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Lengthy Hearing Shows Rift Over Malibu High School Lights Project

The Malibu City Council approved the project in a 3-0 vote, with several restrictions.

As many as 70 residents, activists, parents and students made impassioned pleas during a hearing on whether to grant permits for the Malibu High School lights project this week.

In a 3-0 vote, Mayor Pro Tem Lou La Monte and Councilmembers Joan House and John Sibert approved the project, with several restrictions about when the lights can be used and who can use the field at night. Mayor Laura Zahn Rosenthal and Councilman Skylar Peak did not sit in on the discussion or vote because of conflicts of interest.

At the beginning of the hearing, which spanned five hours, several officials from the Santa Monica-Malibu School District, which is the applicant of the project, gave a detailed presentation about the proposed 70-foot tall lights.

MHS Principal Mark Kelly, who is leaving for a district position on July 1, asked for the council to support the project.

“It also helps us to reduce the impact of students who are already pulled out from the school day,” Kelly said.

Nicholas Anthony, a junior who plays football and baseball at MHS, said his team works very hard throughout the summer to play football.

Anthony said he knows friends who left the team to play at schools with lights. He also said he wants the experience of playing a home game under the lights.

“It is truly amazing. It is a fantastic experience. In one of the away games we played, it was unbelievable. The stands were packed. Family, friends, the community was there. It was awesome to see. It was something I would really like to have here at home,” Anthony said.

Jessica Murray, a cheerleader at Malibu High School, also spoke in favor of the lights.

“I ask that you approve this activity so beneficial to our whole community,” Murray said.

Other students, including members of the soccer and lacrosse teams, also spoke of the need for the lights.

Marianne Riggins, a Malibu resident who attended MHS, held up a map showing the location of private donors who supported the Shark Fund.

"This place has been a center of community use for decades. That’s just one more expansion of what these lights will bring," Riggins said.

Former Malibu City Council candidate and journalist Hans Laetz, whose three daughters graduated from MHS, said his daughters connected with the community under temporary lights at the high school.

“Malibu does not have a place for its youth to gather. On the last homecoming game, I took pictures that show there were 2,000 people there,” Laetz said.

Don Schmitz, chairman of the , also called on the council approve the project.

"It’s not just about a football game. It’s not about a lacrosse game. It’s about a community," Schmitz said, getting boos from several attendees who yelled out for him to go back to the top of Corral Canyon, which is not within the Malibu city limits. Other students began chanting his name in support.

Several people spoke in opposition to the lights, including residents of Malibu Park, a residential community near the high school.

Judy Hutchinson, whose gate opens out onto the sports field, said she wants to know who will monitor the lights and the schedule.

"We can’t count on calling the principal or the vice principal. First of all, they don’t even live in Malibu. If these football lights go on in the night, who is going to monitor them when the people all go home and we sit there looking at the lights?" Hutchinson said.

Many asked for a delay of the vote and a compromise on design plans that will lessen the impact on views.

Former City Councilman Jefferson Wagner asked for the city to consider exploring light poles that could be retracted with hydraulics.

Several other attendees outlined concerns for the impact on wildlife and the night skies.

Many more people spoke at the hearing, which spanned nearly five hours. Feel free to leave a comment about what you told the council.

Susan Tellem June 26, 2012 at 02:42 PM
Don Schmitz: this is as good a time as any to tell you that I will not be renewing my membership in your fiefdom, I mean the Chamber. Perhaps the adoring students chanting your name will fill the void.
Steven Bard June 27, 2012 at 05:59 AM
Dozens of happy students and parents vs. what? That's an easy choice ;) Hopefully he'll get a dozen new members who care about the kids instead. I know that hundreds of students and parents will remember who helped and who hindered them in this matter. Thanks to the council, volunteers and donors who made this possible. It seems such a waste of life crushing kids dreams instead of nurturing them.
Terry June 27, 2012 at 04:51 PM
there could have been a compromise. poles do go up and down. all one need to do is see the lights when freeway work is done at night. a compromise would have been the approval of temporary lights so the students could play under the lights this season while further research was done on retraction poles and types of lighting. there are so many in malibu with expertese in this in the movie industry like jefferson wagner. but there was no compromise. instead of a win win for malibu---it is a total disaster for those of us who live in malibu park. wait til its your neighborhood because our city counsel caves to every developer they ever met.
Hans Laetz June 27, 2012 at 05:05 PM
Terry, over and over again the school community compromised. We tried and tried to find a technical solution. The temporary lights were expensive and did not meet minimum safety standards -- there were huge sections of field were it was too dim for safety. Jefferson's idea was brilliant -- and completely unworkable. Those trucks cost then of thousands of dollar per night. They are booked years in advance. Poles do NOT go up and down. These issues was brought up, studied, and found unworkable. Over and over. Developers did not ask for this -- Malibu asked for this. You heard it from your elected representatives: email was 3-to-1 in favor of the lights. Laura Rosenthal won a landslide election based on her record at the school, and her support of the lights was an issue in the campaign. A decision was made. A lawsuit will be possibly filed by the losers. Just like at the lagoon, environmental law will be twisted and manipulated to try to overturn an unpopular decision. Hey, I've done the same thing myself. But in some cases, there ARE real environmental crimes committed in Malibu. Sometimes, CEQA suits are valid and WIN. Other times, they are used by sore losers to try to win in the courts what they could not win from their elected bodies.,

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