In the face of resistance from the Hollywood Community Association to their offer to purchase the Hollywood House, members of the Riverside School District 96 Board of Education suggested convening a community forum co-hosted by the two groups to hash out the issues and potential solutions to allow landlocked Hollywood School more parking and space to expand.

School board member David Barsotti pitched the idea of a forum during a discussion at the July 17 meeting of the District 96 Board of Education to show residents the space challenges at Hollywood School and have the Hollywood Community Association present their ideas about what can be done with their property.

“I’d like to take our ideas that we have, because we’ve spent close to $10,000 on coming up with designs on how we can keep the Hollywood House and do all that we need to do at the school, and we’re not getting everything we need without the whole property,” Barsotti said.

While the school board directed Superintendent Martha Ryan-Toye to reach out to the Hollywood Community Association about hosting such a forum, school board members also expressed interest in approaching the village of Brookfield about using Hollywood Avenue north of Rockefeller Avenue for faculty parking.

Once the subject of discussion between the village and school district, Brookfield officials have backed off somewhat on their support for that solution. 

Last week in a phone interview, Brookfield Village Manager Timothy Wiberg said the village preferred the school district solve its parking problem onsite without getting the village involved in a potentially controversial neighborhood fight.

Wiberg pointed to Hollywood residents’ negative response to Riverside-Brookfield High School’s parking lot plans, saying the village didn’t want to solve the problem “by kicking that hornets’ nest.”

“While I understand it, we’d like them to solve the problem with the most logical solution, which is next to their own building,” Wiberg said. “We’re willing to have communication, but before they come to the village, it seems like there’s a viable solution adjacent to their property.”

However, school board member Jeff Miller said he favored studying an offsite parking solution, because he doesn’t favor enlarging onsite parking at Hollywood School, even in the event the school district acquires part or all of the Hollywood House property.

“If we were able to devote a third or more of that lot to parking, that’s just a loss of useful space right there,” Miller said.

The village might be more receptive to the idea, Miller said, if the school district, Hollywood community and the Hollywood Community Association joined forces, “asking them, ‘Can we develop [Hollywood Avenue] as a parking lot and put all of the parking there?’ That frees up a tremendous amount of space that can be used for the kids, which I think is much better than used for cars.”

Brookfield Zoo spokeswoman Sondra Katzen said the zoo was aware of informal discussions last fall regarding the use of Hollywood Avenue for teacher parking, however they never bore fruit.

In any case, said Katzen, the zoo would need to retain access to that street, because the zoo uses it as a delivery entrance for trucks.

Board member Shari Klyber agreed with Miller’s assessment on the appropriate use for the land adjacent to Hollywood School.

“I’ve never wanted to buy property to put parking in,” Klyber said. “I would only want it for children’s use. It’s ridiculous to buy it and put up parking.”

Whatever solution the school board pursues in the future, board member Joel Marhoul expressed relief that the conversation is finally a public one. Before the school district made its offer to buy Hollywood House public, the two entities talked behind closed doors without really knowing what the wider community – the neighborhood, the village and Brookfield Zoo – would support.

“We’ve spent a few years where Hollywood School, District 96 and the HCA haven’t known how to talk to each other,” Marhoul said. “This offer was a legitimate offer, but it also was made with the intent to start the conversation. So here’s the beginning of the conversation. We can go to a forum and have a loud, vehement conversation with Hollywood House being a partner.

“The struggle is always in the details, and now we need to sit down with the HCA and talk.”