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Frustrated at Valley Plaza's Decay, North Hollywood's 'School for the Stars' Packs Its Bags For Burbank

After 51 years on Laurel Canyon Boulevard, the San Fernando Valley Professional School is leaving the crumbling area behind.

When school let out for the summer this year, the  closed its doors for the final time in North Hollywood.

After 51 years on Laurel Canyon Boulevard at Valley Plaza, the professional school tailored toward students working as actors, singers, musicians, dancers and athletes will move next fall into a larger location in Burbank. 

The decision to leave was made in part because the school was looking for a building to accommodate its increasing enrollment size, but also because the school, which first opened in North Hollywood in 1961, is located in an area desperately in need of improvements and redevelopment, said Barbara Youngblood, who is an administrator with the school. The Valley Plaza area, which was a thriving and lavish shopping center in 1961, has been decaying for years from neglect, damage from the 1994 Northridge earthquake and delayed redevelopment plans.

"We have a lot of parents who are coming from out of state or just in the area and the first thing they comment on is the location," Youngblood said. "Not only do we have the issue of our surrounding area being dilapidated, the other issue is we have a greenbelt and we have a lot of homeless issues going on along there too."

The Valley Plaza area has been referred to by Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian as "an economic black hole." (See more on the sad state of the plaza: )

Youngblood said the school has reached out to the city to request help in making the area around the school safer, but it has not received support.

"Council members, city planners, politicians, none of them were going to address that," Youngblood said. “People weren’t really interested in aiding the school or helping redevelop the area so it’s more suitable for children."

The only thing the school could do, Youngblood said, was contact the police to try and keep homeless people from crossing into the school's area.

One of the unique things about the school is that it offers a more flexible accredited college preparatory option for students working in the entertainment business.

Sometimes referred to as the "School for the Stars," it has attracted young actors and actresses including Frankie Jonas, Tucker Albrizzi, Cameron Protzman and Noah Cyrus.

To accommodate the students' auditions, coaching or photo shoots, the school day starts at 8:45 a.m. and ends at 1 p.m. The school also tries to make its education more relevant to its students by tailoring its subject topics to appeal to different ways of learning.

"We try to integrate a very creative and hands-on curriculum because we understand that our student body are very creative kids and they learn in much different modalities and styles than, say, a traditional school," Youngblood said. "We follow the standardized California curriculum, but we really think out of the box on how we guide the teachers to use different tools so that students can learn in a more creative and engaging way."

In the past, the school has made an effort to incorporate the school into the surrounding community. The school's director, Angie Peiris, is an active member of the Entertainment Industry Group-Studio City Kiwanis Club

"She's out there trying to get a message to the community of the importance of having such a unique school," Youngblood said.

The school also threw a featuring Rick Springfield and guest artists Billy Ray Cyrus and Phill Driscoll in March. Still, despite the impact the school had on the community for more than five decades, Youngblood said that no one reached out to see if the school would stay once it decided to leave.

"There’s no one saying I really appreciate you are here and you enrich the community of North Hollywood," Youngblood said.

When asked to comment, Councilmember Paul Krekorian issued this statement about the departure of the school:

"Small business is the backbone of our economy, which is why I have crafted policies to help local companies and increase our economic vitality. The policies we are implementing and the financial reform we are realizing are making immediate impacts on the economic climate of our city," Krekkorian said. “It is regrettable when any business leaves the city of Los Angeles for another portion of Southern California, and I’m always going to fight to keep businesses and jobs here. While government cannot and should not control private business transactions or decisions, any business that needs help in dealing with the bureaucracy of city government can always count on my office to work as their advocate and problem solver."

Youngblood said the school is looking forward to starting a new chapter at its new location in Burbank.

"The Burbank facility is larger and five minutes away from Warner Bros. and Disney—which is closer for students if they have auditions or anything like that," Youngblood said. "The location is absolutely fabulous, and it’s closer for students if they have auditions or anything like that."

There is no word on whether a new school or business will take over the Professional School's former building, or if it will become just another of the dozens of empty storefronts that line the Valley Plaza area.

LABornAndRaised July 01, 2012 at 05:40 PM
This would have been a good opportunity for Krekorian to give us an update on iSTAR financial's plans to redevelop Valley Plaza. We haven't heard anything for what seems like a year. Valley Plaza needs to finally complement the Arts District.
george July 01, 2012 at 07:15 PM
All those empty storefronts, in a really cool configuation too, I love the way that Plaza is layed out, but how lazy is Mr. Brooks when this valuable property has been sitting empty for as long as it has with no effort put in to welcoming any number of bosinesses that could actually service the community...a hardware store, beauty salon, spa, kids clothing stores, thrift store, 'green' stores that sell eco-friendly products, vacuum repair, furniture repair, dentist, chiropractor, eye doctor. What a shame that he insteads allows low class, cheap product stores and crap. This location should be a central gathering place in the Valley like in '61. Protest I say, write letters, e-mails, propose ideas as a community member, make change, don't just bellyache or blame politicians. Nobody trusts them, that's nothing new, so take ownership as a community. Before it's too late.
Lightnapper July 01, 2012 at 08:35 PM
That's pretty much what was there before, and a nice Lamplighter. They kicked them all out for redevelopment-- which was a while ago last time I looked at a calendar. Belly-aching an blaming politicians in the media is how change starts. (Hey, it's even been known to stop wars, and Mr K. is our councilman and is charged with representing the folks of No-Ho's best interests). Letters get thrown in the round filing cabinet. E-mails get deleted. At least government staff monitors social websites and local papers as part of their overall strategy of constituent management. The vocal discontent-- while it may not immediately solve the problem-- does certainly bring more attention to the problem-- a long, continual, and mostly ignored problem. You read it and then quickly added your two-cents didn't you? And we all got to see it-- not just a secretary in one office before it was "filed." So, what are your concrete suggestions? Going to sit down at lunch with the owner and chit-chat and offer your sage financial advice and your extensive real estate and property management expertise?
Rose July 01, 2012 at 11:44 PM
What about setting the plaza up for all the yard sales that are ongoing 7 days a week in neighborhoods week after week. Let them all set up shop there and stop the crap yard sales every day. They don't need storefronts charge the sellers a fee daily!!! These neighbor foreign countries like Van Nuys, are the worse. Clean them up or get them out!! These foreigners, immigrants, whatever, sure do have a lot of crap to try & sell to us,
Jerry Rodriguez July 22, 2013 at 12:18 PM
Paul Krekorian's announced recently that he is moving his City Council office to a different area of NoHo, of couse to 'save the taxpayers money'. I think it's because of the embarassment that Valley Plaza is right outside of the Laurel & Victory office. The city evicted all of the tenenants of Valley Plaza years ago and nothing to show for it.

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