Despite complaints from numerous neighbors, the Planning Commission agreed to let a residential child care center double the number of kids allowed on site.

The Activity Place, which currently looks after 14 kids, will be allowed to serve 30 kids, assuming an appeal is not filed.

Five neighbors complained about the center as it currently operates, citing excess noise, parking issues, and traffic on the street.

The approval passed 6-1, with Commissioner Jim Ries being the lone dissenting vote, but several of the affirmative voters expressed reluctance, given the public testimony.

City planners noted in their report to the commission that there’d never been any official complaints lodged against the operators of the day care.

One resident, who lives next door to the property, said he never officially complained because it struck him as “being a bad neighbor.”

He called the expansion a bridge too far, noting that his significant other works odd hours.

“She bought a home for half a million dollars in this community so that she could throw open the windows and the doors and enjoy that breeze and instead she is subjected to 14 children in the backyard and what should be a joyous sound, which is the sound of children laughing and being happy, instead has become a source of hypertension for her and constant angst,” he testified.

One neighbor said that parents often use her driveway to turn their cars around after picking up or dropping of their kids.

Another said he spent $5,000 to replace his windows in an effort to combat the noise.

Owners of the day care said they were surprised to hear the complaints at the meeting and that they wished neighbors would have come to them first.

Ries sympathized with the need for childcare within the city of Santa Monica, but advocated for the creation of more facilitates spread throughout the city, rather than the doubling of size of a single facility.

Commissioner Richard McKinnon noted that the only way to get the operators to agree to conditions that might combat the problems currently existing on-site, was to approve their request with stricter requirements.

The applicants noted that part of the expansion involves creating a larger indoor space, thereby reducing the need to have kids in the backyard.

The initial proposal would have allowed a maximum of 11 kids in the backyard at any given time but commissioners amended that total down to six.

Under the new conditions, two employees will assist in the morning drop-off process, which will occur in waves over the course of a set time in the morning.

Commissioners asked the day care to maintain 12-foot hedges along the property to reduce noise.

They also asked that the agreement included specific language that restricts parents from using the driveways to turn around.

“I’m going to urge the applicant to work with the neighbors no matter what happens with your plans,” Commissioner Amy Anderson said prior to affirmative vote.

Photo by Nicholas Salazar: The Activity Center

dave@www.smdp.com

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