STUDIO CITY, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Plans to replace a popular Studio City golf course with a sprawling sports facility took a big step closer to reality when the Los Angeles City Planning Commission on Thursday approved the project put forth by Harvard-Westlake School.
The private middle and high school purchased the Weddington Golf & Tennis Club six years ago with plans to replace it with a sports and recreational complex called River Park.
The 17-acre project would include two sports fields with bleachers, an 80,000 square foot gymnasium, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, eight tennis courts and a 500-car underground parking lot.
"This environmentally-responsible community-friendly project will be open to the public every day and will strengthen the bond between Harvard-Westlake and Studio City," said Terry Barnum, Harvard-Westlake's head of athletics, in a video statement released following the planning commission's vote.
The school also says several acres of the land will be set aside as open space for the public to use.
But nearby residents condemn the project as an environmental affront, that will destroy 240 mature trees, remove tons of native soil and install artificial turf on the athletic fields.
The group Save Weddington Golf & Tennis released a written statement which reads in part:
"We will stand tall to stop the destruction of green open space and natural habitat so that a few hundred "student-athletes," none of whom attend our City's woefully underfunded public schools, can play lacrosse, water polo, or fence in a $140 million dollar artificial turf sports complex better suited to a major university or professional sports franchise."
Pam Friedman, who has lived down the street from the golf course for most of her 79 years, said the construction process and all the cars drawn to the athletic complex will create havoc in the community for years to come.
"It's incumbent upon us to preserve some element of what we consider to be our neighborhood," said Friedman. "This is just a redux of the West Side and if we wanted to live on the West Side, that's where we would be. We don't want this to be Wilshire Boulevard."
In its statement, the group "Save Weddington Golf and Tennis" wrote:
"... we are confident that this ill-conceived plan, which serves the interests of a small private school at the expense of thousands of everyday Angelenos, will be stopped via appeal."
But as it stands right now, the neighborhood's last hope is for the Los Angeles City Council to vote the project down. That is something residents here admit is unlikely, but believe there's still a chance Harvard-Westlake will at least scale their plans down.
"I'm hoping they will not build this enormous project," Friedman told Eyewitness News. "Doesn't work for me or my neighbors."