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Let There Be No Light

Though the Santa Monica-Malibu USD in California does not have a turf field, members of the Malibu Community Alliance filed a lawsuit against the district and city in July 2012 to stop the district from installing permanent 70-foot-tall lights on the football field.

Many residents in Malibu don’t want any lighting, period, as it is a rural community where people enjoy their views of the dark night skies and stars. So, there is a community effort to keep lighting and glare at a minimum, says Superintendent Sandra Lyon. Because of this, the battle to install permanent lighting at the Malibu High School field has lasted over a decade. After seven years of temporary lights—which many residents still don’t like—followed by three seasons of daytime football games, a community group raised over $500,000 to fund the permanent lights, Lyon says. “We had a large group of parents and community members who wanted to have the excitement of night football games and other sporting events,” she adds. “Homecoming, which was the grand unveiling of the lights, was a big event that really brought the high school community together.”

In 2010, a compromise agreement between the community, city, and district stated that field lights could be used 16 nights per year. But last June, the City Council outlined new lighting standards that would allow them to be used for up to 61 nights per year, nearly four times as many nights as the Malibu Community Alliance wants, according to local reports.

Initially, the field lights were approved as permanent posts, but in October, the district decided to use removable light posts that can be dismantled and taken down within days after they are used so as not to be an eyesore. Members of the community alliance group filed a temporary injunction against the lights last October to stop them from going up for the homecoming game, and again in November to prevent them from being used during the lawsuit, according to local reports. A judge denied both, and ruled that the removeable lights could stay up. At the time of this writing, the lights are still in use, but the lawsuit is pending.

“[The lights] are removable, and we continue to try to work with the community to try to come up with a solution that is amenable to both parties,” Lyon says. “As with anything in your community, you try to work with stakeholders as much as you can to make sure what you’re doing fits into the community.”