LOS ANGELES — For hundreds of residents who live near Weddington Golf and Tennis in Studio City, a looming decision from city and county leaders regarding a private school’s plans to build a state-of-the-art athletics facility in its place, is fueling a contentious debate — pitting neighbors against each other.

What You Need To Know

  • Harvard-Westlake is a private, college-prep school for 7th to 12th graders with a campus in Studio City, near Weddington Golf and Tennis

  • In 2017, the school bought Weddington Golf and Tennis for $42 million with plans to build an athletics center in its place, to serve its students and the surrounding community

  • Weddington Golf and Tennis first opened in 1955 as a driving range and later a 9-hole golf course in 1956

  • It’s open to the public and charges a nominal fee of $10 to $12 to play a round of golf

For Teri Austin, who has lived near the Weddington golf course for more than 35 years, the fight to prevent this project from moving forward is personal. Austin enjoys golfing at Weddington, but more than anything else, she appreciates the sense of community she can find there as well as its rich history. She also loves the lush green space the golf course provides for her, and how its many trees help increase the city’s shade canopy. “I mean it’s very zen, it’s calming,” Austin said.

But if Harvard-Westlake obtains a conditional use permit, or CPU, to move forward with their proposed River Park Project — the golf course Teri has come to love will be gone. In its place will be two fields, a running track, a gym, a swimming pool, and eight tennis courts — plus a 6-acre public park that the community can access from sunrise to sunset.

Austin says the 17-acre project is too big for the site of the golf course, and for years she and hundreds of other community members have been pleading with city leaders to reject the school’s plan — but not everyone in the community agrees with them.

Jon Manzanares has lived next to the golf course for more than three decades. At first, he was hesitant about the project as well, but now he welcomes it. He said, “unless you’re a golfer, unless you have a tee time and pay a nominal fee, you can’t use this space.”

Manzanares believes other community members are misinformed and are failing to see the environmental benefits of removing the golf course, which takes a lot of water and sometimes harmful chemicals to maintain.

“Those lush rolling lawns — that’s an environmental disaster, that’s not natural. And we live in a drought-stricken state,” he said.

Meantime, Harvard-Westlake’s Athletics Director, Terry Barnum says the students need these new facilities to keep up with their practice schedules, and says the school is working with the community to quell any concerns they may have about access.

“A big part of why we’re doing this is not just for Harvard-Westlake, but for Studio City — so making sure that the tennis courts and the fields and the gym and the pool is available to the community is something that’s very important to us and we’re looking forward to working with the community to see what that public access will look like,” Barnum said.

But Teri Austin said Harvard-Westlake isn’t being collaborative, because despite pleas from some residents to shrink the project’s size, she says no significant changes have been made to their design.

“We’re not against Harvard-Westlake at all, but they haven’t tried to create a project that we can embrace,” Austin said. And she said if they compromise on some of the green space, the residents may be able to come onboard.