They’ve got spirit – just not the kind the district intended.
During the campaigns for Props. S and Z, school bonds intended to fund school repairs, voters were told students were in dire need of better facilities. Fixing crumbling buildings and stadiums, the district says, will create a safer environment that also boosts school and community morale. The reality looks a bit different: New field lights, some funded with bond money, are actually dividing several neighborhoods across the city.
Fights in neighborhoods near Point Loma, Crawford and Clairemont high schools have spawned petitions, dueling red and blue lawn signs and door-to-door precinct walkers – all stuff you might expect to see during the height of election season. But instead of a host of candidates and issues, there is one issue: stadium lights.
“The SDUSD continues its campaign to destroy neighborhoods by erecting massive sports complexes at middle and high schools within its district, severely affecting the quality of life guaranteed to us by law,” says a Change.org petition signed by 110 El Cerrito residents near Crawford High.
In Point Loma, things are so tense that the opposition group there trying to shut down new stadium lights has spurred its own opposition group composed of parents and student supporters in favor of the stadium projects. The anti-lights crowd goes by the name Pro Point Loma and touts 850 email subscribers. The anti-anti-lights group is called Progress for PLHS.
It all goes back to Clairemont High.
Help Us Raise $100k By the End of May
I can see the rationale for schools being able to play sports on lighted fields, though I can also see serious issues with a) the way this lighting is implemented b) the lack of review c) the use of public money meant for classroom education. But the main problem is the slippery slope this leads to--we spent all this money on this facility; let's rent it out to help pay for it. At this point, the usage should meet all the standards for a residential neighborhood. If it won't pass those tests, no commercial usage. Otherwise, every school will start putting in lights with the plan of having their cost defrayed by renting out the field. Also, it sounds nice to have the public use these fields at night, but tell me how much it is going to cost the rest of the public to pay for this? And is it fair to do this to the people who live around the field. Noise and light are serious enviromental problems. Should those people's health be sacrificed so others can exercise to be more healthy?
After giving the lights issue more thought:
Helix HS has football/baseball field lights on nearly year round and has a ton of residences around it. Why never no complaints? Maybe the residents expect fields to be used by youth and adults?
Shouldn't adults have access to use community/taxpayer supported fields? (As long as they don't push out district students from using it?)
Shouldn't adults have opportunities to play in organized leagues that has a major contribution to their health and well being through exercise and social benefits?
If so where can they play? Most park/rec facilities are rented out by the plethora of youth soccer clubs (Albion has Robb Field locked up nearly year round for its 50+ competitive youth clubs)
Take away Vavi, YMCA and SDABL and is there any other organizations offering adult sports outside of a gym?
Personally, I have benefited in so many different ways from playing on many high school baseball fields on Sundays over the past 20+ years through SDABL at a very reasonable cost.
I do believe the residents near Clairemont have a beef with adult soccer/lights happening 4 nights a week (if true) and I am sure some kind of compromise can happen with the lights/sound system, but you live near a public facility that the students and public have the right and deserve to use.
District officials said VAVi is paying $48,000 to use Clairemont’s field for a year, and paid the district $105,800 last year for all
field rentals, including use of San Diego High, Mira Mesa High, Madison
High School and Mission Bay High School. See list on VAVi's
website for other schools and facilities.
Surely $240 per night ($48,000 / 200 = $240) for Clairemont is not an adequate payment. $240 probably does not cover the electricity, maintenance, repairs, security, and administrative costs. If they use the field three hours, that's only $80 per hour for use of that professional field with stadium lights. It costs $50 per hour to use a room at the library. Did the District really pencil this out?
The VAVi website says they rent out 30 facilities around San Diego. They are getting away with murder by using facilities paid for by others and, if what they pay the District is any indication, do not appear to be even covering the costs.
@George in BayHo @Dianne Lane Hi, George, thanks for responding. Here's a website you might want to have a look at http://www.sandiegobusiness.org/category/tags/vavi. Yes, VAVi is for profit. Many of us believe the real goal of all the stadium expansions around the School District is not primarily for "The Kids", but for commercialization, to rent out the stadiums to make money for the school district.
@Dianne Lane @George in BayHo Diane, again I disagree. While I am hardly a Vavi supporter (much the opposite when it comes to them leaving alcoholic beverages in/around trash cans on SDUSD fields, although they have cleaned that up in the past year), these fields were put in so SDUSD could have modern facilities akin to North/South and East County schools who almost all have updated facilities.
I would have more of an issue if Vavi was keeping district students from using their own facilities.
@Dennis @Dianne Lane @George in BayHo I am an avid supporter of VAVi, having played in the sports leagues since 2006. They are simply a company that sets up and organizes sports leagues for adults. Yes, adults play sports also. It's my exercise and stress relief from work, it is fun and I meet lots of people who mostly live nearby the field.
Dennis, I am not sure where you are seeing the alcohol when we are not even allowed to have sports drinks at the field. There is a staff member from VAVi who monitors the field for things like this as it is a school and not a place to drink. I don't really even see this as an issue. We are playing soccer and a beer is the last thing on my mind while running around for an hour.
I just think this is a bit harsh criticism for a company that raised nearly $200,000 for the Challenged Athletes Foundation (that was in the article you posted, Dianne) and is a supporter of the SD economy. They are spending money in San Diego and encouraging players to support other local businesses (ex: Rubicon Deli). I am happy we have an organization in San Diego like this that provides healthy, active and positive activities.
@Ben James @Dennis @Dianne Lane @George in BayHo Ben, Vavi helps organize more sports than soccer and at quite a few other locations. Think a much more social sport at another location. I never get to Clairemont. And like I said, it has been cleaned up since I last witnessed it last summer so kudos to Vavi!
@Dianne Lane Hmmmm. I hadn't realized that VAVi is a FOR PROFIT corporation. Thought the adult soccer at CHS was a not-for-profit recreation department league.
Dianne your financial observation is significant. It's hard to justify subsidizing a private enterprise at a cost to the taxpayers. But if there is no profit motive, and if consideration is given to the neighbors, I'd be glad to see maximized use of our public sports facilities.
"The lights shine for games that run from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m., residents said."
whining NIMBYs. seriously, get over it. i have zero sympathy for the residents in Point Loma. the city can make some money while the facilities sit idle. nothing wrong with that. as long as the lights are off by 10pm, i see no issues.
I live 10 miles (!!!) from Westview High School. The topography allows a view of their lights from my house. I cannot sit in my living room and enjoy the evening view without my eyes being repeatedly attracted to the bright lights from the football field. That's 10 miles away, so I really pity anyone who is close by. And that's not to mention the noise. Our values seem wrong when we are willing to destroy the value of people's properties with light and noise--without enviromental review and with exemptions for extremely loud noise. Even worse, funds voted for improving education are going to pay for this. And for sports which have a high risk of injuries. Concussions are talked about, but what about joint damage and other injuries?
@Janet Shelton --A lot of light is being wasted. There are lighting systems that direct the light downward towards the field, minimizing light spill-over (Musco Lighting has really good systems for keeping light directed to the field, with very minimal light scatter off of the fields), but the various school districts were probably trying to save a few $$ by not using the best available systems. Patrick Henry High is notorious for lighting a large area away from their stadium--they have no shields on the lights whatsoever.
I think high school sports are a reasonable adjunct to classroom learning. And I'm also glad to see opportunities for adult sports leagues to compete after working hours. But those neighbors have be taken by surprise, and it sounds like the school district has not managed this very well.
There ARE engineering and operational ways to manage this situation.
(1) There is an incredible amount of light spillage from the Clairemont HS field. Clearly, the lighting system was poorly designed; masts are too tall and individual fixtures too bright for a residential area. (Better design that would also benefit the athletes would be more, lower wattage fixtures installed closer to the ground.) First thing I would try at CHS is some sheet metal "flags" to create shadow zones where the light spills off the field.
(2) I suspect the PA system has a volume control? Use it!
(3) Administratively set a rule, no amplification after, let's say 8PM, except during HS football games.
Another interesting issue in this seems unrelated, but bear with me for a second.
Lots of research supports later start times for high schools -- it is better for teenagers health-wise, improves grades, and may even improve their mental health and reduce traffic accidents. When parents go to school districts to ask why start times are still so early, the big issue seems to be sports. Most sports games have to end before dark, because so few fields are lit. Therefore lots of sports games have to start relatively early in the afternoon, particularly when you figure in travel time between schools.
Most high school sports don't attract a big enough crowd to justify the taco special or PA system, so hopefully most games would be quieter than the big ones. As far as lights, it seems possible to me to install lights that light the field but don't light up things blocks away so severely. If that were the case, I'd love to see money spent on making more sports facilities useable after dark -- as long as we got the later start times that they'd allow.
@Anna Crotty --That technology already exists, but the districts have to pay extra for it.
When we voted for prop S it was with the idea that the money would be used to fund school repairs and upkeep but instead these stadium "improvements" were paid for with the money. What a lousy deal for taxpayers.
@Allen Carter Right? I thought it was going to fund better school facilities, not some giant sports facility.
When did priorities shift from education to sports?
I believe the legal threshold for a resident to complain about noise is pretty low - perhaps the neighbors ought to start calling the PD when the db's rise? At the very least that would create a legal record of problems and complaints.
The really sad part is that the Crawford kiddos will likely get the biggest shaft as they are the least affluent out of the bunch and will not have much of a voice in favor of them getting lights.
Sports can be such a major part of school culture and instills many values for its participants. My life would be much different if I did not play high school baseball and did not have such a great coach helping instill these values in myself (at a time when I didn't want to listen to my family).
Kim, I disagree about the money grab. Vavi is just benefitting from the situation. The district just wanted to make our schools similar to North/South/East County schools who almost all have new turf fields to play on.
I do agree that the adult sports (Vavi) needs adjusting. Let them play during daylight savings time so lights are not needed and/or on Sundays. (and make sure they don't leave behind the alcoholic beverages ;)
@Dennis "School culture."
Really? Why is it always the jocks who are abusing fellow students? If this is "building character," I think a new approach is needed. As a survivor of Clairemont HS, I saw this all the time, always the same "sports stars" and cheerleader arm candy doing the bullying.
Maybe you're a fine fellow with no damaged knees or elbones, I don't know. I do know if you slug one of these bullies, they'll leave you alone, but that shouldn't even be necessary.
I was not thinking about football players using the stadiums but the multitude of girls field hockey, boys/girls lacrosse, boys/girls track and boys/girls soccer teams all getting use of nice facilities.
I think all schools should have options for all students, athletic or not with a multitude of clubs and extracurricular activities.
I live next to Crawford in El Cerrito and the new stadium plan with lights worries me. This school needs improvements but using the bond money to improve their stadium seems irresponsible. What about their failing classrooms?
I can tell you that their current stadium sound system is quite loud and you can hear it through double pane windows. Now make these night games with lights and a better sound system. Nobody will be able to rest.
This stadium plan is huge and really seems built around the idea of having bigger events--like these adult sports clubs. This seems to be a money grabbing plan at the expense of the neighbors.
I hope the school board comes to its senses.
Renting soccer fields to adult players allows those fields to become more financially self-sufficient, and that's good for taxpayers. Would those who oppose the lights be willing to reimburse the city for the loss of income if the city stops allowing paid use of the fields?
@Derek Hofmann Yes, but if funds for infrastructure weren't diverted, then we wouldn't be in the position of helping the fields be more financially self-sufficient. And if this use of the lights had been disclosed, then it would have been obvious to residents what they were in for so they could voice their concerns. And the "truncated environmental view" wasn't adequate, given this expanded use of the lights.
@Janet Shelton Shouldn't we always expect governments to do more with less money?