SMMUSD HDQTRS — There will be no appeal filed to bring back temporary lights for Friday night high school football games.

School district officials decided recently they will not ask the California Coastal Commission to reconsider its denial last month of a request to allow temporary lights at Malibu High School for 16 nights a year. The deadline to file is Friday.

Board of Education President Ralph Mechur said on Monday that the district will instead work with Malibu city officials who are in the process of petitioning the commission to amend its Local Coastal Plan (LCP) to conditionally allow temporary field lights so that the night games could resume.

The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District considered appealing the commission’s decision because they altered their initial proposal to install permanent field lights at a later date as part of a Measure BB construction project at Malibu High. By removing the proposal, district officials were hoping to ease concerns brought by opponents who believe permanent lighting not only pollutes the famously clear evening sky in Malibu, but also adversely impacts the wildlife in surrounding areas.

Mechur said the commission would not have heard the request for a reconsideration until January and if authorized to move forward, a new hearing would most likely not be scheduled until the late spring or early summer 2010.

“We felt that it makes more sense to work more closely with the city in redefining what our appropriate uses are at our school sites and have the Local Coastal Plan amended,” Mechur said.

Superintendent Tim Cuneo said that the cost also played a factor in the decision to forgo the appeals process, which could cost upwards of $50,000.

But the process of amending the LCP could also take up to a year, having to go through the Zoning Ordinance Revisions and Code Enforcement Subcommittee, the Planning Commission and City Council before heading to the Coastal Commission.

Cuneo said he plans to ask that the city portion of the review be expedited so that if the temporary lights are approved by the commission, they will be ready in time for the next school year.

“If not we will have to find other facilities for our Malibu High School teams to play in if they wish to play in the evening under the lights,” Cuneo said. “The other alternatives is day games.”

The varsity football teams have been playing their home games in the afternoon this year. Supporters of the temporary field lights said the evening football games were a popular Friday night event for the community, drawing in some cases several hundred students.

The commission in 2000 approved a coastal development permit to the SMMUSD to build a new gym, two-story classroom building and upgraded field facility/football stadium at Malibu High School, attaching conditions that held the district to a promise that it would not use field lights, whether they were temporary or permanent.

While the stadium upgrade project did not call for field lights, the commission felt it was necessary to attach the ban to protect nearby scenic areas and native wildlife from disturbances related to night time uses of the athletic facility.

The district submitted a written agreement acknowledging the conditions but it has operated temporary field lights at the football field for the past six years, according to a commission staff report. In its recent request, the district asked that the coastal development permit be revised to remove the condition restricting field lighting.

Malibu parents Laura Rosenthal and Colleen Baum, informed the school community about the district’s decision not to file for reconsideration on Friday.

“We hope that the city and district start working together immediately to craft this amendment so that the MHS community gets back its Friday night lights!” they said through the Malibu High School e-mail distribution list.

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