San Diego Unified School District is changing their game plan when it comes to renting newly built high-school sports fields out to third-party groups. By doing so, the district hopes to avoid another costly legal battle similar to one filed by residents living nearby Hoover High School.
In December 2014, in an attempt to cover all bases, the school district amended its draft environmental impact report for a massive new sports complex at Crawford High School and nearby Horace Mann Middle School to include leasing out the field for day and night events. The amendment has resulted in staunch opposition from residents living nearby the field.
The $60 million project consists of building bleachers to fit 2250 spectators and installing six 90-foot poles and a new public announcement system. As reported by Reader, Crawford High School is one of several schools in line for new stadiums. The district has plans to build one similar at Point Loma High School.
But residents who live nearby Crawford, as well as Point Loma High, say the project is not neighborhood-friendly, nor legal. As was the case with Hoover, the residents say using Proposition S and Z bonds to pay for new stadiums (and not classrooms or other facilities) overreaches the scope of the bond. In September 2013, a judge agreed and ordered the district to stop using the newly erected light towers until a full environmental impact report was complete.
Long before the issue went to court, residents complained about loud and raucous events held at the stadium. The residents objected to the school renting out the field and demanded school-district officials place a cap on the number of events held by third parties. The district eventually agreed.
Learning from their mistake, San Diego Unified is trying to plug the gaps in the environmental reports so as not to have a repeat of Hoover.
In May 2014, the school district released a first-draft environmental impact report for the stadium at Crawford. In it was the following passage:
"The Athletic Stadium at Crawford High School is currently not planned to be used for third-party events or community events."
But in a new draft released in December 2014, the district had changed its tune, opening the door for third-party use.
"There are currently no plans or proposals for third-party use of the proposed stadium; however, it is possible that third-party uses may occur in the future in accordance with District policy," read the amendment. The Draft [environmental impact report] has been revised to reflect the possibility that athletic fields could be used for third-party uses and changes to the site plans for the Crawford and Mann campuses developed by the District subsequent to submittal of the original [environmental impact report] for public review."
Residents who live blocks away from the proposed stadium object to the district's call.
"The San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD / School District) has been on a mission to expand and modernize high school stadiums within its jurisdiction," writes El Cerrito resident Jim Zumbiel in a statement. "Although the modernization of high schools and stadiums has had the support of the communities it serves, the School District has shown a total disregard for the 'quality of life' to the neighbors surrounding these stadiums."
Zumbiel and his neighbors say the district ignored their concerns of noise impacts and parking requirements in El Cerrito. According to the statement, Zumbiel says the project is short 919 parking spaces.
"We are not opposed to modernizing the school, including the stadium," Zumbiel wrote. "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 and Mann, is simply meant to generate revenue. Renting a huge stadium, on a nightly basis, to different venues, supports the enormous cost to build and maintain the stadium."
Residents have until January 19 to comment on the environmental impact report. The group is planning to organize a formal presentation to San Diego Unified's board of trustees during their next meeting.