High School Light Fight to Be Aired at School Board Meeting
• Fireworks Expected Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall When BB Development Is Reviewed
BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN
BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN
Malibu High School’s Measure BB improvement plan is expected to be the hot topic at the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District board of education meeting in Malibu on Thursday, Feb. 5. Opponents and proponents of various aspects of the proposed improvements, including the controversial permanent athletic field lighting plan, are expected to attend in force.
District plans to install permanent field lighting at Malibu High School continued to spark questions and criticism from residents at the third and final Measure BB improvement plan community outreach meeting last week.
Design and sustainability was the theme of the meeting, and consultants for the project discussed many aspects of the improvement plan that had not been presented in detail at the previous two outreach meetings.
Many residents, some armed with protest signs, came to the meeting to oppose the field lighting plan, which would include four or six 70-to-80-foot high light poles that could potentially be used 203 nights a year, but also to explore other aspects of the improvements package.
Plans for enlarging a proposed new parking area, waste and stormwater disposal and emergency fire access raised questions, but most speakers had praise for classroom and library construction plans that incorporate natural light and fresh air and utilize recycled and sustainable materials.
“We want to make sure everybody who wants to speak gets an opportunity,” MHS Principal Mark Kelly told the crowd who packed the school library. “We will answer any questions that we can answer, and also we will take that information back with us, as we continue the process. What we want to do is get [your] comments. We won’t freeze you out.”
The presentation began with a look at plans to incorporate sustainable and green elements into the new buildings. According to Kevin O’Brien, a spokesperson for HMC Architects, the goal of the new construction is to meet state-mandated green building criteria for schools, and achieve a “Collaborative for High Performance Schools rating.” The CHPS Web site defines High Performance Schools as “environments that are not only energy and resource efficient, but also healthy, comfortable, well lit, and containing the amenities for a quality education.”
According to O’Brien, the new building, which will contain the library, classrooms and administrative offices, and the middle school building that will be remodeled, will feature recycled materials, and incorporate natural lighting and ventilation, and energy efficient, vegetation-covered, green roof systems, one of which could double as an outdoor classroom.
Photovoltaic panels will be incorporated, although O’Brien said that the goal for the PV installations “is not to be energy neutral but to cut down on energy use, and so students can see them work.”
O’Brien discussed recycled materials that will include brick from the current library and administration building that is slated to be demolished. “We’ll be trying to reuse as much brick as possible, but it will take some testing to reclaim them,” he said.
Landscaping for the project will incorporate native plants. “As a firm we believe landscaping and building design should be integrated,” O’Brien said.
The school’s onsite wastewater treatment system will be upgraded, and there will be “a net gain in restrooms,” O’Brien said, although he was unable to give specific details.
Parking areas will be equipped with bioswales to absorb rain runoff, and the roof plantings on the new buildings would also reduce runoff. “We’re trying to get away from the old idea of getting water away as fast as possible.”
Fire safety plans will include new fire alarms and sprinkler systems, as well as one new hydrant that will be placed by the basketball courts where the temporary facilities that will house the library and administration buildings during construction will be located.
Cindy Vandor, a fire safety activist who has been working on an emergency fire plan for neighboring Malibu West, suggested that the school needs an onsite drafting hydrant located at the pool.
Steve Scheinkman, a member of the recently organized Malibu Park Safety Coalition, expressed concern that school buses are currently being loaded in the fire lane and wanted assurances that this would change. “The [access] requirement is 150 feet from the truck,” Scheinkman said. “Today you would not have any access. This is kind of a critical point.”
Revised plans for a potential new parking lot also generated questions from residents, and a number of concerns. The proposed expanded lot would run parallel to the football field along the ridge that separates the school from the equestrian center. With this plan, the current parking lot and drive way could be used for an onsite pick-up and drop-off turnaround. The consultants indicated that this plan could allow for traffic and fire safety advocates to potentially be constructed, joining the proposed parking lot to the existing driveway.
“There go all our trails,” said a woman in the audience, referring to bridle paths that cross the proposed parking lot area and connect the equestrian center to western Malibu Park. “That’s an ESHA,” said another, they can’t build there.”
The consultants told concerned residents that lighting for the new parking area would be “minimal,” and that “all the light would be contained,” however, they agreed that 15-to-20-foot light poles would be required throughout the parking lot for safety.
“It’s all being studied,” Julian Capata, a spokesperson for the consultant firm PBS&J, reminded the group. We don’t have concrete answers. Nothing is off the table, and nothing is concrete.” He added that the public will have the opportunity to comment on the EIR, and that there will be at least one public meeting on the EIR, as well as the potential for additional public outreach meetings. “We’re going to study your suggestions. All of your comments will be part of the record.”
Residents were told that the district is moving ahead with its plans for field lighting, and that district representatives will go to the California Coastal Commission “very soon” to see if they can “get permission to use temp lights next season.”
The existing Coastal Development Permit for the campus (CDP-04-99-276) specifically prohibits either temporary or permanent field lighting, and the CCC is aware that the district’s temporary lighting is in violation. Critics of the lighting plan are quick to point out that athletic lighting is also prohibited by the City of Malibu’s Local Coastal Program, as is construction over the height of 28 feet.
The consultant told the audience that as a result of public comment at the previous meeting, daytime viewshed analysis will now be incorporated into the plan, as well as a viewshed from Zuma Beach. Noise and parking and pathway light analysis will also be included.
“I heard you loud and clear,” Kelly said. “No 203.” He was referring to the maximum number of nights the proposed lights might be in use that had received a firestorm of criticism at the last meeting.
“Don’t cram it down our throats,” Scheinkman said. “We aren’t going away. We have a lot of standards. We aren’t asking you to operate on a different standard. I can’t have lights in my backyard. If we’re bound to do it, we’re going to make sure you do.”
“I am a resident of Malibu Park,” Victoria Epstein said. “The school is my neighbor. I’m asking you to be a good neighbor and abide by the LCP. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Harriet Pollon, representing the Malibu Township Council, expressed concern that a joint use plan being negotiated between the district and the City of Malibu could lead to the fields being used extensively not by students but by the public.
“Oxnard operates seven different [high school] fields, most are on 25 times a year, including grad night,” Pollon said. “What exactly are you going to use our school for? We don’t have a police department. In Oxnard, every high school has a policeman. We don’t have that option. Can you handle an incident? Can you even deal with the traffic?”
“The state of California is bankrupt,” Cathy Cadieaux said. “We’re in major trouble. I don’t see where the money is going to come from. The school can’t operate the bathrooms up there, and yet we’re putting in 1300 seats? If you guys push through with all these big lights, you’re going to want to use them. Malibu is not the suburbs. We say no.”
“The great majority [of use] would be practices, not for outside things,” Measure BB advisory committee member Laura Rosenthal responded, adding that she hopes the lights would be an asset to adults as well as children. “I would like to see adult soccer. I love having things here.” She added that “this city voted for this facilities bond, we have to do this.”
“Malibu is unique because of its lack of lighting,” Point Dume resident Dusty Peak said. “These lights are very invasive. It still works without the lights. I suddenly feel like this parking lot, loop road, this whole thing keeps getting bigger. We’ve expanded the parking lot. It’s right on the ridgeline. We have ridgeline rules. I don’t know where the middle ground is. The ball starts rolling, and you can’t stop it.”
“I moved here 35 years ago because it’s rural residential and my kids could walk to school,” Pat Greenwood said. “The sports program is incredibly important, I completely support the school, but with [a] few things in mind: being a good neighbor and following the city LCP, keeping in mind the rural character, knowing the city LCP prohibits lighting. I was on the parks and recreation commission. One of the things we learned is that lighting is not permitted. It’s a wonderful thing to do the renovations, but follow the city rules relative to lighting.”
“This is not a community versus school situation,” Vandor said. “We are the same people. We didn’t vote for facilities, we voted for safety. This wasn’t a wish list, it was a needs list. Pay attention [or] we’re going to litigate the hell out of you,” she admonished the district representatives.