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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Controversial MHS Field Lighting Plan Has October CCC Hearing Date

• DEIR for Measure BB-Funded Campus Improvements Confirms that Malibu Park Is Dark Sky Area

BY SUZANNE GULDIMANN

The Malibu High School field lighting issue is heating up again, following an announcement by the City of Malibu that its Local Coastal Program amendment to permit permanent field lighting until 7:30 p.m. during the months of Pacific Standard Time, plus 18 additional nights for school activities up to 10:30 p.m. will be heard by the California Coastal Commission at its October meeting in the Los Angeles area.
This winter, DST runs from Nov. 6, 2011 to March 11, 2012, which could mean more than 100 nights of field lighting, if the LCP amendment passes.
“On July 15, the city withdrew and resubmitted the subject LCPA with the CCC so that the amendment can be heard locally by the CCC at their October 5-7, 2011 meeting in Los Angeles/Orange County,” a press release states. “If the City did not withdraw the LCPA, then the one-year deadline for CCC action would have required the CCC to take action at either their August meeting in Watsonville (Central Coast Area) or their September meeting in Crescent City (North Coast Area).
On March 22, 2010, following the Coastal Commission's unanimous rejection of a Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District proposal for temporary field lighting that included a reprimand from the commission to the CCC staff for failing to accurately represent the rural character of the Malibu Park area, the Malibu City Council adopted an amendment to allow “limited” but permanent lighting at public high schools. Ordinance 345 amends LCP Local Implementation Plan and Title 17 zoning of the Malibu Municipal Code to allow the conditional use of night lighting at public high schools, which would allow Malibu High School to apply for a conditional use permit for night lighting.
The adopted amendment language reads, “Limited lighting of the main sports field at public high schools during Pacific Standard Time until 7:30 p.m., except that for 18 days in any 12 month period up to 10:30 p.m. The school district shall obtain a conditional use permit from the city pursuant to Malibu Municipal Code Chapter 17.66.”
Proponents say that night games are an essential part of high school education.
Opponents of the plan, who greatly outnumbered lighting supporters during the previous attempt to obtain a permit for the lights, argued at the school district's public scoping meetings and before the Coastal Commission that Malibu Park, which is surrounded by 5000 acres of National Park Service land and Zuma Beach is rural residential, unlit and possesses dark skies. They provided photographic evidence that the football field is clearly visible from as far away as Charmlee Wilderness Park, Point Dume State Beach and the newly created Point Dume Marine Protected Area and documented an extensive list of animal life on the school property and surrounding area.
Commission staff received a reprimand for failing to challenge the school district's claim that the neighborhood was equipped with street lights and did not have wildlife.
The City of Malibu’s staff report, which accompanies the LCP amendment application states that “when the lights are in operation during nighttime hours, they would create illumination/sky glow that would be visible from public scenic and visual resources. The amount of sky glow would depend on weather conditions since sky glow is exacerbated during foggy conditions.
In the year since the CCC denied the original SMMUSD application, the school district appears to have changed its position on the rural, dark skies character of the MHS campus.
The Draft Environmental Impact Report developed for the Measure BB-funded MHS improvement plans that include a parking lot on the bluff overlooking the football field, it states, “Due to the rural nature of the surrounding area, and the absence of streetlights, lighting levels in the vicinity of the high school are well below average for residential areas.
“According to the luminescence study, lighting levels on-and off-site were less than 1 fc [foot candle], which is substantially less than the typical 7 to 10 fc in residential areas.”

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