Court’s Ruling Forces School District to Reconsider Plans for Lighted Stadiums

By Matt Wilson Posted: 12/20/2011

The Fremont Union High School District will have to re-evaluate its plans for nighttime football games at Monta Vista and Lynbrook high schools.

A Santa Clara County Superior Court judge has ruled that the district’s certification of an environmental impact report did not properly analyze and mitigate the noise that could come from two proposed track and field renovations at both schools. Both projects will be on school property, mere feet from residential back yards.  

Superior court Judge Joseph Huber ruled that the district will need to readdress noise issues for both track and field projects, which are under construction. The original EIR in 2010 found that the projects would have a significant and unavoidable noise impact, in part because of five to six nighttime home football games per year at both Monta Vista and Lynbrook.

The school district’s board of trustees voted unanimously in December 2010 to go forward with the extensive renovation projects, which would bring field lighting to both campuses. Monta Vista and Lynbrook have never had lights and historically have held evening sporting events and band practices at Cupertino High School.

The field improvements are part of the $198 million Measure B school bond that voters passed in June 2008.

The court ruled on Nov. 30 that the district’s steps to address noise did not go far enough or show an “analytic route” to reduce noise. The EIR’s strategy to deal with noise was to reduce field use after dark, but nothing was done to address the number of night football games.

The court stated that a strategy of infrequently scheduling or reducing non-football evening events would not reduce noise from a significant to a less than significant level.

Subsequently, a new EIR will be done to address the noise issue. According to court documents, the district will need to detail why the solutions would mitigate or eliminate the noise impacts, particularly for the proposed five or six football games that could be played at each new field.

FUHSD superintendent Polly Bove said considerations could include new options for public address systems or construction of sound barriers near the property lines.

“All along, our goals have been to minimize the impacts on neighbors and to help create an asset for the community with these lovely fields,” Bove said.

The lawsuit was filed in January against the district and its board of trustees by a group called Lynbrook-Monta Vista United. The group was formed in early 2010 by some neighbors and concerned residents living near the schools. The lawsuit challenged the approval of both track and field projects under the California Environmental Quality Act.

The ruling states that only noise impact was improperly analyzed. Lynbrook-Monta Vista United is happy with the ruling.

“We feel very good that the court agreed with our position on the impact of noise in our neighborhood,” said David Radtke, a member of the group. “We always thought the noise issue, which is brought about by the lights, was our biggest concern and what seemed to be the most obvious thing that the board had not evaluated correctly.”

The court will maintain jurisdiction over the matter, and both the district and Lynbrook-Monta Vista United are waiting on the next steps.

It remains unclear how long the district has to find solutions and how the ruling will affect ongoing track and field construction. Both fields are roughly slated for opening day in 2012.


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