26TH STREET — Rosemary Esparza appreciates the peace and quiet of retired life in her Sunset Park home, enjoying lunches outdoors and afternoon naps on the hammock.
But there’s worry that the tranquility will be disturbed if a large, family daycare center that’s currently operating on the north side of town is permitted to move into the house right next door in the residential neighborhood.
“I think about how I can just hear a lot of kids crying, yelling, throwing tantrums and whatever,” Esparza, who has lived on 26th Street for the past 30 years, said. “The noise pollution is a real big issue.”
She is part of a group of residents who have expressed concerns about Collier Family Day Care Center possibly moving into a home on the 2400 block of 26th Street, which, according to neighbors, was just up until recently occupied by the property owner, who moved after renting the house to the childcare business.
Collier Family Day Care Center did not respond to multiple requests seeking comment.
The issues for neighbors like Esparza and Steve Weinraub, who lives two doors away, range from noise to traffic from parents dropping off and picking up their children, to the safety of the kids themselves, pointing out that there is a pool in the backyard.
“I’m concerned I won’t be able to get work done because this day care is two backyards away from me,” Weinraub, who works as a tax consultant from his home, said.
Esparza said she is concerned about parents double parking on the street, adding there are safety concerns with cars backing out of driveways.
“Maybe the parents don’t hold their little hands,” Esparza said. “You can’t always see a kid.”
The center, which is reportedly moving because the lease with its long-time home on Princeton Street just north of Wilshire Boulevard is expiring, falls under a city code that essentially allows large family daycare homes to operate in residential districts as long as it does not adversely impact the adjacent neighborhood. Such businesses, which require a performance standards permit by City Hall to legally operate, need to meet several requirements, including licensing by the state.
There are approximately 30 such businesses in the city, said Julie Rusk, the human services manager with City Hall whose division assists large family daycare homes, which accommodate up to 14 children.
“We over the years have done a lot of work to … not only facilitate the creation of these (daycare centers), but to really make sure it’s done in a way that is very neighborhood compatible,” Rusk said. “We do think this is the kind of small business that can be very compatible in a neighborhood if done according to regulations and designed properly and operated properly.”
City Hall provides a planning guide for prospective family daycare centers that navigates them through the licensing and permitting process.
Lily Yegazu, an associate planner who is processing Collier Family Day Care Center’s permit, said the business will have to meet certain standards to remain in operation, including falling in compliance with the noise ordinance, passenger loading and site lighting issues.
Several neighbors have also voiced frustration over a section in the zoning code that states a public hearing is not required for the application of a performance standards permit, nor is it subject to appeal.
“That is really bothersome that a large daycare center can move into our neighborhood and disrupt the neighborhood and change the character of it with noise … and there is nothing we can do about it as homeowners and we have been here for many years,” Weinraub, who filed an opposition to the permit, said.
Yegazu said the reason is because the performance standards permit is non-discretionary, which means it does not have to be approved by a commission and can be processed at the staff level.
While awaiting neighbors in Sunset Park express reservations, current residents who have lived near Collier Family Day Care Center on Princeton Street for years give the business positive reviews, some saying that the noise and traffic are not bothersome.
“It’s rather a nice thing to have in the neighborhood,” Dr. Amy Gelfand, who lives across the street from the center, said.
Her husband has written a letter in support of Beth Collier, who operates the day care center, Gelfand said.
“It’s not like it’s an enormous day care,” she said. “An institutionalized daycare center would be much larger.
“She’s a great neighbor and I’m sorry to see her go.”
Wanda Chang, who lives next door to Collier, said there is a slight parking problem in the morning when the parents drop off their children, but doesn’t take exception, adding that she likes the sound of children laughing and playing.
“As long as they have a permit and make it suitable for the children, then I have no problem,” she said.
The daycare center has yet to arrive, but its presence is being felt for Bob Dearborn, who owns and rents an adjacent house and is experiencing a hard time finding tenants.
Dearborn, who was raised in the house but now lives in the San Fernando Valley, said he learned about the day care center through other residents about a month ago and has lowered the rent to attract tenants.
“We have shown the house a couple of times with walk throughs,” he said. “To this day, no one has said that being next door doesn’t matter.”
At least one neighbor said she is giving Collier a chance to prove residents wrong, pointing out that there have been some positive changes to the home since the property owners moved out, including a new paint job on the exterior.
“I don’t want to judge something I haven’t had a chance to see yet,” Becky Turk, who lives two doors away, said. “They have yet to move in and nothing has happened yet.
“I think she is aware it is a quiet residential neighborhood and I don’t think her intention is to alter that in any way.”