A judge ruled Friday that the Malibu High School football team will be able to play its Oct. 26 homecoming game at night, under the school's new field lights.
Under a temporary restraining order issued Friday by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James Chalfant, the lights can be installed and turned on for football games, including the homecoming game versus Fillmore High School, but not for any other sports or events at this time, according to Malibu City Attorney Christi Hogin.
Hogin said the lights will be allowed for games until Nov. 8, when Chalfant will hold the first hearing pertaining to a lawsuit that seeks to block permanent lighting from being used for night games.
"It is the opportunity for the [school] district and the city to respond to the plaintiff's request to prevent poles installed and light use during [the] lawsuit," Hogin said. "... Although obviously the court's decision to allow the poles to go up now suggests that plaintiffs may not have been able to prove their complaints outweigh the value of the limited use of lights the city approved in the coastal development permit, which is the subject of the lawsuit."
The lawsuit, filed in July by the Malibu Community Preservation Alliance and the Malibu Township Council, claims the lights will alter the rural characteristics of Western Malibu. Parents and community members have said the lights are needed to improve the athletic experience at the school and to provide a place for families to watch games after the end of the workday.
In June, the Malibu City Council granted a coastal development permit and a conditional use permit for the installation of the 70-foot-high lights, limiting their use to a maximum of 61 nights a year.
“It is very exciting that our homecoming celebration will be under lights,” said Seth Jacobson, a member of the steering committee for the “Bring on the Lights” campaign.
“The hundreds of parents and businesses that contributed to the lights campaign are very excited that the lights will finally be a reality," Jacobson said. "We also take the plaintiffs at their word that they will be back in court on Nov. 8, and between now and then we stand ready to find a permanent resolution to this issue that is in the best interests of the Malibu community."
Councilwoman Laura Zahn Rosenthal, who said she was speaking for herself and not on behalf of the city, said she is excited for the Malibu community that has worked so hard for the kids.
"This has been a long journey and the school community has won at every turn," Rosenthal said. "The school groups were willing to compromise and did so many times. The lights will go up and I have every expectation that they will stay up for the soccer and lacrosse seasons. I hope that everyone - no matter what side of the issue you may be on - will join us in a wonderful community celebration on Oct. 26."
Cami Winikoff, a Malibu Park resident who is among the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, confirmed the terms of the temporary restraining order and said she believes it is a win-win for all parties.
“We’ve been working all through the night to get a compromise out of court,” Winikoff said. “We wanted to figure out how to get the lights up for these games so we could continue to work [toward a compromise].”
She said the temporary restraining order begins to address neighbors’ concerns about the impact of the poles on ocean views and the lights on the neighborhood's dark skies.
“For us, the big thing is that we got the representation in court that the installed poles are removable," she said. "That is the first component of what we are trying to settle on."
Winiknoff said she believes the issuance of the temporary restraining order shows the judge "saw the merits of the case."
“We’re hopeful the community can now reach a reasonable compromise where the students get lighted athletic fields and the community gets extended periods of dark skies and no poles,” Winikoff said.