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Compromise Is King in MHS Improvement Project Approval

The Malibu Planning Commission brings both sides together to try to avoid another lawsuit over night lighting in western Malibu.

Malibu High School will get improved technology and facilities due to a multi-faceted compromise over lighting hammered out Monday by the Malibu Planning Commission.  

In a 4-0 vote following a nearly five-hour hearing, commissioners approved the Malibu High School Campus Improvement Project with restrictions placed on lighting. Newly elected Chair Jeffrey Jennings recused himself from the vote early on because he lives near the high school.

"The amount of energy and time put into this is incredible," Commissioner Mikke Pierson said. "I really appreciate the community input."

Both Pierson and Commissioner John Mazza said they wanted to approve a project that would not be appealed to the Malibu City Council by either the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District or the high school's neighbors. 

The commission approved the project, with these restrictions: 

  • Lighting for a new 150-space parking lot near the Boys and Girls Club with three motion sensor sensitive zones. One of the three zones will be open for daily use year round. A physical barrier will be put in place between the other parking zones with closure at 8 p.m.
  • The entire 150-space parking lot will be open for the same 16 nights as the 70-foot athletic field lights and an additional 15 nights for special events.
  • The two other parking lots will apply as closely as possible to the same technology and lighting restrictions as the upper 150-space parking lot.
  • The remaining lights on campus will be LEED fixtures. 
  • All the lighting restrictions will be under a one-year review period, which will be revisited by the Malibu Planning Commission. 

Just before the vote, Cami Winikoff, who has led a lawsuit against 70-foot athletic field lights, and SMMUSD officials tentatively agreed to the terms of the compromise. 

As part of a new lighting plan unveiled earlier this month, the district proposed to reduce lighting across the campus by 65 percent as recommended by an International Dark Sky expert.  

“I would like to say I’ve looked at what was proposed in August. The school district has done a tremendous job decreasing lighting in that upper parking lot and lighting overall at the school,” Commissioner Roohi Stack said. 

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

The project was originally approved without lighting in the 150-space parking lot and modifications on a right-hard turn lane, and landscaping in August. Planning commissioners opted to reopen the hearing to allow time for the Santa Monica-Malibu School District to meet with the California Division of the State Architect to discuss lighting requirements for parking lots.

During the hearing Monday, MHS Principal Jerry Block said the school is in need of improvements.

“Our school is not just a school," Block said. "It is a community center.”

The project is the result of Measure BB, which voters passed in 2006. Nearly $33.5 million is earmarked for Malibu High School.

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J. Flo March 19, 2013 at 06:12 PM
Mikke has been a wonderful and necessary addition to our Planning Commission!
R Y A N March 19, 2013 at 06:56 PM
Mikke listened to all sides without becoming emotionally-polarized or biased. He kept the real "Malibu" issues in the forefront, as did John Mazza. Commissioner Brotman took the lead by mandating SMMUSD do ALL their homework on the light pollution/glare/wasted energy issues, starting at the previous meeting/hearing last year, and continuing through last night. Brotman's involvement is what made the compromise solution even possible. It took until the 11th hour to get the SMMUSD to acknowledge the simple human control measure to limit nighttime USE of the proposed 150-space UPPER parking lot (that is very close and visible to neighbors) to on a DEMAND-NECESSARY basis. If one followed these Hearings as I did, you see how recalcitrant the SMMUSD really is (their staff of development architects, etc., to clarify for the polarizing, vocal folks out there that tried to divide the Malibu community into a kids vs. non-kids issue). The REAL issue is about money allocation for the infrastructure improvements necessitated as mitigation measures for expansion and renovation. Malibu is paying for it all, and we deserve it, without the staff-manipulation that ingratiated those outside consultants to redesign the light poles and figure-out a right-hand-turn lane. Pathetic public agency self-absorbed, trying to assert its above-the-law inclination, side-stepping neighborhood AND City input (field lights at Coastal Commission, etc.), and BREAKING THEIR WORD on complying with permits.
R Y A N March 19, 2013 at 07:19 PM
Look who the key player was in the then, and now City dis-involvement. Who got staff to look the other way, who worked from within the agency that was supposed to be impartially evaluating the expansion project protecting the safety of the public using the street to use the street itself as the student drop-off zone, who "cut the ribbon", whose kid wanted to park on Morning View Drive? Why did the SMMUSD's proposed round-a-bout in the middle of a public street (that had no intersecting public streets) BYPASS the PUBLIC SAFETY COMMISSION and go straight to a City vote? Again, biased public officials infiltrating the independent regulatory body. We MUST do better in the future -- for all "sides" because these delays, and lawyers, have cost Malibu children millions of dollars directly, and in future debt, for the misdeeds of the SMMUSD and their consultants, political operatives, and the co-opted public supporters bent on manipulating and subverting established public processes designed to expose and thwart greed, injustice, and trickery.
Don Schmitz March 19, 2013 at 08:10 PM
Congratulations Malibu! Our schools are our heart, and I am glad to hear that an equitable compromise was reached that seems to have made most parties feel whole. An arduous process indeed, but one that seems to have been adroitly handled by staff and the Commission. Again, congratulations to all.
Terry March 20, 2013 at 04:58 AM
both john and mikke---we owe u a big thanx for all your hard work and effort on this. considering both residents and school. past and future. although i was against lights you worked a real compromise.

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