City Hearing Officer Paul Novak on Wednesday decided to postpone his decision on the proposed modifications to the Conditional Use Permit for Pacific Oaks Children’s School at 714 West California Blvd. to give the campus more time to address concerns of the community regarding noise, lighting and parking problems, among others issues.
Over 25 people spoke at the public hearing. Some expressed support for the Children’s School while some expressed opposition.
“The quaint little preschool I had known as a neighbor for years and years had changed and not for the better,” said Bob Gutzman, a resident who lives near the school. “The increased student density of POCS [Pacific Oaks Children’s School] causes both increased noise and increased parking problems in our residential neighborhood.”
“We support the mission of the school and the presence of the school as part of our neighborhood but the scope of Pacific Oaks population and usage is out of balance for residential neighborhoods when their neighbors cannot expect a reasonable amount of peace and quiet inside their own homes,” resident Erin Barrow said.
Many supporters echoed the remarks of the school’s executive director Judy Krause, who wrote this week in Pasadena Now that “for nearly 80 years, Pacific Oaks Children’s School has been committed to the core values of equality, simplicity, non-violence, and community. Pacific Oaks is proud to honor the commitment of the seven Quaker families who opened the Children’s School and to remain a pillar in the Pasadena community.”
After hearing several concerns of the members of the community at the hearing, Novak said the school “needs to be a good neighbor to residents” and the residents should be good neighbors to the school.
“Several people have complained that the school is not a good neighbor and I am sensitive to their concerns and empathetic with their concerns,” Novak said. “There is a counterpoint to that, which is that the neighbors need to be good neighbors to the school. It’s not clear to me why everybody is not trying to be a good neighbor.”
“You are all in the same community. Fighting amongst your neighbors is not helping anyone,” he added.
Novak decided to continue the hearing to a date uncertain in order for the school and staff to submit more information related to the public’s concerns.
“One of the things I am troubled by is the lack of data,” said Novak. “I don’t have an acoustical study, I don’t have a lighting study nor am I an acoustical engineer.”
“I encourage the school to do the lighting and the acoustical study sooner rather than later and this revolves around the fact that there are a lot of claims and counterclaims about noise, and I have no objective information in front of me,” Novak added.
Pacific Oaks Children’s School began operating in 1945. The original nursery school use at the site was established prior to the requirement of a Conditional Use Permit.
Over the years, POCS has received multiple entitlements for expansion of the use and new structures and expanded operations at the site. The entitlements allowed a maximum enrollment of 233 children and a requirement of 38 on-site parking spaces.
However, the existing entitlements do not specify operations of the child day-care beyond the enrollment and location of facilities, and do not feature discussion of weekday evening or weekend events.
According to city documents, the purpose of the modification to the existing CUP “to memorialize the current operations of POCS, review the concerns of neighboring residents, and apply modified and new conditions appropriate for the child day-care use.”
Over the years, aside from noise and parking issues, members of the community also raised their concerns regarding the school’s outdoor play area location, operating hours, evening events, weekend events, outdoor lighting and lack of communication with the neighborhood, among others issues.