Matt Louv 4 p.m., April 25
San Diego Unified under fire for proposal to install stadium lights at Point Loma High School with Prop S funds
District has already lost a case challenging the use of funds for stadium lights at Hoover High School
Update: An earlier version stated that the cost of the lights was $800,000. That was incorrect. The amount was $462,000.
'Lights, renovation, and revenue' seems to be the motto these days from officials at the cash-strapped San Diego Unified School District.
For years now, district officials have searched long and hard for additional revenue streams.
If major renovation projects to athletic facilities are any indication, they may have discovered the financial stream. The source: renting newly renovated athletic facilities to outside groups. Some records show facilities rentals for San Diego Unifies have increased by as much as $1.2 million since 2009.
But the school district has come under fire for dipping into Prop S and Prop Z revenues to pay for stadium renovations and 90-foot light towers at high school football fields, swimming pools, and digital marquee boards at elementary schools. Residents say the district has pursued this tact at the expense of the neighborhoods.
A group of Talmadge residents challenged the district's use of $462,000 in Prop S funds for new stadium lights in court. An Appellate Court found the use of Prop S funds for such improvements were at odds with the terms of the 2008 bond measure, which created an estimated $2.1 billion dollars to upgrade classrooms, replace aging plumbing, electrical, heating and air conditioning systems and improve school and playground safety. The school district's request to rehear the case was denied by the Appellate Court and State Supreme Court. A hearing at the San Diego Superior Court is set for this Friday where the Superior Court Judge Taylor will carry out the Appellate Court Ruling in a judgment, injunction, and writ.
Despite the outcome, district officials have marched forward on plans for similar athletic field improvements at other schools including Point Loma and Crawford High Schools to name a few.
On September 18, residents in Point Loma will have a chance to voice their frustration to district staffers during a meeting meant to update the community on the Long-Range Site Master Plan for Point Loma High School.
Residents not only fear added traffic and noise from night games, they worry the district wants to "create a commercialized sports venue to be rented to non-student groups," and build a multi-level parking structure at the intersection of Clove and Zola," according to an email from Gibson Pratt, Chairman of the neighborhood group, Pro-PointLoma.
Cynthia Reed-Porter, spokesperson for the San Diego Unified, says that the project is still in the planning phase and the district welcomes any input from nearby residents.
"Traffic and parking will be discussed as part of the Site Master Planning process, and the district welcomes input on potential solutions to those issues."
As for any deals with outside groups, Reed-Porter is "not aware of any potential agreement with the Rock Church for use of athletic facilities at Point Loma High School; and according to the executive director of Facilities Planning & Construction, neither is that department."
But complaints over the misuse of Prop S and Prop Z funds are not focused solely on large-scale improvements to high school athletic fields. Residents in other neighborhoods such as in Scripps Ranch have voiced frustration over the installation of large digital marquees at elementary schools as well.
According to one resident, the marquees cost up to $70,000 and "do nothing to improve the instructional program or the instructional environment. This marquee is both inefficient and old technology when compared with other parent communication mediums, eblasts, emails, the school website, robo calls, newsletters and classroom newsletters and social media."
Marquees such as the one in Scripps Ranch have already been installed at a number of elementary schools in the past few years. There are plans to install at least seven more this year alone.
For now, the district will continue to move forward with the improvements and residents will be forced to voice their grievances at public forums and committee meetings.
"Isn’t there a better use for time and money than to re-litigate this issue throughout the various communities within the District’s boundaries? Please don’t pursue a flawed course of action by simply looking for a replacement source of funding for these projects," Point Loma resident, Peggy Strand, said in an August 15 statement to the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee.
"It’s time for the District to work in collaboration with its host communities and see if there isn’t a road to compromise."