Sky view outside Clairemont High's stadium
  • Sky view outside Clairemont High's stadium
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Residents living near Clairemont High had no reason to believe that the school and district had any intention of turning their newly renovated football stadium into a nightly playing field for adult soccer leagues.

Why would they? The mitigated negative declaration the district submitted before the renovation began was clear: "The District anticipates that approximately 15 evening events would occur with implementation of the proposed project. The District notes that due to routine practices and the potential for unforeseen events, such as playoff games, a few more events may occur."

During the course of the past year, the "few more events" line from the environmental document has morphed into allowing an adult sporting league known as VAVI to rent the field for 190 nighttime sporting events. As of February 21, VAVI has rented the field out for 117 nighttime sporting events, with 73 more planned until June 30. In exchange for use of the field, VAVI agreed to pay $48,129.

Residents say they, not the sports leagues, are paying the real price. Anywhere from three to five nights a week until 9:30 p.m., they are under the lights. They say families are moving out and the San Diego Unified School District is unresponsive to their complaints.

"Since they've been up, two families have already moved out — my neighbors across the street will soon make three," Clairemont resident Tom Ford tells the Reader. "Light comes in my entire house at night. I can't even sleep in my own master bedroom because my window faces the field…. There's no reason for us to go outside at night and enjoy our fire pit or look at the stars. What's the point when you're under a huge spotlight and you can't see the stars?"

Ford says the district caught them off guard about the proposal to build the lights.

"San Diego Unified never approached us about the lights, or the field renovation. The mitigated negative declaration they released was a complete joke. To hear that the school district is renting out the field 190 nights a year for forty some thousand dollars is upsetting. Add to it the fact that San Diego Unified used taxpayer money to pay for stadium renovations instead of on classrooms. And trying to get through to San Diego Unified is next to impossible."

That last point has been raised by several other communities located near high schools where large-scale field renovations have taken place or are planned to occur in coming months. In 2013, after years of fighting the proposed stadium renovations at Hoover High School, a group of Talmadge residents sued San Diego Unified over their use of Proposition S funds and an apparently false statement similar to the one found in Clairemont's mitigated negative declaration: that the district planned only 15 nighttime events at the high school.

Approved in 2008, Proposition S (and later Z) is known as the “School Repair and Safety Measure.” To date, the bonds have generated an estimated $2.1 billion in revenues. The funds, according to bond language, were intended to pay for repairs to “outdated student restrooms, deteriorated plumbing and roofs; upgrading career/vocational classrooms and labs; providing up-to-date classroom technology; improving school safety and security, and replacing dilapidated portable classrooms.”

There was never any mention of new stadiums, 90-foot light towers, or state-of-the-art public-address systems.

The Talmadge residents were eventually successful in their lawsuit, forcing the district to conduct proper environmental review, effectively capping the number of night events at Hoover. The residents are currently asking the court to force the district to repay the $2.6 million dollars of Proposition S and Z funds.

Despite the court defeat, San Diego Unified went ahead with plans to renovate Clairemont High School's stadium, submitting an abbreviated environmental document stating that only 15 nighttime events would occur.

Clairemont residents are joining with residents in Talmadge, Point Loma, El Cerrito, and other communities to hold the district accountable and force them to be good neighbors.

On February 19, more than 50 El Cerrito residents and others from Clairemont attended a community council meeting to address the $16 million stadium renovation planned at Crawford High School (in El Cerrito) and the situation in Clairemont.

"We are not opposed to modernizing the school, including the stadium," El Cerrito resident Jim Zumbiel told those in attendance. "This will only benefit the students and the community. However, it is now apparent that the school board's main objective in building such a huge sports complex, that goes beyond the needs of students at Crawford or [Horace Mann Middle School], is simply meant to generate revenue. This money could be used to renovate the classrooms built in 1957, not build a state-of-the-art stadium for adult league and other outside third parties."

Zumbiel said that the group is speaking to legal counsel about the next step to take to force the district to be responsive to neighbors and abide by the language in the bond measures.

But according to a San Diego Unified spokesperson, the impacts at Clairemont are not felt by the entire community, and, in fact, represents only a small minority of residents.

"In contrast to the handful of individuals who have complained about the activities, we have received dozens of requests from community members not to cancel the permit," writes San Diego Unified communications director Linda Zintz. "The owner of VAVI is an active member of the Clairemont community."

Zintz says that the district is meeting with Clairemont residents and is dedicated to figuring out a solution.

"The district will be holding a series of meetings with a group of diverse stakeholders to determine the field use policy for Clairemont High School. The policy will be a collaboration that takes into account what’s in the best outcome for the school, students, community and the neighbors. These meetings have not been scheduled but will be held prior to the end of the current school year."

(corrected 2/22, 6:30 p.m.)

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community_watch Feb. 21, 2015 @ 1:44 p.m.

Additional supportive documentation regarding this story:

Video interview with Clairemont residents - https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=tVutvv5VKas

14 Jan 2015 - Letter to School Principal; limitations of night Field Use per their MND – http://www.tfasbs.org/uploads/Document_for_Clairemont_HS_principal.pdf

15 Jan 2015 - E-Mail from District Council, Andre Donovan – http://www.tfasbs.org/uploads/E-mail_from_Andre_Donovan_01-15-2015.pdf

11 Feb 2015 - Meeting recap between District, VAVi, and Clairemont Resident – http://www.tfasbs.org/uploads/SDUSD_Invites_For-Profit_to_Discuss_Destruction_of_a____Neighborhood_4.0.pdf

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spudboy Feb. 22, 2015 @ 8:30 a.m.

Typical lack of consideration for others.

Why hasn't the city Clowncil done something (earth to Lorie Zapf)?

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community_watch Feb. 22, 2015 @ 11:32 a.m.

Taxpayers' generosity in approving property tax bonds Prop S and Prop Z has been abused by San Diego Unified School District.

Taxpayers provided millions to improve the educational environment of SDUSD students but paint is peeling, restrooms smell with cracks in the walls and rusted sinks, and portable classrooms still sit on school sites and sites are not accessible to persons with disabilities.

Instead, the district rammed through huge projects that commercial entities are using for big profits without regard for the quality of life for the taxpayers that opened their pocketbooks for the children. The splashy projects which benefit a small percentage of students was not the promise made by the school board in the proposition language which stated dilapidated facilities would be fixed up and in fact, listed the proposed projects. Instead, this government entity uses our tax money / legal services to impose its will on the citizens who are footing the bill and suffering from the constant use of school sites. It uses our tax money against its taxpayers!

The commercial use of school sites means more taxpayer money will be needed to repair school sites sooner which have become cheap places for businesses to use and increase their profits.

Schools were not situated in our communities for a commercial purpose but for educational purposes.

Sadly, the children in San Diego Unified now will be paying off millions of dollars of bond money for decades and living in neighborhoods where neighborhood schools close for the day just to have the commercial businesses come in and take over for the night and weekends.

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jzumbiel Feb. 23, 2015 @ 9:47 p.m.

Mr. Jackson, where you do live? Obviously not near a school which emits glaring lights from 90 ft poles into children's bedrooms and noise that blankets neighborhoods until all hours of the night. Also, why bring race into this? What's up with that? With all due respect, sir, you might want to stick with Geology and stay out of issues you know nothing about. Casual, flippant comments on this matter are neither helpful nor welcome to this conversation. Jim Zumbiel

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Lcavalletti Feb. 23, 2015 @ 10:31 p.m.

They mention that the owner of VAVI is an active comunity member of Clairemont. I wonder if he lives on the street that has the lights and noise problem? Or i wonder if he wouldnt mind his home being devalued because of the issue. I was one of the families mentioned that left because of it. I rent the house out now and even my renters are annoyed by the noise. Personally, I got tired of blacking out my windows and going out nightly to get away from the noise and lights. The residents of Clairemont will most likely prevail as the mitigation report is clearly not being followed. I support justice and fairness and i support Clairemont residents.

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Wabbitsd Feb. 24, 2015 @ 12:37 p.m.

From the story, it says these events run til 9:30 maybe three nights a week. How about a compromise of sorts, that opens up an additional evening, but lowers the final ending times?

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mdelepe March 2, 2015 @ 10:10 a.m.

I find it distressing that those living next to the school are stamped as a "minority" and are treated as if their concerns should simply be ignored. At the same time VAVI is characterized as "active in the community". The neighbors ARE the community. Check out this news report on VAVI: http://www.10news.com/news/pacific-beach-based-vavi-teams-up-with-abcs-wipeout-for-obstacle-course-run

The article states that they "raked in over $14 million dollars" last year. Then maybe they should invest in permanent facilities in appropriate locations, rather than save money by renting school facilities that are meant for school activities! I didn't vote for bond issues to spend my taxpayer money so that VAVI would have a new facility where they could continue to profit! I spent that money so that students could attend school in classrooms that weren't falling down around them! The bond measures were "sold" to the COMMUNITY as necessary because the classrooms were inadequate - not because the schools wanted to create a rental facility!

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