School board approves master plan, which includes stadium lights, for Point Loma High
by DAVE SCHWAB
Published - 07/20/16 - 06:09 PM | 5998 views | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Friday Night Lights at Point Loma High School could be one step closer to fruition following San Diego Unified School District Board's 5-0 vote July 12 in favor of a master-planned, Whole Site Modernization and Athletic Facilities Upgrades Project for the school.

In May, San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) unanimously endorsed environmental documents for Point Loma High's long term modernization, which includes controversial stadium lights.

Neighbors subsequently filed a lawsuit challenging the lights' legality. Some insist their installation will negatively impact their quality of life inviting more noise, traffic, crime and parking woes.

Opponents also expressed concern that building new stadium lights opens the door to commercialization by outside interests of PLHS sports facilities which will benefit the school district, and not students for which the lights are intended.

“We've heard nothing new here,” said SDUSD Board president Michael McQuary before the board vote. “The value of the lights outweighs other concerns.”

Board member Kevin Beiser pointed out Hoover High School neighbors had similar concerns several years ago when nighttime lights were installed there. He asked the board attorney if there had been any problems with that field usage agreement and was told, “It is working well with no problems.”

SDUSD Board's July vote followed an hour-long testimony by more than 30 neighbors of the high school, who pleaded with the district to reconsider its previous approval for PLHS stadium lights.

Addressing the board, PLHS neighbors’ attorney Robert P. Ottilie noted he represented 17 individuals who've filed a lawsuit against SDUSD alleging illegal conduct in its handling of the lights issue.

“Point Loma High School used to play under the lights every Friday night,” said Ottilie, in a letter to the board. “You (SDUSD Board) rented the stadium at Mesa College for them. It was the school district that stopped the rentals and made them start playing their games on Friday afternoons.

“A myth that needs to end is that, for these students to be able to play on Friday night, that they need a stadium on campus. The students and their families need to understand there exists a reasonable alternative to lighting Point Loma High School's athletic field.”

Nursery owner Walter Anderson testified that Clairemont High School's Friday Night operations have caused “unreal lights and bleacher stomping.”

Carol Simpson, who lives behind PLHS stadium, said her opposition was not NIMBYism.

“It's already in my backyard,” Simpson said. “My issue is that this would put glaring lights in my kitchen, living room and bedroom.”

Another neighbor, who works nights, argued enhanced lights and noise from a new sound system would impair her ability to take care of an elderly relation.

Ken Ward asked SDUSD board to “put yourselves in our position where you've got a place you're living in — and all of a sudden it's changing totally.”

Gary Shaw pointed out the neighborhood is already plagued by excessively loud noise from planes flying into San Diego International Airport.

An acoustical consultant testified that the only way to counter the impacts of noise and lighting would be to “cover the stadium with a dome.”

Richard Leary argued that decibel levels, already high, would have to be “ratcheted up so the crowd could hear over the sound of planes.”

“Even though it didn't change the vote, it had a dramatic impact,” Ottilie told neighbors after the board hearing. “What you're starting to do is communicate your message — and its starting to get through.”

Ottilie told neighbors an all-day settlement conference with SDUSD is scheduled for Aug. 1.

“I have encouraged them to come to this as a serious settlement effort, and that we should hire a mediator, a retired judge, to oversee that,” Ottilie said.

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