so much about traffic, so, in a way, the school has been “grandfathered” in; and 2) as part of its private covenant with Brentwood School, the president of the Brentwood Homeowners Association (BHA) is prohibited from publicly challenging Brentwood School and its plans. That arrangement seems a little odd to this observer, but maybe there’s a good reason for this.

And maybe there’s nothing in need of challenging, I don’t know. But I think, as a starting place, it would be helpful to know how many car trips go in and out of Brentwood School each day – and what number of students come in via bus or carpool – and what the plans are for the future. Then we can at least deal with a full set of facts as we attempt to glean what, if any, added traffic impacts there will be.

Mike Bonin has said many times he thinks Brentwood School and other schools in the area should adhere to Archer-like traffic management standards. If we really care about traffic, this is good policy. And fair’s fair.  On Brentwood School’s website, one can read that Brentwood School inspires every student to think creatively, act ethically and shape a future with meaning.  Coming up with a very assertive traffic management program is consistent with all that. It’s a time to act creatively, ethically and with a goal of improving our collective future.

I hope to have some better numbers so I can discuss this more intelligently
next issue. In the meantime, if anyone has any thoughts on this matter, please send me an email:  [email protected]

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