Taking a position on a project like River Park is an important step that should be guided by facts. Unfortunately, fact is all too easily lost in rumor and speculation. Below are some of the areas in which the perception has strayed from fact, and our effort to set the record straight.
FICTION: The River Park plan calls for removal of most or all of the existing trees on the property.
FACT: When the River Park project is completed, there will be 150+ MORE trees onsite than there are today. Most of the existing trees on the perimeter of the site will remain in order to preserve the look and feel of the property. And the environmentally appropriate trees that Harvard-Westlake plants will increase the biodiversity of the site, offer greater shade canopy, consume less water, and sequester carbon more efficiently.
FICTION: The new River Park is not compatible with a residential community.
FACT: The River Park project is designed to minimize noise, traffic, and light impacts on the surrounding residential community. From the siting of the athletic fields on the property and the location of the parking garage driveways, to maintaining the look and feel of the current perimeter landscaping, all elements of the project are designed to make this park-like setting compatible with its neighbors.
FICTION: The HW River Park will be used as a venue for the Olympics or other large-scale events.
FACT: The River Park will not be used as a venue for competition during the 2028 Summer Olympics. Harvard-Westlake River Park is intended to be a shared space for the enjoyment of the Studio City community and Harvard-Westlake School. The athletic fields and pool are designed to meet the competitive requirements of high school athletics.
FICTION: The athletic field lights will flood the neighborhood with light all night.
FACT: In reality, the lighting at River Park will be a significant improvement over the current conditions. Harvard-Westlake has publicly committed that field lights will be off every night by 8 p.m. at the latest. By contrast, the driving range lights currently stay on until 11 p.m. nightly. In addition, the new lights will be state-of the-art, highly efficient LED lighting, as opposed to the current halogen lights that cause substantial light pollution.
FICTION: The HW River Park will destroy open space and wildlife habitat.
FACT: The property is currently used as a golf course, driving range, and tennis courts, and much of the foliage on site is non-native, invasive species which provides marginal wildlife habitat and foraging opportunities. By planting more appropriate trees and increasing the biodiversity of the site, the River Park will actually provide more habitat than currently exists for migratory birds and other wildlife.
FICTION: HW River Park will create overflow street parking in our residential neighborhood.
FACT: With 532 onsite underground parking spaces, the project will exceed all code requirements to handle any and all anticipated visitors to the site, even at peak usage. The school’s security teams will ensure that visitors to the River Park do not leave their vehicles on neighboring streets. Shuttle buses will also be available to transport HW students to the River Park as part of a comprehensive traffic management plan.
FICTION: A sports complex at Weddington will disrupt the quiet enjoyment of our neighborhood.
FACT: Harvard-Westlake School will work closely with neighborhood groups to establish rules and restrictions on facility use to ensure no adverse neighborhood impacts. These rules and restrictions will include the hours of operation and access to the property by local residents.
FICTION: Despite River Park’s commitment to a state-of-the-art stormwater capture system, our local streets will continue to experience flooding.
FACT:The project includes a state-of-the-art drainage system that absorbs, cleans, and re-uses stormwater run-off on-site. In addition, the system will capture water run-off from the residential neighborhood to the north of the River Park Campus. The first-ever privately-funded system in Los Angeles to treat run-off at this scale, the system will address a significant flooding problem at the Whitsett/Valley Spring intersection. Upon completion, the River Park Campus storage tanks will hold up to one million gallons of water that would otherwise be diverted into the storm drain system and be completely wasted.
FICTION: The River Park project is only intended to benefit the HW community.
FACT: The River Park will be a shared space for enjoyment by both Harvard-Westlake School and the Studio City community. Most of the facility will be available to the public when not in use by the school, and the six-acre park will be open to the public every day of the year from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m.
FICTION: The HW River Park reduces public recreational amenities at Weddington.
FACT: When the River Park project is completed, the recreational offerings for area residents will be greatly increased over current conditions (where only golf and tennis are available). Beyond the walking path that will be accessible to all throughout the year, the athletic fields, gymnasium, and swimming pool will be available daily for community use when not otherwise used by Harvard-Westlake students. The same holds true for the eight tennis courts that will be rebuilt and made available for continued enjoyment by the public. In addition, the putting green will remain at the corner of Whitsett and Valley Spring and will be available for community use.
FICTION: The Weddington property is historic and cannot be redeveloped.
FACT: The City of Los Angeles has NOT granted the property historic designation. After more than a year of community meetings, one of the significant revisions made to the design of the property was to incorporate the existing clubhouse and putting green into the site plans. The revitalized clubhouse will function as a visitor center, celebrating the history of the property and facilitating the public’s use of the many onsite recreational facilities while continuing to serve as a cherished gathering spot for the community.
FICTION: City approval of the River Park project is being fast-tracked without sufficient community input.
FACT: Harvard-Westlake purchased the Weddington property over three years ago and has engaged in extensive conversation with numerous community groups and has hosted numerous community meetings about the River Park project. Substantial modifications were made to the draft site plan based on community feedback received during these conversations. Currently, a full Environmental Impact Report is being prepared by the City of Los Angeles and when completed it will be widely disseminated for public review and comment. Only after this study has been finalized and all public comments addressed will the public hearing process commence. HW has committed to maintain extensive community engagement throughout this timeframe.