Open Letter to Mike Bonin From Brentwood Homeowners Association Regarding Mount Saint Mary’s University ‘Wellness Pavilion’

Submitted by the Brentwood Homeowners Association 

Dear Mike Bonin, 

In view of the urgent need for you to provide input to the PLUM committee of City Council prior to its hearing scheduled for April 5, we call on you to adhere to your prior statements regarding the need to protect the Brentwood community from more traffic and wildfire risks to lives and property in our high fire severity zone. We are not opposed to a new gym that is limited to use by MSMU students. But the unusual location of the school requires the conditions and restrictions described below, none of which would diminish the education of the MSMU students. 

1. Enrollment 
The City Planning Commission Decision obfuscates the issue of an increase in student enrollment by stating that the Project does not include a request to increase enrollment. However, unless the City requires enrollment to be limited to current numbers, MSMU claims that it would be able to increase enrollment by approximately 40%. At our BHA annual meeting last year, you discussed the need for limits on MSMU enrollment and traffic. We are counting on you adhering to your statement: “their enrollment is 1500 and that’s where it’s going to stay.” The only way to make this happen is to include that 1500 cap as a Condition in the Plan Approval. We know of no school or university in the City existing in a residential zone by reason of a Conditional Use Permit that does not have an enrollment cap. 

2. Trip Cap 
At that BHA meeting last year, you recognized that fewer trips generated by MSMU were necessary to reduce the impact on the community, particularly in a Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone. Again, we are counting on you requiring an actual reduction of trips –not a reduction from MSMU’s original negotiating numbers or an outdated number from 2016 merely because that is when the environmental review process started. 

In a meeting in your Office, as part of an agreement with BHA, MSMU was willing to cap am-pm peak hour vehicle trips at 490 and cap daily average vehicle trips at 1,813. Since those were already the actual numbers in 2018, any higher number would actually be an increase in trips. And that is why BHA believes the daily average trip cap should be 1,600, which is only an 11% reduction, but in no event greater than a daily average trip cap of 1813. 

3. Construction Time
In 2015, in connection with Archer School for Girls, you said: “In order to ensure that 3 years of construction, in fact, means 3 years, I request the following: Construction of the entire project authorized by this grant shall not exceed a maximum of 3 years as measured from the date construction starts to the date construction stops.” MSMU says that its Project will take 20 months – the Plan Approval should include a Condition that construction of the entire Project shall not exceed 20 months. 

4. Summer Camp
MSMU (and you) states that its request is solely for a new gym for MSMU students. There is no justification, apart from an unlawful desire to commercialize the campus, to allow, in addition to a new gym for MSMU students, a new 12-week summer camp program that has no connection whatsoever with the school’s students or curriculum, and would be permitted to generate 236 vehicle trips per day. The proposed summer camp program or any other new programming in the summer months should be removed from the Plan Approval. 

5. Outside Guests
The purpose of the MSMU Project is a new gym for its students. There is no justification for any new special event that could be attended by outside visitors. Adding such events and the associated vehicle trips unduly burdens the surrounding residential neighbors with more traffic and increases the fire/evacuation safety risks in a Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone. The creative names for these events (“Health and Wellness Speaker Series”, “Club Sports”, “Other Wellness/Sports Activities”) does not change the fact that they have the potential to be attended only by outside guests who would be permitted to generate 310 outside guest vehicle trips per day. 

In 2015, you described Archer School as a great school that provides a transformative experience for many young women. But you added that “its stellar reputation does not erase the considerations created by the complicated location of its campus.” Archer School sits on Sunset Blvd, which you described as “one of the worst traffic choke points in the City.” All MSMU traffic starts and exits the hillsides on the same stretch of Sunset Blvd. But MSMU’s location is much more “complicated” by its location with only one means of ingress and egress over 2 miles north of Sunset Blvd. on winding narrow roads through a residential neighborhood in a Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zone. All new outside events that could generate vehicle trips by persons who are not students, faculty and staff of MSMU should be removed from the Plan Approval. 

We are counting on you to do the right thing and protect your constituents, which can be done without diminishing the ability of MSMU’s deserving students to enjoy new athletic facilities.

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