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Groups File Lawsuit to Stop MHS Field Lights

The Malibu Community Preservation Alliance and the Malibu Township Council say the 70-foot lights will change the characteristics of western Malibu.

Two Malibu groups have filed a lawsuit seeking to prevent the installation of 70-foot lights at 's athletic field.

The Malibu Community Preservation Alliance and the Malibu Township Council filed the lawsuit on Wednesday, July 25.

In response to the filing, Malibu City Attorney Christi Hogin said the city stands by its decision to approve the lights.

"We’re disappointed that this has come to litigation, but we are prepared to defend the city’s decision," Hogin said.

On June 26, the Malibu City Council granted a coastal development permit and a temporary use permit for the construction of the lights, which will only be allowed for a . The council also required the school district to take down 12-foot cross bars on the lights from June 1 through August 31.

The lawsuit alleges that the Malibu City Council abandoned a compromise reached between residents and the school district in 2010 to allow temporary lighting for 16 nights out of the year.

"This will light up all of west Malibu like a professional stadium," said Steve Uhring, a member of the . "It is an egregious violation of the compromise that the community worked so hard to achieve with the district."

According to Hogin, the council only put in place the maximum number of nights the lights can be used.

"The city is setting the limit. If there is a compromise to be had, nothing would stand in the way of those parties reaching that agreement," Hogin said.

The groups also claim the Malibu City Council violated the city's Local Coastal Program and Municipal Code when it took the proposed lights under consideration in June without a public hearing before the Malibu Planning Commission. The council voted on the project because of conflicts by three Malibu planning commissioners.

Commissioner Mikke Pierson and Roohi Stack donated to The Shark Fund, which was set up by a group of parents to benefit projects at Malibu High School, including the lights project. Commissioner Jeffrey Jennings lives within 500 feet of the campus.

The lawsuit claims that even though there were not enough commissioners to create a quorum, California law allows under the rule of necessity to select one of the members to proceed.

In addition, the groups allege that the City of Malibu did not adequately take into account the full impact of the 70-foot lights.

“Due to the rural nature of the surrounding community and the absence of streetlights, lighting levels in the vicinity of the school campus are substantially less than are typical in residential areas. As a result, the introduction of high intensity stadium lighting on the school campus will directly and uniquely impact the surrounding community,” the lawsuit states.

Hogin said the city took special care to lessen the impact of the lights.

"The council imposed some pretty strict conditions in order to mitigate the impact. The requirement that the light standards come off the pole during the months that the field should not be in use at night is an important condition. That really does create a relatively unobstructed view during the summer months," Hogin said.

Malibu Patch will have more on this story soon.

Marianne Riggins August 05, 2012 at 07:19 PM
Ben, since you solve complex engineering problems maybe you can help me with a visual question. Each one of these banks of lights are aprx. 7 ft by 13 ft, that is pretty big when you stand next to it, how large does that look from 500ft away? I am asking the question respectively, so we can all understand exactly what the visual impact will be. I also understand no matter how large or small it is the surrounding homes will have to look at them and that upsets them.
Hans Laetz August 05, 2012 at 09:27 PM
Jo, I respect R Y A N's considerable experience and expertise on many matters. He was an excellent servant to the city in many commissions, and I learn a lot from him every time he speaks about his excellent work on the city Telecommunications Commission. But his comments here are not grounded in experience or fact. In 25 years of working in LA television news, I have extensive experience with the very equipment --- telescoping masts --- that Ryan proposes for Malibu. In 2009, I contacted my old sales contacts at Willburt and the other manufacturers of telescoping masts as a part of the parents group working on this project. They all said that their products were not designed for permanent installation. They all said their products would not be recommended for this type of installation. It appears that an entire forest of these poles would be needed to provide lighting around the periphery of the field, and that none of the short lights would adequately illuminate the center of the field. The lighting experts we consulted -- the best in the field -- all said such an idea was impossible. Telescoping poles would require an entire team of mechanics, just like the ones I worked with at KTLA and KABC. I have personally had to drive to Red Box Junction in the middle of the night to retrieve a union news crew on golden time who were stranded because a WillBurt was stuck up in the air. Ryan says newer poles are better. Emphatically not true.
Hans Laetz August 05, 2012 at 09:43 PM
Jo, I love you, but it is my recollection that sports lights WERE NOT a part of the General Plan. In fact, I recall the City Council in 1998 specifically amending the Malibu Municipal Code to ban lighting in "sports COURTS" [an important point]. The LCP that was imposed by the Coastal Commission in 2002 banned school lights, and that was only because Sara Wan argued that the definition of "sports COURTS" includes high school track stadiums -- something her own staff lawyer told her was overreach. For those who are so offended that the lights violate the city's maximum structure height of 18 feet, the fact of the matter is that there are thousands of poles all over Malibu that violate height, setback and other limits. They are called power poles, flagpoles, etc. The city lightpoles on PCH violate that supposed rule. The simple fact is there is no height limit on institutional-zoning poles. The school lights comply in every way with the General Plan and LCP. Viewed from anywhere off property, dark skies will be maintained as a "priority" to minimize impacts to wildlife, and all exterior lighting will be low intensity and shielded to eliminate visibility from surrounding areas.
Hans Laetz August 05, 2012 at 09:51 PM
Yes, once again, Malibu narcissism and whining makes us a laughingstock in the rest of the world. Doc, I do not know Mr. Dover either, but I think I went out once with his sister, Voice.
Craig Strachan August 05, 2012 at 10:41 PM
Hans is pretty persuasive on this issue. In fact, I now think of him as "Hans Lights".

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