English vocational school plans move to Ivanhoe Ave. in La Jolla

After 25 years on Prospect Street, the EC English (Language) Vocational School is undergoing some changes — including a move to a new location and a reduction in its student population. Plans to move the school made the rounds to La Jolla’s Development Permit Review (DPR) committee meeting on Aug. 8 and Aug. 15, and La Jolla Planned District Ordinance (PDO) committee meeting on Aug. 14.

Applicant Claude-Anthony Marengo seeks a Conditional Use Permit to convert an existing second floor of office space at 7979 Ivanhoe Ave. to a 5,597-square-foot vocational school. EC School is currently at 1012 Prospect St. The school’s existing lease expires this year and the lease for the new space became available in January.

The new spot will have classrooms, a student lounge, self-study area, library facilities, student computers and an outdoor terrace. Students are encouraged to participate in community activities such as beach bar-be-cues, volunteering and surfing. English is taught at a level equivalent to the sophomore-to-senior years of high school. Classes include: English for Experience and Life, English for Education and Exams, English for Career Success.

At the Aug. 8 DPR meeting, Marengo explained there would be no exterior building changes and all parking would be confined to the underground lot. “The Conditional Use Permit is non-transferrable, so now that we’re asking for a new location, even though it’s within all the same criteria, we have to transfer it to the new building,” he said.

In terms of students and faculty, Marengo explained, “The school had 300 students (permitted) on a rotating schedule, and 25 teachers. We’re now asking for 270 students and 24 teachers. There are still rotating hours when these students are coming in, so when we say 294 people, they are not all coming at once.”

The building’s parking lot offers 81 spaces, where only 59 are required. But, Marengo noted, “These are mostly international students, so many take the bus, carpool or live in the area. Parking use now is minimal, we don’t take up many spaces, but we’re required to offer them.” Currently, teaching staff only regularly use the parking spots.

With only minor follow-up questions, such as the average age of students and hours of operation, Marengo agreed to return to the Aug. 15 DPR meeting for approval.

When heard at the Aug. 14 PDO meeting, the board determined unanimously that the project conforms to the La Jolla Planned District Ordinance. PDO member Sheila Fortune said the only complaint with the school over the last few years has been students smoking outside. But, it was noted that the building that houses the school also houses a restaurant with lax smoking enforcement because it operates a hookah lounge at night.

PDO member Gail Forbes recommended providing additional trash receptacles for the street and a sign or notice telling students to be mindful of surrounding residential areas to minimize noise. Further, she expressed concern about possible future growth.

Marengo replied, “The number we are listing allows for growth. We have the capacity for 300 students, but the school doesn’t have 300. I tell management to request for what they project they will have.”

The most recent application is a reversal from the last time community planning groups heard about the school. In 2012, the school expanded from 65 to 300 students and 10 to 25 teachers.

It proceeds to the La Jolla Community Planning Association for ratification.