Noting they both have the school — and the community’s — best interests at heart, the pro-lights Progress for PLHS (PPLHS), and anti-lights Pro Point Loma (PPL) factions have been lobbying for and against athletic-field lighting via websites and Facebook pages, as well as with colorful signs on lawns.
At issue is a proposal contained in a PLHS long-range site master plan revision now under way, to provide heretofore unlit PLHS with permanent field lighting. New lighting would consist of four towers, each 90 feet high, allowing for maximum lighting of the field and minimal spillover into nearby properties, according to school officials.
Improvements to PLHS in the master plan also include safety and ADA upgrades to classrooms and other facilities, athletic stadium upgrades consisting of bleacher renovation, installation of a press box and a new sound system besides new stadium lighting.
The stadium-light proposal is being hailed by PPLHS as a sensible solution to a needed development at the high school.
“Facts … Not Fear,” is the motto adopted by PPLHS.
“PPLHS supports lighting and exploring solutions and ideas that will meet the needs of our neighborhood high school while addressing legitimate, fact-based concerns of our community,” according to a PPLHS position paper referred to as a “factual flier.”
“We are respectful of all concerns with emphasis on the importance of staying student-centered, non-emotional, positive, inclusive and solution-oriented,” states the factual flier.
On the other side, Pro Point Loma has adopted a “shouldn’t do” position regarding new stadium lighting, warning such lighting would invite unwanted commercialization of Point Loma High School, while negatively impacting surrounding neighborhoods.
“This proposal has been discussed many times and ways to mitigate the affects on the stadium (from lighting) have been considered and, ultimately, every time it is rejected as not being feasible,” said Jennifer Dariani, PPL spokes-woman. “Nighttime lighting at the stadium is not appropriate. The only change this time is that the school site, one of the smallest in the district with one of the largest student bodies, is even more overdeveloped.”
“Our main concerns are the lack of parking for people attending the event, the congestion of people trying to get to and from stadium events, and public safety issues with people wandering the streets at night trying to find their cars, light pollution and glare, and the noise nuisance,” Dariani continued.
Dariani said PPL is being misrepresented by stadium lighting proponents.
“This (lighting) is being presented to students as something fun and that the neighborhood just doesn’t want them to have fun,” said Dariani, claiming adding stadium lighting amounts to a “surcharge to the neighborhood that it just can’t accommodate.”
“We always want to keep an open mind,” said Dariani of PPL. “But this is an issue that’s been looked at a lot times and people haven’t been able to come up with a solution. Our main goal is to educate people in the neighborhood who are not informed on the (lighting) project. We want to empower them to voice their needs and their concerns.”
In its “factual flier,” PPLHS said athletic Point Loma High athletic facility upgrades, including lighting, are “part of a process of modernization and establishing equity of access for all students.”
The PPLHS flier points out that Point Loma High School is one of only three of 15 high schools in the San Diego Unified High School District (SDUSD) without field lighting.
“Lighting would increase the opportunity of usage of PLHS athletics, band, ROTC and other student activities,” argues the PPLHS flier. “Presently, outside parks and alternative school sites must be used to accommodate the students. Traveling off-site has been identified as a concern by students and families because of safety and time away from studies.”
“The San Diego Unified School District is on a fast track to turn the high school stadium into a rentable sports venue,” claims anti-stadium lighting Pro Point Loma in its promotional materials.
“We do not support the school district’s commercialization of the Point Loma High School Stadium that takes away from the high school’s education mission and instead focuses on opportunities to turn our high school into a revenue generator for the entire school district at the expense of our neighborhood and quality of life.”
School board member Scott Barnett feels it’s possible for both sides to meet in the middle on the stadium-lighting issue, adding he feels there’s mitigation that could satisfy neighbors' concerns.
“My view is we can do things right now, that should have been done for decades, to reduce the impact of any lights,” Barnett said, adding high school nighttime events would be limited to 19 a year. “SDSU closes nearby streets during football games and only residents go in and out. We could try that. We should have satellite parking and people shuttled in from another school. We could move the ticket gate over to Chatsworth Boulevard or build more student parking on-site. Most importantly, we will set up some restrictions of use so that inappropriate uses would not be allowed.”
Barnett said providing nighttime lighting is exactly that and nothing more.
“This is not a plan or an intent to commercialize,” he said. “This facility is for student athletes first, kids and recreational sports and then for other appropriate sports uses.”
Christy Scadden, a Point Loma High parent affiliated with PPLHS who lives near the school and has children going there, said stadium lighting “is not a new need,” pointing out the issue “is more relevant now” than it’s ever been adding PLHS has more sports teams than any other San Diego Unified School.
Scadden also feels there’s room for compromise.
“I don’t know that the lines (pro and con) are as distinct as it’s been assumed,” she said. “I think we can compromise and come to a solution that is great for our community and ensure that we have a great quality school, which is what every neighborhood wants.”
PLHS is the most severely impacted school in San Diego, with only 16.7 acres of land to serve 2,000 students, which equates to 120 students per acre. (A 2010 Peninsula Beacon article showed a campus for 2,000 high school students built today would require 51 acres).
For more information, visit the anti-lighting website at www.propoint-loma.wordpress.com, while those supporting lighting and other changes can be found on Facebook at “Progress for PLHS.”
The PPLHS Q&A “factual flier” is at docs.google.com/file/d/0B7JMTIoyz03vcEdteTdhcDJYaHc/edit?usp=sharing.