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MHS Students, Parents Hopeful for Field Lights at Homecoming Game

"We want to make it a unifying celebration, but we’re being held hostage by the plaintiffs in this lawsuit,” said Seth Jacobson, a Malibu High School parent.

Many people in the Malibu High School community are hopeful that next week's homecoming will celebrate the dedication of new 70-foot-high lights that will allow the game to be played at night.

However, installation of the lights is still pending as settlement talks continue between attorneys for homeowners groups that filed a lawsuit to block the use of the lights and attorneys for the city, which issued a permit for the lights in June. 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.

Another meeting in the settlement talks was scheduled for this morning.

The homecoming game versus Fillmore High School is set for Friday, Oct. 26, and the MHS Associated Student Body has been planning several homecoming week festivities.

“We have put together an amazing community-wide celebration in the hopes that homecoming will be the first Friday night game, including a ribbon-cutting ceremony, that involves community members and contributors and everybody in the community," said MHS parent Seth Jacobson, a member of the “Bring on the Lights” campaign's steering committee and chairman of The Shark Fund. "We want to make it a unifying celebration, but we’re being held hostage by the plaintiffs in this lawsuit.” 

In June, the Malibu City Council granted a coastal development permit and a conditional use permit for the installation of the lights, limiting their use to a maximum of 61 nights a year.

During the public hearing at the June meeting, Nicholas Anthony, then a Malibu High junior on the school's football and baseball teams, said he wanted the experience of playing a home game under the lights.

“In one of the away games we played [under lights], it was unbelievable," he said. "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.”

His dad, Pete Anthony, who is also on the “Bring on the Lights” campaign's steering committee, said the project is about meeting the needs of MHS students.

"Who is damaged if this is delayed? It’s not the school district that is damaged. It is our school. It is our programs. It is our kids,” Anthony said.

The lighted field would be of benefit not only to the varsity and junior varsity football teams, but also to the school's lacrosse and soccer teams, cheerleaders, the dance team, the band, student trainers, journalists and photographers, Anthony said.

"This isn’t just about football," he said. "It’s about all the sports that touch the field. It’s even about more than that. It’s about other activities that are just as important."

Building community

A lighted field would also bring the community together, Anthony said.

"It’s important because—and we know this for a fact‚ because we’ve done this experiment already and it’s not mysterious—the nighttime games attract crowds," Anthony said. "They bring the community together. It’s a safe and healthy gathering place for kids of all ages and their parents. It brings families together. It brings the community together."

The athletic field was once lighted by temporary lights. In 2009, the California Coastal Commission denied the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District's request to amend a coastal development permit because Malibu's Local Coastal Program (LCP) prohibited athletic lights.

Colleen Baum, a mother of two Malibu High School alumns and one current soccer player, said she testified before the Coastal Commission and the June hearing at Malibu City Hall.

“At that moment when I was testifying," Baum said, "I realized it was these football games, when there was night games, when I could actually get my husband and I and all three kids in place ... having some good family times.”

She said the games, including other sports, were a meeting place for Malibu, which has been difficult since the home games are now held during the afternoon while parents are working.

"It’s such a wonderful event," Baum said. "That’s what our community is missing. Where else do we get to celebrate kids?"

Carol Levy, whose daughter played soccer and whose son plays football, said many of her children's classmates have left Malibu High for schools with lights.

"What I care about is what kids learn from team sports," said Levy, who recently wrote a letter to the editor asking the Malibu community to attend MHS sporting events. "It needs to be just as valued as academics." 

Marianne Riggins, whose daughter is a senior at MHS, said she grew up in Malibu. (Riggins is an employee of the City of Malibu, but said she was speaking for herself when interviewed by Malibu Patch.)

"I think we’re missing the opportunity to give our kids a well-rounded education," Riggins said.

She said she understands the challenges of Malibu as a rural community.

"I grew up here," Riggins said. "I know how difficult it can be for a child and teenager in this rural environment where they don’t have an opportunity to participate in a lot of activities. While it is wonderful to have all this open space … it is also limiting in what opportunities they have, especially sports."

Councilwoman Laura Zahn Rosenthal said she believes the disagreements in the community over the project have allowed the focus to get away from its original purpose.

"The years that there were temporary lights and the school was able to do Friday night football games and homecoming, it was the best way to bring the community together," Rosenthal said.

She said she believes the lighted games will act as a gathering place in Malibu.

"I look at it as a community project. It’s for the school. It’s for the community," Rosenthal said.

Fundraising

Jacobson, who is running for a spot on the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education, and Anthony, along with a team of other parents and community members, volunteered over the past several months to raise funds for the project.

“The school community wanted to fund this project, which the district couldn’t afford, and we did,” Anthony said. “We did this all in good faith, following the rules after years and years of hearings and government process.”

According to Jacobson, the “Bring on the Lights” campaign brought in $480,000 in donations. The group reimbursed the district $250,000 for administrative, planning and overhead costs and purchased the 70-foot-high lights for about $150,000, he said.

Jacobson said that more fundraising may be needed because the lights, which were delivered last week, still need to be installed.

“The bottom line is we really hope we can have a huge community celebration next week," Jacobson said. "It’s all at risk. It’s unfortunate and sad the whole community can’t stand behind it."

Tom Brady October 17, 2012 at 04:41 PM
I'm pro-sports, pro-Malibu, and Seth is great-- but the real facts are that most of the local community will be negatively impacted by these unnecessarily large lights, the proposal did not follow legal protocol, and lawsuits and talks are ongoing. There are several compromises on the table that are more than fair-- and if we approach the issue with genuine community spirit and inclusion of EVERYONE (instead of one-sided rants in the Patch) - I'm confident we can find a sensible and smart solution.
Heikki Ketola October 17, 2012 at 05:13 PM
I agree with Tom Brady above.
paula hart October 17, 2012 at 05:27 PM
As a parent of a high school junior and a graduated student, I am upset that our children can't have the same rights of passage as others in America. The home games will instill school spirit and give our children something to do other than have bonfires. Lets get some support for our children here. Homecoming in America is a part of growing up in our great country everywhere but here. I moved to Malibu for a terrific public school education but this lack of community is upsetting.
Ria Denver October 17, 2012 at 11:01 PM
Paula, I don't disagree with your thoughts. So why not compromise, as Tom Brady suggested.
Ron Anderson October 18, 2012 at 12:41 AM
It is not only happening in Malibu. San Diego Unified School District has implemented field lights at the 8 high schools that didn't originally have them. Three of the eight locations are within dense urban residential communities. An MND was conducted instead of an EIR, the district illegally exempted themselves from San Diego municipal code, and they illegally used Prop S bond money to pay for the lights. Residents from across the San Diego community joined forces and formed Taxpayers for Accountable School Bond Spending and filed suit. Our case is currently in Appeal. Find out more at our website which includes photos of the 90 and 100 foot tall lighting structures that were errected: http://www.tfasbs.org
Carol Levy October 18, 2012 at 03:17 AM
Compromise? The school community has done nothing BUT compromise! Paid for it themselves, used the most expensive technology so the least amount of light spill, cut down the number of nights that the lights will be on, paying for an avian study. Whew!!
Heikki Ketola October 18, 2012 at 05:34 AM
It seems to me that the basic problem is that we have two fundamentally different groups of people here in Malibu (as far MHS lights go). (1) Old farts. People who like the serenity, quietness and rural ambience (I find it amazing to find this "non-city" city in the middle of LA County with about 10 million people). These are more or less people who either like, or don't mind, the smell of horse manure (try depositing horse manure in Pacific Palisades). I don't like the flies that come with horses and other furry stinky animals near me, but overall -that's part of the deal. Bright lights and big city do not mix well with manure. (2) New farts. People who appreciate somewhat less the serenity and quietness. I'm a slow thinker. It took me over 10 years to start really appreciating the "oasis" idea of Malibu -rather than changing Malibu to Santa Monica, Pacific Palisades, or Bell Gardens, I'd rather keep Malibu down-to-earth, easy going, etc. Your opinion, and mileage, may vary. Please let me know.
Heikki Ketola October 18, 2012 at 05:52 AM
MHS academics (reading books and that kind of dumb boring stuff). All that MHS lights is only about high school sports. If your kid is good at football, most businesses do not care about football. Businesses care about minor unimportant stuff like like do you speak Spanish, can you program computers, can you find info on internet, etc. In the long run, unfortunately, it's pretty clear that it's only academics that count at the end. Football is good for your personal health, not that good for your career in life. Starbucks does not hire your kid because s/he excelled in sports. School systems in the US are a disaster when compared to other well-to-do countries. US ranks academically pretty low, something like #24 in the world. But even in the US our MHS ranks academically poorly. According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malibu_High_School Newsweek ranked MHS in 2007 academically #187 in the US, and US News and World Report ranked MHS academically MHS #98. It blows my mind not to see any discussion about how underperforming MHS is academically -MHS's academic ranking is nothing to write home about in the US while MHS is certainly something to keep as secret internationally, like a "crazy aunt in the basement". MHS's academic performance is poor -which is what you would not expect from a high school in a wealthy city like Malibu. What can we do to improve MHS academically? That is the real problem in Malibu.
Janice Nikora October 18, 2012 at 01:20 PM
I respectfully disagree with Ms. Ketola's remarks regarding MHS' academics. In a recent US News "Best High Schools" report, MHS was ranked #52 in the State and #265 in the NATION! This in a State ranked near the bottom of per student fiscal support. Our school is not underperforming academically - far from it. As for sports, yes, colleges and employers DO value participation in team sports. It shows that the student can, guess what, be a team player, which is a characteristic that is very much in demand. As for the lights, they will greatly enhance the programs offered at the school, the opportunities for all students to participate in healthy social activities and help maintain the excellent reputation our school has earned. People move TO Malibu for the schools, increasing property values in the process. Dark skies and open spaces are wonderful and the compromises the school has made with regard to limited lighting (16 nights until 10:30) are a direct result of the fact that most of us agree that we want to keep Malibu as rural as possible, while still supporting our youth. Bring on the lights!!!
Marianne Riggins October 18, 2012 at 02:06 PM
Mr. Brady, What the City Council approved in June was the result of years of public discussion and compromise regarding this subject. Numerous public meeting have been held, in addition to multiple public hearings both here locally (plan commission, city council) and by the Coastal Commission. The surronding neighbors have repeatedly voiced their concerns regarding the amount of use and lighting that would be expericed by them and the animal environment surronding the school. The amount of days that have been approved and the shut off time is a direct result of those concerns, 16 nights from Sept to May until 10:30 and during PST (Nov. to Mar) a max of 3 nights a week until 7:30. That means that out of 365 days in a year the lights will only be on 61 nights, most nights until 7:30. The height of the poles is also a direct result of the concerns raised by the neighbors. It has been shown that taller poles provide better light, www.darksky.org, By having the poles at 70 ft, the light will be directed on to the field and not on the surrounding properties, further reducing the impact on the neighbors. The time as come for us to come together as a community and stop fighting about these lights.
Heikki Ketola October 18, 2012 at 03:38 PM
MHS ranks #265 in the nation that ranks something like #17 in the world? How hot academically is that? As a local Academic comparison Taft High School in SF valley won US National Academic Decathlon Champions in 1989, 1994, and 2006.
Steven Quartz October 18, 2012 at 05:20 PM
@Heikki, it is simply not true that sports and academics are unrelated. There is substantial empirical research demonstrating positive correlations between athletic participation and academic success among high school athletes. There is also research demonstrating specific cognitive and neural improvements following athletic performance, including neurogenesis and reduction of stress hormonal responses. Further, in a nation in which more than a third of youth today are at risk for adult-onset diabetes, it is a national public health priority to facilitate and encourage youth physical activity. And, indeed, institutions of higher education do care about athletic participation, both in terms of admissions decisions and in terms of their own curriculum.

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