In the early hours of Tuesday morning, the Malibu City Council approved two permits for 70-foot-tall lights at the athletic fields at .
Following a nearly five-hour public hearing that featured as many as 70 speakers, the council granted a coastal development permit and a temporary use permit for the construction of the lights, which will only be allowed during certain times.
Malibu Mayor Laura Zahn Rosenthal and Councilmember Skylar Peak were absent for the vote because of conflicts of interest.
“You guys are going to be recalled,” one woman called out as she left the council chamber following the vote. Another man threatened a lawsuit as he exited.
In response to feedback from neighbors of the high school, the council made several changes to the schedule for the lights, which will be allowed:
- Until 7:30 p.m. during Pacific Standard Time (the first Sunday in November to the second Sunday in March) for 45 days;
- Until 10:30 pm. up to 16 times (but never on two consecutive nights and no more than two nights in one week) from Sept. 1 to May 31.
Originally, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District had sought 18 days from September to May and 57 days during Pacific Standard Time for the use of the lights.
The council also required that the high school only use the night time lights for MHS athletic events, meaning no groups outside of the school will have use of the field at night. In addition, 12-foot cross bars on the lights will be required to come down by June 1 through August 31. The light poles will remain up.
Councilman John Sibert said he made the suggestion for the temporary removal of the light fixtures to help lessen the impact on ocean views on surrounding homes.
"These are important community events. For that reason I think it is important we have some night time sports," Sibert said.
Councilwoman Joan House said she did her best to listen to all sides over the past several weeks as she was flooded with emails, letters and phone calls.
"This has been very difficult for everybody here. It’s been an issue that people are very passionate about. I listened very carefully and that’s the decision I made tonight," House said.
Conflicts of interest
The council voted on the project because of conflicts by three Malibu planning commissioners.
Commissioner Mikke Pierson and Roohi Stack donated to The Shark Fund, which was set up by a group of parents to benefit projects at Malibu High School, including the lights project. Commissioner Jeffrey Jennings lives within 500 feet of the campus.
During the meeting on Monday, Malibu City Attorney Christi Hogin said Rosenthal and Peak had to be recused from the discussion because of conflicts of interest.
According to Hogin, Rosenthal also donated funds to The Shark Fund.
“That constitutes evidence of an unacceptable probability of bias in favor of the project," Hogin said.
Hogin said Peak sent an email to the California Coastal Commission over a year ago outlining a preference for temporary poles. Rosenthal and Peak both left the council chamber for the hearing and watched it from a TV broadcasting the council meeting in the hallway.
Attorney Frank Angel, who said he was speaking on behalf of the Malibu Township Council and several resident of Malibu Park, challenged the recusal of planning commissioners because of their donations.
Angel called on the council to do the right thing and "refer this back to the planning commission.”
More planned improvements
The proposed Malibu High School Lights Project is separate from a proposed improvement project at the high school.
That plan, which will go before the Malibu Planning Commission on Aug. 7, calls for a new building, a renovated library and a new and expanded parking lot. The new parking lot could include 17, 18-foot lights. The expanded parking lot could get up to 13 new light poles.