An orange balloon (right) demonstrates how high field lights will be at Malibu High School. The Malibu City Council on Monday gave the school district the OK to install lights so students can play night games. (photo by Devon Meyers)

MALIBU HIGH ¬ó Councilmembers in Malibu approved a plan on Monday to erect four permanent 70-foot light poles on the football field and track at Malibu High School.

After listening to more than three hours of public testimony and deliberating several amendments to a staff recommendation, Mayor Pro Tem Lou La Monte and Councilmembers Joan House and John Sibert reached a consensus on the item, which grants the school permission for permanent light fixtures that will be paid for with private funding.

Mayor Laura Rosenthal and Councilman Skylar Peak recused themselves from the vote. Rosenthal donated to a private fundraiser for the lights and Peak e-mailed a California Coastal Commission member in August 2011 advocating for temporary light fixtures for the football field.

The school rented temporary light fixtures during seasons past.

Opponents of the lights who spoke during public comment raised concerns over possible skyline and night sky obstruction, bird fatalities, traffic congestion, light spills, sky glow and light pollution.

The height of the light poles also came into question several times. Initial proposals of the fixtures ¬ó under discussion since 2009 ¬ó described the installation of 53-foot poles.

The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District contracted Musco Sports Lighting for the installation project. Ryan Marsh, a representative from Musco, told the council that 70-foot fixtures provide optimum light and less spillover than 53-foot fixtures.

Those in support of the permanent lighting system also brought up a range of positive effects for Malibu High School and its student body.

Students said playing night games would keep them from having to leave class early because of early game start-times, and give working parents the chance to see their children participate in extracurricular activities after the workday is over. They also hoped to hold a nighttime homecoming game and dance.

Residents who live in the immediate area surrounding the track and field passionately argued against the lights and aimed part of their frustrations at the city for not notifying residents of the installation of floating balloons that gauged the skyline impact.

After listening to the public speakers, the three-person council agreed that lights should be installed at the school.

A group of attendees who had fervently argued against the lights yelled, “Why didn’t you listen to us?” as the council members hashed out the plan’s details.

“Changes are always very difficult,” House said. “I hope that everyone can be very happy with this decision.”

The council outlined lighting standards that will allow Malibu High to use the fixtures as late as 10:30 p.m. for up to 16 nights between Sept. 1 and May 31 and as late as 7:30 p.m. for 45 nights a year from Oct. 1 to March 31, making it possible for the school to use the fixtures for up to 61 nights a year.

But the lights cannot be used on consecutive nights until 10:30 p.m., and lighting between June 1 and Aug. 31 is also forbidden.

The lights can only be used for events pertaining to “school-related practices and games” and will be installed on the outer ring of the school’s track at the football 10-yard lines.

Each light pole will hold two 12-foot-wide arms with six lights on each arm, making for 48 total 1,500-watt lamps. The council instructed Musco to construct the poles in such a way that each arm can be removed during the offseason when sports events are not taking place.

The council invited Malibu High administrators to return next year for a report on the functionality of the lights and whether the school needs to use the lights for more than the 61 nights the council allotted.

Civic Center sewer one step closer to reality

The council also approved a motion to finance the first phase of the much-debated Civic Center wastewater treatment facility. The first phase requires all commercial properties in the area to hook up to the treatment center by 2015.

The motion established a Community Facilities District (CFD), a tool used by municipal governments to issue bonds to finance the construction of facilities, as well as impose and collect special taxes for the same purpose.

In this case, the CFD consists of property owners within the outlined Civic Center area. The CFD will issue bonds to reimburse the city for the costs of design, environmental and consulting work on the project.

The total cost for study and design has been pegged at $6.5 million, $5 million of which will be doled out by the CFD. The city of Malibu has already spent $2.5 million on the planning and design of the treatment center.

CFD funds will originate from a proposed special property tax on property owners within the outlined area. The special tax can be an annual maximum of $19,707 per acre of commercial property and $3,941 per acre of residential property.

Despite the vote, a public hearing is still required on Aug. 13 in regards to the formation of the CFD and the proposed special tax levies. A special election of registered voters would follow the hearing if there are less than 12 registered voters within the CFD. A two-thirds vote would be necessary for the measures to pass.

This article first appeared in the Malibu Times.

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