Lights up at PLHS stadium; four 72-foot-tall light towers installed, neighbors not happy
by DAVE SCHWAB
Published - 02/02/17 - 02:10 PM | 0 0 comments | 35 35 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Construction crews carefully lift one of four new light towers installed on the Point Loma High School stadium field Jan. 26 as part of the school's upgrade plan. Each tower is 72 feet tall and is designed to project LED lights onto the playing surface with minimal spillover to nearby homes. Each pole had to be carefully guided into a 26-foot long sleeve, with 18 of those feet anchoring the poles underground and eight feet above ground. The lights are scheduled to be lit for the first time in March. / COURTESY PHOTO BY DON SZALAY
Construction crews carefully lift one of four new light towers installed on the Point Loma High School stadium field Jan. 26 as part of the school's upgrade plan. Each tower is 72 feet tall and is designed to project LED lights onto the playing surface with minimal spillover to nearby homes. Each pole had to be carefully guided into a 26-foot long sleeve, with 18 of those feet anchoring the poles underground and eight feet above ground. The lights are scheduled to be lit for the first time in March. / COURTESY PHOTO BY DON SZALAY
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A meeting between neighbors and the San Diego Unified School District over a lawsuit challenging the school district's decision to install stadium lights at Point Loma High School did not yield immediate results and a June trial before a judge is set.

Meanwhile, the new light towers were installed last week at Pointers stadium, to the chagrin of some. Each of the four light towers is 72-feet tall and is designed to project LED lights onto the playing surface with minimal spillover to nearby homes.

David Dick, a Peninsual Community Planning Board member speaking on his own behalf, noted the new PLHS light towers are “72-feet tall, which is 20-feet shorter than similar installations at other school sites. The reduction in height was required for the district to secure approval from the FAA, which also required that each standard be topped with continuously illuminated warning lights due to concerns about hazard to air navigation.

“Ironically,” according to Dick, “the lower height has a tendency to increase light 'spillage' due to the need to 'point' the lights at a more obtuse angle to assure complete light coverage of the field.”

Those were the latest developments in the push to add Point Loma High to the list of SDUSD athletic stadiums equipped with lights to host Friday night football games, along with other sports.

The sticking point between neighbors and the district apparently remains the same: A lack of an enforceable guarantee that the stadium won't be used for commercial gain by outside third parties.

Gibson Pratt, an attorney and PLHS stadium neighbor and spokesman for Pro-Point Loma opposing lights, said it's not unusual for alternative dispute resolution between opposing sides, as in this case, to take time.

A trial lawyer himself, Pratt noted, “After trying cases for 30 years, sometimes it takes more than one day to settle things. It (lights) just didn't get settled that day.”

“These are non-binding mediation sessions,” added Pratt about the day-long negotiating meeting between both parties in mid-November.

A court mediator is usually a retired judge or an attorney who is a neutral third party. Their goal is to try and bring both parties together to reach a negotiated settlement. Unlike a court-ordered arbitrator, whose decision, like that of a judge, is binding, the mediator cannot rule for or against either side in the dispute.

Craig Sherman, the attorney representing Pro-Point Loma, said neighbors continue to be open to discussing SDUSD's field-use policy governing who would be allowed to use PLHS facilities, and when.

Though neighbors “Are adamant about outside third parties not being able to use Point Loma's athletic fields,” Pratt added neighbors “have been willing to discuss reasonable – meaning enforceable – conditions for use of lights for high school kids. I think the group is willing to reach a middle ground,” but he added, “the school district has not been willing to commit to that.”

SDUSD could not be reached for further comment.

Sherman said a trial date before a judge, who will hear both sides and likely render a decision, has been scheduled for June.

In May 2016, SDUSD unanimously endorsed environmental documents for Point Loma High's long-term modernization, which includes stadium lights. District trustees then voted 5-0 July 12 in favor of a master-planned, Whole Site Modernization and Athletic Facilities Upgrades Project for the high school.

Shortly thereafter, 17 neighbors of the high school, adamantly opposed to adding new stadium lighting, filed a class-action lawsuit against SDUSD. They claim new lighting will harm their quality of life, adding more noise, crime and visual pollution to their already overcrowded and impacted neighborhood. They also fear further commercialization of the PLHS stadium by outside interests, which they claim doesn't benefit local students or the community.

Back in October 2016, at a Peninsula Community Planning Board meeting, PLHS principal Hans Becker said the high school was “very excited about having lights in our stadium. We look forward to having the same opportunities as other schools in the district since we are the only large comprehensive high school without stadium lighting. As principal, I respect the impact in the neighborhood and will continue to do everything I can to be a good neighbor. The PLHS field use policy will be followed and monitored closely.”

The PLHS Whole-Site Modernization and Athletic Facilities Upgrade Project, of which proposed stadium lights is a part, is the first phase of planned long-range improvements at the high school.
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