Please check out our site and learn about the effort to bring Friday night lights to the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Evening games will allow students, families, and alumni from both Rolling Hills High School and Peninsula High School the opportunity to come together in the community.
Palos Verdes School Board Bows to Pressure of “Preservation” Group to Keep LIGHTS OUT at Friday Night Football Games
For decades, a battle has been waged on the Palos Verdes Peninsula over the installation of lights at the Peninsula High School football stadium. Fans of the lights – who want students and residents of the Peninsula to experience the joys of Friday Night Football – have faced opposition by various groups who resisted change on “The Hill.”
In July 2010, the battle began anew, but this time with a difference: the School Board gave its unanimous support for the project and authorized the “Peninsula Stadium Lights Steering Committee” to begin fundraising. The Board authorized the Committee to proceed with a goal to complete an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) to impartially assess the impact of stadium lights on the community.
The Committee had been formed in February 2010 with the intent of having stadium lights installed at Peninsula High School. One of the leaders of the committee was Kevin Moen, Peninsula’s co-head varsity football coach and a former high school standout back when Peninsula was known as Rolling Hills High School. Moen went on to play at Cal where he gained notoriety for “the Play” – the infamous end to the 1982 Stanford/Cal Big Game in which, after 5 Cal laterals, Moen wove through the Stanford Band in the end zone to score and give Cal the win. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Play; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUzubssZIXA).
For nearly a year after the Board’s authorization, the Committee tirelessly raised funds for the project. During that time, hundreds of Palos Verdes residents and others generously donated over $250,000. Along the way, thousands of kids – many of whom participated personally and directly in the fundraising – had their hopes raised and their hearts set on playing or watching football under the lights. They especially believed in it because of the support shown by the District. On multiple occasions, the School Board and the School District expressed their support for the project and represented to the Committee and others that they were “united” in the effort to bring lights to the stadium.
From the outset, there was opposition to the project by a “Preservation” group that claimed there would be problems with glare, noise, traffic, and “undesireables” if the high school stadium was lighted on Friday nights. The School Board, however, always took the position that these concerns would be addressed in the EIR process.
One of the biggest concerns opponents had was how often the lights would be used. This is where the Committee’s and the District’s interests began to diverge. The Committee had a single goal for the lights – 5 to 7 nights a year for football games only. It wanted to communicate this openly with the opponents to assuage their concerns. The District, however, apparently wanted to leave open the possibility of using the stadium lights for other activities. Wishing to preserve that option, the District urged the Committee to remain silent and not respond to the opponents.
During this time, District officials also urged the Committee not to communicate with the opponents and not to write letters or seek other coverage or publicity rebutting their arguments. The Committee complied, understanding that it was united with the District and – as the District and the Board repeatedly promised – that the issues raised by the opponents would be aired during the EIR process.
In mid-2011, concerned that the project would easily pass muster under an EIR, the Preservationists adopted a new tack: they threatened the School Board that they would withhold their support for a new parcel tax the Board wanted placed on the November 2011 ballot. Ironically, the Preservationists group is largely comprised of citizens over the age of 65 who are eligible for exemption from such a parcel tax. Meanwhile, the Committee represents thousands of parents of school-aged students who have repeatedly supported parcel taxes as a means of adding revenue to the District’s coffers. If properly advised, the Committee would have mobilized support for both the lights and the parcel tax. But the District kept this threat under wraps and urged the Committee to continue its fundraising and progress toward the EIR and the lights.
On July 14, 2011, the Board bowed to the pressure of the opponents’ tax threat. It unanimously voted to end the project without ever going through the very process it had promised. The Board cited “community divisiveness” created by opposition to the project, but its real motive was to ensure the vitality of its tax proposal. The Board’s turnabout came as a shock to the Committee because the Board had, for the prior year, repeatedly promised the Committee that it would carry through with the EIR and allow that legal process to address the Preservationist’s concerns.
After that, the Committee made multiple overtures to both the Preservationists and the Board to reach a reasonable compromise. Its efforts were unsuccessful.
Accordingly, on September 1st, the Committee took the preliminary administrative steps necessary to file a civil lawsuit by filing a claim with the District. Around the same time, another group in favor of the lights, “Friends of Friday Night Football”, claimed the Board’s actions on July 14th violated California’s open meeting law, the Brown Act. The Friends group filed a lawsuit on September 27, 2011 asserting this claim.
Although it denied it had failed to properly notify the public about the July 14th meeting agenda as the Friends’ lawsuit alleged, the Board immediately scheduled a new meeting on the lights issue. At a November 15, 2011 Board meeting, many supporters passionately argued for the project while others simply stated that the Board should do what it had promised when it originally green-lighted the fundraising: undertake an environmental assessment of the project to see if the opponents’ concerns could be mitigated and addressed.
At the end of the meeting, several Board members expressed their support for the lights but, lamenting the “divisiveness” of the issue and “lack of collaboration” between the opposing parties, voted to discontinue the project. The Board ignored the fact that its own direction to the Committee not to respond to the opponents caused the lack of collaboration and divisiveness.
However, based on several of the Board members’ expression of interest in the lights and their stated desire for collaboration, the Committee reached out to both the opponents and the Board several times to try to bring the groups together. The Board members referred the matter to their attorney and ultimately never met with the Committee. Having no other choice, the Committee filed the attached Petition for Writ of Mandate/Complaint against the Board and the District on January 31, 2012.
Contact: Martha Doty (213) 576-1145
On July 14, 2011 the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District Board of Education put an end to the Capital Campaign, which involved the installation of stadium lights at Peninsula High School.
Since that time, we have been working diligently to create a compromise that we believe is in the best interest of the donors and one that hopefully will achieve our goal to bring Friday Night Lights to this community in some aspect.
We still are working through a solution, and hope to reach an agreement soon. In the meantime, we ask for your patience and understanding. We have worked very hard over the past 18 months, and will continue to do so in order to bring this matter to a resolution that is fair and reasonable.
We will be in touch with you again shortly to give you more details, and to ask for your continued support.
Nina MacLeay and Kevin Moen
We are well on our way to our goal. Please donate any amount to help us bring Friday Night Lights to our community. Click here to donate now safely and securely online.
A heartfelt thank you to all those that have already helped with their generous donations.