PLHS stadium expansion, lighting raises concerns for neighbors on various levels
by David L. Dick, Point Loma
Jan 16, 2014 | 2739 views | 2 2 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The plan to significantly expand the size, capacity and frequency of use of the Point Loma High School stadium on the school’s already overcrowded campus has generated a lot of discussion in our community over the past few months. You can’t miss the hundreds of “Save Our Neighborhood” signs planted in the yards of those who oppose the project. I have one in front of my house.

Why?

Is it because the banks of 20-plus high-intensity lights installed atop each of the six 90-foot metal poles will shine on to my property and into my home? No. While that will be the result for many of my neighbors and isn’t a fair imposition on them, I live far enough away that those lights won’t affect me like that. But, just like anyone who lives in our community or whose view includes the sky above PLHS, I’ll be well aware of their presence. Whether by the indelible stain on our nighttime vistas their telltale glare and glow will leave, or the always-flashing red strobe lights on top of each pole hoping to warn passing aircraft of the danger they present, you will too.

Is it because increasing by 500 people the seating capacity of a stadium for which there is already virtually no parking will result in even more cars illegally parked in front of my house or blocking my driveway, with litter and graffiti left behind for me to deal with? Again, no. My neighbors who live closer to the campus will have to fight those battles, and that isn’t fair either. They fight those battles every time the stadium is used for an event attracting large crowds.

Ironically, most of these events aren’t even school events; they’re sponsored by groups or organizations not affiliated with PLHS or its student-athletes. Instead, the school district rents the field to these groups for money and keeps the revenues for itself — precious little, if any, retained for our local school programs. But even if you don’t live near the campus, you’ll experience the impact of this unnecessary expansion as hundreds more cars and buses clog our community’s already overburdened and narrow streets and further pollute our air. You’ve probably experienced Rosecrans Street on a weekday afternoon or Sunday. Imagine that on Chatsworth Boulevard, Voltaire Street and Nimitz Boulevard every evening and weekend.

Is it because I don’t support Pointer athletics and don’t want them to succeed or have adequate facilities? No. Like many who oppose this project, I’m a proud Pointer and a former student-athlete. Many fellow opponents have children who attend, will attend or have attended PLHS. We want the best for Point Loma High sports. But further taxing an already overused facility isn’t the solution to their needs. And, just for the record, I and many of the school’s neighbors fully support the annual Homecoming night game tradition. We had nothing to do with the decision to reschedule this year’s game to the afternoon.

So don’t be fooled. This stadium expansion isn’t really about practice times and Friday night football. It isn’t really about students or Pointer pride. What it’s really about is, plain and simple, money. The school district wants to fill its general fund coffers through the daily-use commercialization of a stadium that is already and will always be inadequate to the task and do so at the expense of our community.

If the school district was genuinely serious about improving the conditions for our student-athletes, they would put all their focus on the well-conceived and broadly supported plan already underway to create a lighted community sports complex on underutilized land at Correia Middle School. That plan makes sense. The PLHS Stadium expansion doesn’t.

No, I’m not some old cranky NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) who opposes the planned expansion and commercialization of the PLHS stadium out of blind self-interest. I oppose it because it’s the wrong plan, in the wrong place for the wrong reasons.

Even if you don’t live in the immediate proximity of the campus, for all the reasons I do, you should oppose it too.

Comments
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sdplhsfamily
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January 20, 2014
Yes, but what you are doing is making the kids feel unsupported and unwelcome with your signs. The district has committed to not renting out the fields and is even willing to sign documents to that effect. However, that is not enough, because the neighbors don't want to deal with the impact of a school in their neighborhood, which includes parking and traffic issues. Improvements are included in the plan, but that is not enough either. This whole idea that the school's presence is "unfair" to the neighbors is ridiculous. Don't buy a house near a high school. It has been there since 1925! The issues at PLHS are no different than in other neighborhoods, it is just that PLHS kids are clearly not welcomed or supported by their community. Your statements about not taking away Homecoming are cowardly - don't pitch a fit and then not own the outcomes. Your signs make it clear that you don't want the kids there, and you should be ashamed.
farmguy78
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January 20, 2014
I'm sorry that the kids feel unsupported and unwelcome. But their disappointment is temporary. They will move on in a year or three. The neighbors, on the other hand, have made a long-term commitment to their neighborhood. And that neighborhood is being threatened with permanent damage by a school district and local administration that has historically shown a callous disdain for them and disregard for their legitimate concerns.

The community deals daily with the impact of living near PLHS. But they're not asking for the school to be closed or moved. All they've ever asked for is for the school and students to be good and responsible neighbors. The school district's current efforts and how they're going about them shows again that they are not to be trusted in that regard.

When these folks moved into their homes, they knew they were moving in near a high school. They accepted that and all it entails. But they did so with history and the repeated reassurances of the school and the district that there would never be permanent field lights at Point Loma High School. Yes, the school has been there since 1925. And for almost 90 years without stadium lights or a permanent public address system.

These same folks moved in knowing they would be living near an international airport. But they also knew it was closed for departures between 11:30 PM and 6:30 AM. They decided that was an acceptable situation. They monitor and expect compliance with those restrictions, but they realize they can't expect the airport to go away. But their objection to the installation of permanent field lights at PLHS is no different than the community-wide uproar that would ensue if the airport curfew was lifted or a second runway was constructed. If you live within the influence of the airport, I bet your reaction would be the same.

There has been much success on the field and in the bleachers at PLHS without lights or a permanent PA system. I was there to see and participate in it. So after 90 years without lights, what has changed?

I'll tell you what. The school district has identified field rentals as a revenue source, just as they have Correia Middle School and campuses throughout the district. To set the record straight, the school district has NEVER offered to sign anything restricting the use of the field or the lights - and that's not only at PLHS - NO WHERE in the entire district. They have NEVER committed not to rent the fields. And they won't because that's what this is all about. Money - money that goes to the school district. NONE of it stays in the community or comes back to the school or its students.

I ask you talk to the folks who live near Clairemont High School where similar improvements have been in place for 2 years. The field is now used EVERY night, with the lights and public address facilities in use late into each evening. Their homes have become unlivable. Some have moved. Others are planning to do so. And this is after the school's officials and school district assured that the lights would be used no more than 15 times a year, other than in exceptional circumstances, such as playoff games, etc. Those weren't just bad predictions, they were untruths. The same assurances coming from the administration at PLHS and the school district will be nothing less than more self-serving dissembling designed to put down community opponents.

With all that said and the acrimony the school district's plans have created, the community remains willing, able and prepared to work out a responsible and reasonable solution that will allow appropriate improvements to the PLHS stadium to move forward. But that solution must be respectful of the legitimate concerns of the school's neighbors and larger Point Loma community and, most importantly, be enforceable and not merely words on paper to be ignored.

You seem to feel very strongly about this issue. Your passion is admirable. I welcome your transparent involvement in the ongoing and future dialogue on this issue. Together, as responsible and respectful citizens, I am confident we can find sustainable middle ground that will allow all legitimate concerns to be adequately and appropriately addressed.

David Dick