Finding a location

Finding a Location for a New School in North Hollywood

One of the first new elementary schools proposed in LAUSD’s expansion program in the early 2000s was dubbed “North Hollywood New Elementary School #3,” later to be christened the Maurice Sendak Elementary School. Initially, the official LAUSD site selection committee chose a block occupied by single-family homes.

Proposed Site 1 for Noth Hollywood New Elementary School #3

Courtesy of Google[1]

Some of the residents had lived there for close to 50 years.  At initial LAUSD hearings residents pointed to the long tenure of their residence on the block: ''You're talking about single-family homes with residents who've been there since Pearl Harbor,'' said Marilyn Carney. [2]

Residents living within the boundaries of the initially-proposed site successfully convinced site selection committee members and LAUSD staff to select an alternative site which contained an abandoned police station. As part of this alternative proposal the police station would be converted to a community center and be integrated into the larger development which would include the school and a playground which would be available to the whole community outside of school hours.

As often happens in such government deliberations, the community initially targeted by a government plan has time to successfully organize opposition to the plan. However, when that plan is stopped, the plan for an alternative often moves much more quickly giving the newly-affected neighborhood less time to organize opposition. In fact, because most of the individuals living on the alternative site were renters, they were slow to even receive notice that their neighborhood was targeted. [3] Community leaders felt that the switch in sites was not accidental. Larry Gross, Executive Director of the Coalition for Economic Survival observed that after receiving resistance on the first site, LAUSD began to “look where people did not have as much clout,” specifically looking for a block populated by low-income Latino families.

In what was described by the Daily News of Los Angeles as “the [San Fernando] Valley’s first major residential relocation in decades,” the LAUSD razed eight single-family residences and nine apartment buildings containing 123 units to make way for the new elementary school.[4]

Area of Sendak school after development

The news report explained that “[t]raditionally, the school board has avoided the political upheaval of taking residential property but contamination-free land close to soaring student populations is in such short supply that officials say they have little choice.” Speaking to the taking of land through eminent domain, LAUSD Superintendent Roy Romer stated “You avoid displacing people whenever you can… But when you get down to the issue of ‘You've gotta serve the children of the neighborhood,’ then that's a higher good than displacement and you do it where it's least inconvenient.”[5]

© Richard Wasserman, 2012

[1] The area of the first proposed site was bordered by Calvert Street, Beck Avenue, and Bessemer Street.

[2] David Baker, “Valley Residents Lobby Over School Expansion” The Daily News of Los Angeles. August 20, 1999.

[3] Harrison Sheppard, “LAUSD to Take Homes; Valley Residents Must Move to Make Room for New School” The Daily News of Los Angeles. December 24, 2000. Accessed February 24, 2016. 

[4] Sheppard. The San Fernando Valley is an urbanized area within Los Angeles County, two-thirds of which is in the City of Los Angeles.

[5] Sheppard.