L.A. City Council backs Harvard-Westlake athletic campus in Studio City

The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday approved plans for a private school's athletic complex in Studio City over the objections of neighbors worried about noise and traffic from the project.

The council voted 15 to 0 to allow Harvard-Westlake School's planned campus to go forward, rejecting an appeal filed this year by opponents. The sports complex will replace the Weddington Golf & Tennis club, which was sold in 2017 to the school.

Two playing fields, a two-story gymnasium, a swimming pool, an underground parking lot and eight tennis courts are planned for the site near the L.A. River. The athletic facilities will serve the school's two campuses, in Studio City and Holmby Hills, with shuttles bringing in the students.

More than five acres of open space will be available to the public, school representatives said.

Many people spoke at the council meeting in favor of Harvard-Westlake's plans, with some residents warning that condominiums could rise instead on the riverside site. Others touted the planned open space.

"Neighbors who live in nearby apartments who don't have backyards will have a place to play," said Susan Welsh, a Benedict Canyon resident and the mother of two Harvard-Westlake students.

Read more: Harvard-Westlake's plan for an athletic facility in Studio City draws heated opposition

Terry Barnum, head of athletics at Harvard-Westlake, described the council vote as a win for Studio City.

"We have been a good neighbor for decades, and we will continue to be so," Barnum said.

Teri Austin, a Studio City resident, said opponents plan to sue the city over the project.

The City Planning Commission approved a conditional use permit in August for the athletic campus, prompting opponents to file an appeal.

Opponents also last month filed a complaint with the city's Ethics Commission, alleging that two of the planning commissioners should have recused themselves from the vote because they attended Harvard-Westlake. Both commissioners have also donated to the school, with one commissioner giving $500,000 over more than a decade, according to the complaint.

Both commissioners told The Times that they consulted with the city attorney before the vote.

Councilmember Nithya Raman, who represents the district, told her colleagues at Tuesday's meeting that her office fought for various protections for the neighborhood, including a ban on any events related to the 2028 Olympics at the site.

"My office is committed completely to making sure that the school follows through on being a responsible and responsive owner and developer," Raman said.

Sign up for Essential California for news, features and recommendations from the L.A. Times and beyond in your inbox six days a week.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.