San Diego Unified School District and Talmadge residents once again square off over issue of stadium lighting

SDUSD officials are forced to revisit stadium lighting after an appeals court ruled that the environmental review was insufficient and did not fall under Proposition S improvements.

It wasn't the first time that dozens of Talmage residents took seats inside Hoover High School auditorium to discuss the newly erected stadium lights and it won't be the last.

On May 8, thirty or so residents attended an environmental scoping meeting to address the noise, traffic, and parking that will flood the neighborhood as a result of night games and additional night events at the high school's newly renovated field.

Oddly enough; the lights have already been constructed and the renovations to the athletic field are complete. The renovations to the athletic facilties and the installation of light towers, which alone cost aproximately $800,000, were included in a larger project paid for with Proposition S funds.

The problem, say residents and ruled appellant court judges in a March 26 decision, is San Diego Unified School District failed to conduct the sufficient environmental analysis of the impacts to the neighborhood in regards to light, noise, traffic, and parking. In addition, judges determined that the 90-plus-foot light towers do not fall under the list of improvements authorized by Proposition S.

So now officials from San Diego Unified School District have asked their consultants to revisit the issue and conduct a proper environmental review of the project.

"The Court of Appeal ruled that the district did not perform sufficient environmental review of parking and traffic issues," stated Communications Supervisor for San Diego Unified, Cynthia Reed-Porter in a May 7 email. "In the interest of saving time and money, the district is conducting a focused Environmental Impact Report on those two specific issues, with the scoping meeting as a first step."

But residents are once again crying foul, saying the district is again trying to step outside the lines of the court in order to push the project through once and for all and avoid the possibility of having to take down the lights.

"The District's comment that it wants to 'save time and money' through some abbreviated or 'focused' environmental review is both incorrect, as a matter of law, and offensive," reads a statement from the attorney representing the residents, Craig Sherman.

"The amount of time and money that has been spent in this matter is a tremendous waste of taxpayer dollars, and which is something that should never have occurred had the District performed the EIR it said it was going to do before it decided to short-shrift the law and the public by performing a mitigated negative declaration instead."

Sherman interprets the court's ruling to say much more than an abbreviated environmental review of the impacts to parking and traffic that will arrive in Talmadge during night games. He believes the district should conduct a complete environmental impact review.

"Based on the illegal use of funds spent on the stadium lighting and based on the fact that Court of Appeal is ordering the project's approval be rescinded, it cannot be said the project - as it is now built - is legally or factually a fait acompli that will remain in its current form. Only time will tell if this might be so."

Of course there are some who accuse the neighbors of NIMBY'ism. At yesterday's meeting, City Heights resident and track coach Elizabeth Tate, said the neighbors do not want to work with the school and that the district should do anything in its power to push the improvements through, including the lighting.

"Ninety-eight percent of Talmadge residents don't send their children to Hoover. They don't want to work with the school. They need to start. These residents should try and establish a relationship with these kids and this school. After all, Hoover was here long before they came."

The scoping meeting is just the first step in the process. Additional meetings will be announced as the process moves forward.

Disclosure: I am a property owner in Talmadge but live to the east of the school and moved here after any renovations took place.

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