Corrections to Inaccurate Statements about the St. Matthew’s CUP Application
The St. Matthew’s community is concerned about a number of false statements that have been made regarding the school’s Plan Approval application to make a few minor modifications to its Conditional Use Permit (“CUP”). In this document we separate the false statements from the facts. Real numbers are used in nearly every instance to bring some clarity to the issues. Our responsibility as a church school and as a role model to students is to speak the truth. We also believe in compromise, which is why last week we withdrew a number of our CUP modification requests and also voluntarily proposed to implement a number of new, stricter conditions.
Misstatement: St. Matthew’s shouldn’t be permitted to increase its enrollment because it agreed to an enrollment cap of 325 in 1997 and 2004.
Fact: Schools and churches, like families, are not static institutions, but grow and change over time. Requests to increase enrollment are appropriate, and schools everywhere sometimes need to make such requests. St. Matthew’s did not promise that it would never seek to increase enrollment. As with any school, St. Matthew’s Parish School exists to serve the community by educating children, and, like other schools, St. Matthew’s must be able to adjust to reflect the community’s need for high-quality educational choices. In fact, the current CUP expressly provides (and expressly provided in 1997 and 2004) that: “any future requests for increases in enrollment shall be subject to a plan approval review if they do not exceed 20% of current enrollment . . . thus any future request, which results in a cumulative increase of 59 students or less, shall be subject to the plan approval review procedure.” St. Matthew’s is simply following that long-established procedure to request this enrollment increase.
Misstatement: If the enrollment cap increases by 59 students, from 325 to 384 students, the traffic will be too heavy on Bienveneda Avenue.
Fact: Carpool counts conducted by an independent transportation engineering firm show that approximately 70 percent of the students at St. Matthew’s arrive each morning in cars carrying at least two students, far exceeding the 52 percent carpooling requirement in the CUP. Because St. Matthew’s significantly outperforms the current CUP condition for carpooling, the number of cars arriving each morning has long been, and continues to be, lower than the number of cars that would arrive to the school if St. Matthew’s performed at the permitted 52 percent carpool standard set forth in the CUP (even though enrollment has increased from 325 to 350).
Fact: The carpool requirements contained in the current CUP permit up to 240 cars carrying students to arrive at school each morning (that would be the number of cars carrying students if you take the authorized 325-student enrollment level and assume that 52 percent of the students arrive in two student carpools and the rest arrive in cars with one student). In fact, according to the numerous carpool counts conducted over the years by an independent transportation engineering firm, fewer than 200 cars arrived to campus on all but one occasion during such counts.
Fact: Many cars arrive to campus carrying more than the CUP-mandated two-student minimum because they are incentivized to do so by the strict carpool policies that St. Matthew’s voluntarily instituted in order to provide thoughtful and effective management of car trips to St. Matthew’s during the peak student drop-off period. As a result of St. Matthew’s outstanding carpool performance, if enrollment were to increase to 384 from the current 350, the number of cars would increase by approximately 20 additional trips in the morning. This means that, even if enrollment increases to 384 students, the number of cars arriving each morning will still be lower than the number of cars permitted by the carpool requirements contained in the current CUP.
Fact: The number of cars arriving in the afternoon is very low due to a staggered dismissal of students --- pre-school students are dismissed between approximately 11 a.m. and 12.30 p.m. and there is a high level of student participation in a number of after-school athletic, academic and other after-school programs that take place on campus, resulting in those students not leaving the campus until after the peak one hour dismissal period. The traffic engineering report conducted earlier this year reported that, due to the staggered dismissal in the afternoon, only 125 vehicles arrived at the school during the peak one-hour afternoon dismissal period, compared to 159 vehicles arriving during the peak one-hour morning period.
Fact: The Los Angeles Department of Transportation (“LADOT”) agreed with the recent traffic engineering report that evaluated the proposed enrollment cap of 384, concluding that St. Matthew’s request for an increase in enrollment would have no significant traffic impact. Also, it is notable that in the recent LADOT-approved traffic engineering report, there were 159 inbound trips during the one-hour peak morning period --- fewer than the 162 cars that were reported during the one hour peak morning period in a 1997 LADOT report, despite the fact that enrollment is higher today than it was in 1997.
Fact: In the spirit of compromise, St. Matthew’s is voluntarily proposing to implement and abide by stricter carpool requirements than currently exist in the CUP, thereby further helping to manage traffic on Bienveneda and neighboring streets. Also in the spirit of compromise, St. Matthew’s recently withdrew its requests for flexibility to hold more special events and evening events.
Misstatement: St. Matthew’s proposed modifications to the CUP will cause parking problems on Bienveneda Avenue.
Fact: St. Matthew’s uses highly effective special event parking management procedures, which utilize the available parking spaces on campus and on Bienveneda Avenue directly in front of the campus. St. Matthew’s has long been permitted to allow parking on Bienveneda north and south of the campus for the two special events per year (Town Fair Day and Graduation Day) that generate the most attendance. St. Matthew’s is now requesting additional flexibility to allow this off-site parking for up to an additional four events per year if attendance is particularly high --- Parents Day, Christmas Faire, Day Camp Family Night and one additional event. Given that St. Matthew’s would use this flexibility only when absolutely needed, and never more than an additional four days per year, this flexibility would have no material impact on the community.
Misstatement: St. Matthew’s is substantially out of compliance with its current CUP conditions.
Fact: St. Matthew’s is subject to 37 conditions in its CUP, and is in compliance with almost all of its conditions. St. Matthew’s is out of compliance with its enrollment condition, but because it has so far outperformed the carpool condition (as determined by an independent transportation engineering firm that conducted all of the carpool counts), the number of vehicles arriving to campus has remained (and will continue to remain, even at an enrollment of 384 students) lower than the maximum number of cars permitted by the current CUP. St. Matthew’s has always complied with the conditions in its CUP that limit the number of special events and the number of evening events. St. Matthew’s has also complied with the conditions in its CUP relating to parking, including implementation of signs and parking monitors to help prevent parking in front of any homes. Although no formal meetings have taken place with neighbors in many years (other than a recent open house that St. Matthew’s held for neighbors to discuss the proposed CUP modifications), the fact is that only one or two neighbors used to attend the formal meetings that occurred many years ago.
Fact: Until St. Matthew’s voluntarily disclosed that it was out of compliance with its enrollment condition, there had not been any requests from neighbors for any meetings, nor had there been any complaints from neighbors about any issue in at least several years.
Misstatement: St. Matthew’s is out of compliance with its enrollment condition and therefore can’t be trusted to comply with any of its conditions.
Fact: In order to ensure that St. Matthew’s will comply with the conditions in its CUP, St. Matthew’s has voluntarily proposed to add a strict compliance monitoring condition to its CUP. This would require St. Matthew’s to, among other things, post annually on the school’s website (and submit to the city’s Zoning Administrator) a report that details St. Matthew’s compliance with its conditions, including an inquiry log, the carpool counts and the minutes of the annual community meeting. This mandatory annual reporting to neighbors and the Zoning Administrator will result in public and transparent evidence that St. Matthew’s is in compliance with the CUP conditions, because of the annual reporting requirement and the fact that any non-compliance will be disclosed to both neighbors and the Zoning Administrator.
Misstatement: St. Matthew’s has not been a good neighbor.
Fact: St. Matthew’s has been at its current location on Bienveneda for 60 years and has a long record of friendly neighbor relations. St. Matthew’s goes out of its way to be a good neighbor, not only by carefully limiting traffic and parking, but also by taking great pride in opening our grounds to guests every day, providing a place of peace and beauty for our neighbors. Indeed, many neighbors use the campus daily to stroll, walk their dogs and play with their children. St. Matthew’s also hosts the monthly meetings of the Marquez Knolls Property Owners Association.
In addition, for almost 50 years Boy Scout Troop 223 has been sponsored by, and has had its meetings at, St. Matthew’s. The troop, which serves boys from our community, has seen over 200 boys achieve Eagle Scout rank in the last decade alone, making it one of the most successful troops in the country. To earn the Eagle Scout rank, each boy must do at least 100 hours of community service. Finally, St. Matthew’s also supports the implementation of traffic calming measures on Bienveneda Avenue, including the installation of speed bumps, signs that post cars’ speed, and a longer green light at the Bienveneda/Sunset intersection during the peak afternoon student pick-up period.
Fact: St. Matthew’s has for decades maintained a strong religious presence in the community, serving countless families. The school, as an important ministry of the Parish, has educated generations of local children who know and embody the school’s motto, “Serve, Lead and Flourish,” and are educated in the meaning and value of committed service to the community.
Fact: St. Matthews has a demonstrated record of charitable service and giving which is beneficial to the community and to the surrounding cities. A substantial portion of St. Matthew’s operating budget, all proceeds from the Christmas Faire annual fundraiser and the Sunday open plate collection, and a donation from the St. Matthew’s Thrift Shop are provided to non-profit Outreach Partners each year, including Ocean Park Community Center (OPCC), Chrysalis, Westside Food Bank and others. Since 2007, for example, more than $2,000,000 has been donated by St. Matthew’s. In addition, the Parish contributes more than $200,000 each year to support the mission of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Los Angeles. In 2012, the school also donated more than $60,000 to a variety of Outreach Partners including the Westside Food Bank, St. Anne School in Santa Monica, OPCC, and One Voice LA. In addition, the students, teachers, and parents collected and donated over 20,000 pounds of food to the Westside Food Bank and 350 toys and art supplies to the Las Doradas Children’s Center of the Neighborhood Youth Association. We are proud of the generous charitable giving that supports so many needs in the wider community but, importantly, we also serve. Every organization we support involves St. Matthew’s parents and/or parishioners, and St. Matthew’s parents and parishioners are also involved on boards and activities in the Palisades, all of which make this a better place in which to live.
Head of School
St. Matthew's Parish School