Opponents and supporters—including members of the Malibu High School lacrosse team—were out in force at Thursday's Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education meeting in response to rumors the board was considering settling a lawsuit over 70-foot tall athletic lights.
The Malibu Community Alliance filed a lawsuit in July seeking to prevent the lights from being installed.
Before the board went into its closed session portion of Thursday's meeting, some of the school's neighbors, including Malibu Park resident Cami Winikoff and attorney Stanley Lamport, presented their own compromise. They proposed allowing 32 lights until 10:30 p.m.
Their compromise also includes a request for community oversight for any increase in the amount of nights.
"We really actually ask you to look what we gave you," Winikoff said. "We’re prepared to defend this case."
The Malibu City Council approved 61 total nights in June. The lights were installed in the fall in time for the school's homecoming game.
The lacrosse team, parents and Malibu City Councilwoman Laura Zahn Rosenthal spoke in support of the lights.
Rosenthal held up a stack of documents showing a large volume of letters in support of the lights and a smaller stack opposed.
"Come to the court. Finish it, and let’s see who is going to win," Rosenthal said.
Pete Anthony, a Malibu High School parent and member of the Bring on the Lights steering committee, said the school district has already compromised on the number of nights with lights.
"The litigants have continued because they see the district as a soft target," Anthony said, adding that the Shark Fund will continue to help financially.
Seth Jacobson, who is president of the Malibu High School Shark Fund, said he and others are willing to open a dialogue with neighbors, but not until they drop the suit.
Maria Flora Smoller, a mother of five athletes, said she is seeing a difference in her family's life as a result of the night games.
"Usually I’m paying for tutors by this time. My kids are able to do their homework, eat some dinner and play their games," Flora Smoller said.
Her son, Riley Smoller, who is one of several captains of the 8-1 lacrosse team, asked the school board to continue to support the lights.
"Most of the people in our community are supportive of these lights," Smoller said. "I also think the youth of our community all deserve the chance to play under these lights."
Winikoff and others said they only want a compromise.
"While we applaud the students coming out, this issue isn’t about any one person, but how we find a compromise that is suitable for the entire community," Winikoff said.
Scott Grecko played a video of Rosenthal at a 2010 meeting discussing 16 nights of lights.
The video has shown up often during the discussion of the lights. Rosenthal has called it out of context because she was speaking about the possibility of temporary lights, not permanent ones.
Cost of the lights
During the Board of Education meeting, the district's Chief Financial Office Jan Maez said she felt she needed to clear up rumors about how much of the budget for the athletic lights have come out of the district's general fund.
"I can say there has been no general fund impact," Maez said. "The soft cost and the actual construction cost have been purchases made through the Shark Fund or district capital facility funds."
She said funding for the lawsuit has been taken out of the capital facility fund. The lights themselves cost $700,000, she said.
"Let me go on the record and clear up many of the wild comments we have heard all over the place that there has not been any general fund expenditure at all," Maez said.
In January, Winikoff called on the board to stop spending what she called a "ridiculous waste of resources."
During Thursday's meeting, several ssupporters of the lights called that characterization unfair, pointing to the fact that Winikoff and others are keeping the lawsuit alive.
Jacobson said the Shark Fund paid $198,000 for the cost and installation of the lights and an additional $250,000 for other administrative costs.