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Outrage Over Field Lights Spills Over to MHS Improvement Plan

Several neighbors around Malibu High School spoke out against a plan to put in more parking at Malibu High School.

Nearly two dozen people spoke out against plans by the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District to a new parking lot that would bring more lighting to .

In a 3-0 vote on Tuesday, Aug. 7, the Planning Commission directed city staff to add conditions to require a right turn lane on an access road leading up to a proposed 150 spot parking lot. Commissioners voted to uphold staff's recommendation to approve the project without lights in the new lot.

“This community sees things like AstroTurf, stadium lighting and all these things and then they see real problems. The traffic at that school is a real problem that impacts a real neighborhood,” Commissioner John Mazza said.  

Before the vote, Jan Maez, chief financial officer for the SMMUSD, asked the commission to avoid placing too many restrictions on the project.

"What I fear most is that conditions that you are placing on this permit are going to jeopardize those really important parts of the project. The parts that are important to the educational part of these kids," Maez said.

The plans call for new classrooms, a library, computer and science labs and an administrative building, totaling 20,274 square feet. The main building would also include "green roofs," which are meant to reduce storm water runoff and provide an outdoor learning space, according to the SMMUSD website.

The plans also include a reconfigured 119-space lighted parking lot; and a reconfigured 61-space lighted parking lot and a new student drop-off area.

The school hosts 65 events that take place after school in addition to 250 sporting events every year, according to the SMMUSD.

The district asked for alternate conditions of approval, including full parking lot lighting only for major events and partial lighting on other evenings.

“We would have to abandon the idea of having a new parking lot,” said Stuart A. Sam, director of the SMMUSD Facility Improvements Office.

During an hour-long public hearing, many people spoke about the impact on views and light pollution, a hot topic in the wake of a Malibu City Council decision to allow on some nights of the year.

“It’s right in my primary view, this parking lot. I had a blue water view and now it’s going to have a parking lot and 70-foot poles,” Carol Gable said.  

Jeff Jennings, who lives near the school, said he objected to the plans to plant sycamores on a ridgeline, blocking some ocean views.

“The planting should be limited to no higher than the six feet of the fencing,” Jennings said.

Others criticized the parking plan.

“This is not well thought out. Not only should the lights not be allowed, that parking lot is in totally the wrong place,” Terry Lucoff said.

Lucoff said the district said there would be no cumulative impact from the athletic field lighting on the local neighborhood.

“Now they’re talking about lighting parking lots and everything and they are telling you they need the lights and it was poorly planned out,” Lucoff said. 

Stanley Lamport spoke on behalf of the Malibu Community Preservation Alliance and the Malibu Township Council, which has filed a lawsuit against the approval of 70-foot high lights at the MHS athletic field.

“The district has had a long history of showing disregard for the impacts of its lighting on the neighborhood,” Lamport said.

He said the conclusion of the environmental impact review shows that the lighting will have a significant and adverse impact on the neighborhood.

Lamport also added that even though the field lights project has been submitted separately from the improvement plan, both are moving forward at the same pace. He said the project requires further environmental review.

He said that absence of light, or darkness, does not equal crime in Malibu.

“This is a dark sky community and if that assertion were true, you’d expect this to be a community of rampant crime, and yet it is not,” Lamport said.

Marianne Riggins urged the commission to pass the proposal as submitted by the district.

“I understand that this is a very rural area and I understand there will be impacts to the neighborhood, but we do need to remember this is a community asset. This is a site that has been developed. We are building our future on this,” Riggins said.

Terry August 14, 2012 at 10:36 PM
1. people in the "A" parking lot will be turning left in front of the cars lined up for afternoon pickup. kids will be using the sidewalk to get their rides from parents parked at the corner of morning view and merritt. the parking lot has a steep driveway down to morning view. 2. they are eliminating the kids stick ball soccar field to build 2 tennis courts. this takes away from malibu one of our most used fields. the city okeyd this and says that they could develop other playing fields elsewhere--maybe even using the football field. are they kidding. 3. the school is eliminating parking in front of the high school on their property. read the plan. speak up malibu even if you support the schools this is not a very good plan. some suggestions. parking for the football games should be on the blacktop used for the basketball courts. lights in that area would not block neighbors views eliminate the "A" parking lot for better traffic flow. do not build the 2 additional tennis courts. all lights to be low voltage. use solar power for the high school. be a leader
PCH Commuter August 15, 2012 at 12:38 AM
The Malibu High property is being over developed. Maybe a new campus can be created in the Civic Center area. It would be a better use of land than more commerical development.
R Y A N August 15, 2012 at 07:58 AM
The Field Lighting is a separate, yet concurrent, application for development that amounts to incremental development designed to circument cumulative impacts in this EIR. The SMMUSD has the option of using as a mitigation measure to reduce total sky glow by converting existing MHS light fixutres to Dark Skies-approved light fixtures. Doing so would diminish the total, cumulative impact of the added (shielded) lighting on the new development to the existing (converted) fixtures' sky glow. But Jan balked at that. Coincidenally, Pepperdine agreed to exactly that same mitigation technique for its existing pole lighting when seeking approval for its new, lighted stadium over a year ago. Good going, Pepperdine, for being sensitive to the community's suggestion and compromising. SMMUSD could learn by example.
Marianne Riggins August 21, 2012 at 03:40 AM
Ryan, you are right that the school should install Dark Skies approved lights and we has a community should work to update our codes to make sure they are required on all development in Malibu.
J. Flo August 21, 2012 at 03:49 AM
Marianne, I'm hearing a lot of anger over the excess lighting at the new Nobu and the other restaurant next door. Do you know anything about that? What was approved? Thank you!
Marianne Riggins August 21, 2012 at 03:57 AM
The 2 new tennis courts will be used by the schools very successful tennis teams, not to mention I believe they are the only public courts in Malibu that residents can use. The City of Malibu Parks and Recs dept. also has many participants in their tennis program that will benefit from the additional courts. The school is eliminating parking in the front of the school to create on off street drop off/pick up area. Something the residents on Morning View say is very important. Football games are not the only night time use of the school. Many students participate in away games and often don't return until 9 or 10 o'clock and that's if there isn't a delay, do you really think it is right for them to come back to a dark parking lot? Additionally, many students are involved in plays and musicals that require practice many weeks in advance of the week of performances. The school needs additional lighted parking, if you don't agree with this plan please suggest a better plan.
Marianne Riggins August 21, 2012 at 04:09 AM
the school is proving that opening the high school here was the right decision. We have steadly built a school where our children learn not only english and math skills, but also how to be good citizens of the world. The variety of clubs and the success of our sports teams show that we have kids we can all be proved of. We as a community need to come together and create the best school site we can. Our children should have the best campus we can build, we as a community should expect no less.
Marianne Riggins August 21, 2012 at 04:21 AM
J., let everyone know they can call or better yet come by city hall and staff will be happy to answer any questions about this or other issues.

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