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Group Tells School District It's Wasting Money on Malibu Suit

Residents say they want to put an end to a lawsuit filed against the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District over athletic field lights at Malibu High.

Neighbors of Malibu High School who sued the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District over 70-foot athletic field lights are now asking the district's board for a meeting to end the lawsuit.

At a public meeting Thursday night, several members of the Malibu Community Alliance, which filed the lawsuit in July, said their claims have been misrepresented and their hope for compromise has not reached board members' ears.

"We’re hoping that they’ll meet with us so we can put an end to this ridiculous waste of resources,” Cami Winikoff, a Malibu Park resident who is among the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said after the meeting.

Board member Ben Allen tried to engage with the group during the meeting, but was quited by district administrators who said the facts of the case needed to be sussed out during a closed session.

"I very much look forward to this closed session item because the narratives are so confused," Allen said.

The Malibu Community Alliance said the district is "wasting its resources" on litigation. It calcuated the costs at upwards of $150,000. Chief Financial Officer, Jan Maez, did not provide her own estimation but said the money is coming from the district's General Fund.

Steve Uhring, who is also among the plaintiffs, said he spoke at the meeting to open up a direct line of communication "so we can talk to each other without sticks and pitch forks."

"We acquainted the board with what we were doing to make sure there were no misunderstandings," Uhring said. We’re going to have to be neighbors with the school and the school is going to have to be neighbors with us."

Previously, the group had been meeting with school district staffers, Malibu's city attorney and representatives from Malibu High School's Shark Fund to discuss possible compromises to end the lawsuit.

The group is challenging the Malibu City Council's approval of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District application for permits to install and use 70-foot lights on the field with limitations. The permits allow for the lights to be used for a maximum of 61 nights. The council also required the school district to take down 12-foot cross bars on the lights from June 1 through Aug. 31.

In November, a judge rejected the application of the Malibu Community Alliance for an injunction to prevent or limit the use of the lights at the field during the lawsuit. The ruling allowed the football team to play the homecoming game under the lights.

In October, the judge allowed the district to put up the lights and use them for football games.

Outside of the school board meeting, Pete Anthony, a MHS parent who is on the “Bring on the Lights” campaign's steering committee, said the permits for the lights have gone through an extensive review process involving the city of Malibu, the Coastal Commission and the L.A. County Superior Court.

"We've operated in good faith, followed the rules, obtained legal building permits and raised the funds to complete the project," Anthony said.

He said that Malibu Community Alliance has the power to end the lawsuit now.

"They should end the waste since the judge told them their case was "dead in the water," Anthony said. 

He added that the lights are good for students at MHS.

"It is time to move on and get the lawyers out of the conversation.  As neighbors we can talk, as adversarial litigants we can't. We want to make Malibu schools the best that they can be, and that benefits everyone," Anthony said.

At Thursday's meeting, board member Oscar de la Torre asked the district's chief financial officer Jan Maez to come up with an estimate of the costs.

Pam March 20, 2013 at 03:41 PM
Do you realize how stupid this homeowner looks complaining about field lighting when he bought a house literally next door to the field? Maybe he didn't have his glasses on when he made the purchase or hire a home inspector or perhaps he was in denial about the football field location, but his lack of foresight is his own problem and he and the other old folks who can't handle change should find another "cause". Perhaps they can tackle our open borders, where hundreds of thousands of people trample through the desert destroying the frogs or lizards or (insert anything here that you pretend to care about to get what you want). That should keep them busy.

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