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Residents protest Head Start center

Neighbors in Rancho area are worried site for low-income kids would create unsafe traffic.

September 16, 2010|By Bill Kisliuk, bill.kisliuk@latimes.com

Traffic and safety concerns have prompted residents of Glendale's Rancho neighborhood to protest a proposed day-care and child development center just off Victory Boulevard.

The Planning Commission heard two hours of testimony Wednesday about the Head Start center, which would accommodate 200 low-income toddlers and children. Residents said the facility lacks adequate parking, would cause traffic problems and risks to children and clash with the horse-friendly environment of the neighborhood on the edge of Griffith Park.

Resident Susan Molik said Allen Avenue is already busy. With parents slowing down and looking for parking, she said conditions would only worsen.

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"I don't want to see anyone, especially a young child, get hit or killed on our street," she said.

The commission was scheduled to vote this week on whether to require a full Environmental Impact Report on the project. But the vote was delayed for technical reasons. Another hearing on the matter is slated for 5 p.m. Sept. 29 in City Council Chambers.

The Pasadena-based Center for Community and Family Services plans to close a Head Start center on Riverdale Drive and wants to move to an unoccupied former architectural office at 312 Allen Ave., just off Victory Boulevard. Representatives for the organization testified Wednesday that the center, which would serve only Glendale residents, is much needed.

"We are nonprofit, we are here for the families, and that will be a wonderful home for our babies and our preschoolers," site director Azo Deukmejian said. "We are not here to cause anybody any inconvenience."

Kevin Smith, a representative for the center, told the Planning Commission that the agency looked at sites elsewhere in Glendale, including on Grandview Avenue and Central Avenue.

"But what we really needed was a location that would allow us to provide services to families that could access us," he said.

The Allen Avenue location has only 32 parking spots, eight fewer than zoning laws require. The Center for Community and Family Services proposed creating six child drop-off and pick-up spots in an alley behind the center, as well as five short-stem spots and a bus loading zone on Victory Boulevard. They plan to bring as many as 112 children to the campus each day via bus.

Some neighbors said those proposals aren't enough.

"I can't believe you people believe there won't be parking problems when you've got six drop-off points in the alley and 60 parents dropping kids off," Allen Avenue resident Russ Bartholomew said.

Neighbors also complained that they hadn't been adequately notified about the project.

The Planning Commission asked city officials to look into the traffic impacts on the alley and some of the other issues raised by residents before the next meeting.

"I don't think any of us up here question Head Start," said commission Chairman Bill Kane. "The reputation is unparalleled. What I look at is the specifics of where you are going, and its impact to the neighborhood, and for that matter the impact of the people you are trying to serve."

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