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Einstein Academy denied needed permit

City’s planning commission notes potential traffic and safety impacts

Posted: March 5, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: March 5, 2014 2:00 a.m.

Plans for the Albert Einstein Academy for Letters Arts and Sciences to open an elementary school at a property on Rye Canyon Road hit a roadblock Tuesday when members of the Santa Clarita Planning Commission voted to deny an application for a necessary permit.

In front of a crowd of people decked out in gear bearing the school’s insignia, the commission voted to deny issuing a conditional use permit for the school, which Einstein officials had proposed to open at 25300 Rye Canyon Road.

“I would love to see a way to solve these issues so that we can move toward possible approval of this project, but there are some pretty significant issues,” said Planning Commissioner Charles Heffernan.

The commission’s denial largely hinged on the potential traffic flow and safety impacts the school would create in the area, with city staff saying proposed ways parents and staff would turn in and out of the school site could present a safety hazard or negatively impact traffic on surrounding roads, namely Avenue Scott and Rye Canyon Road.

“I’m not going to say, ‘The traffic people tell me this is unsafe and I’m going to go ahead and make a decision to override that,’” said Planning Commissioner Tim Burkhart. “I’m just not going to do that.”

Since the Rye Canyon Road property is not currently zoned to allow operation of a school, Einstein had to petition the city for a conditional use permit to operate at that site.

The conditional use permit would have allowed Einstein to open a school for up to 650 students in kindergarten through sixth grade with an additional 37 teachers and employees, according to city documents.

Supporters of the school turned out in force for Tuesday night’s meeting, packing the meeting chamber at City Hall and spilling over into an overflow room to watch the proceedings.

Several parents also spoke on Einstein’s behalf, praising the positive impacts the program has had on their children.
Einstein received approval in May to open a charter elementary school to go along with its existing school for middle and high school students in the William S. Hart Union High School District.

Though the charter was granted by the Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District, the proposed Rye Canyon site would place the school in the boundaries of the Castaic Union School District.

Castaic district Superintendent Jim Gibson spoke at Tuesday’s meeting and said he supported the decision to deny the permit.

“We are concerned about the possibility of this school at this location atthis time,” he said. “We are not opposed to Einstein schools in general.”

Einstein now has the option of either resubmitting an application to the Planning Commission or appealing the matter to the Santa Clarita City Council.
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