Measure BB Work to Begin at MHS This Summer

The Malibu High School parking lot is shown broken up into the three areas outlined in the agreement between the school district and the Malibu Community Alliance. Area 3 will be lit for 31 nights per year, while Area 2 will only be lit until 8 p.m. or earlier, depending on motion sensors in the lot. Area 1, the lowest and most covered lot, will be lit every night until 10 p.m., again depending on motion sensors to indidcate when lighting is necessary. 

On Thursday, Feb. 18, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) Board of Education announced it had come to an agreement with the Malibu Community Alliance (MCA) over lighting at three Malibu High School (MHS) parking lots, essentially giving the go-ahead to begin work at the high school using Measure BB funds — work that has been stalled for years.

Reaction from SMMUSD board members and MCA leadership has been hardly shy of exuberant: There is little doubt both groups were heavily invested in having the issue come to a peaceful resolution, especially in light of an impending deadline that could have forced the entire project back to the drawing board.

“This is a great victory for the Malibu community,” MCA spokesperson Cami Winikoff told City Council at its Feb. 22 meeting. 

Winikoff went on to praise California Coastal Commission (CCC) staff who helped mediate the appeal and Board Member Craig Foster “for keeping everyone moving in the right direction in the final weeks of this negotiation.”

Foster also told The Malibu Times he was happy with the resolution.

“I really hope in the future that we can resolve all of these things more mindfully, but from where we were to where we are, I’m thrilled that we figured it out and we’ve now put it behind us and we’re able to move on,” Foster said.

The agreement came after the MCA, a group of residents living near MHS, appealed the City of Malibu’s permit for the project, that would have allowed parking lot lights to be lit every day until 10:30 p.m. The appeal dragged on for two years, finally coming to a resolution that was detailed in a joint release from the SMMUSD and MCA on Monday, Feb. 22.

Under the plan, the lower lot, Area One, will be lit every day until 10 p.m. and controlled by motion sensor switches. The lower lot is considered covered and is not anticipated to increase light pollution.

Area Two will be lit until 8 p.m., “also controlled by motion sensor switches to minimize the times the lights are on. Vehicular access after 8 p.m. will be prevented by electronically locking gates,” the statement read.

Area Three — the highest and most visible lot — will only be illuminated for 31 nights per year: 16 nights for evening sports events and 15 nights for special events at the high school. “All the lighting will be deactivated and vehicular access to the parking lot will be restricted by 10:30 p.m. on these nights,” according to the release.

The plans will also change the type of bulb used in the lots. 

“The agreement calls for state-of-the art LED lighting technology that will reduce light output by more than 65 percent,” the release stated.

Though this agreement closely mirrors what the MCA called for when it appealed the decision in April 2013, there remains tension under the surface between the two groups. Questions remain over the long delay before the Measure BB project, which involves plans to tear down or vacate buildings at MHS known to contain high levels of PCBs. The resolution also comes at the eleventh hour before a deadline by the California Architects Board and just weeks before the appeal was set to come up on the CCC March agenda.

Denise Venegas, CCC program analyst, said that since April of last year, the SMMUSD and MCA had been working together, without much CCC involvement.

“[The two groups] were working on it together. We did receive an alternative when we met back in April. Then we did receive one that the school district had decided to move forward with, that is separate from the city’s permit,” Venegas explained. “The school district has submitted a revised project description that they would like to move forward with. I believe that’s the one that they’ve agreed on, that they’ve provided.”

At this point, though, everyone seems ready to move on.

“Over the past two years, there’s been a lot of back and forth with some finger-pointing and blame. We’ve agreed with the district to stand down from destructive narrative on the issue and move forward,” Winikoff said. “We had to take a long windy road to get a desired response and lessen environmental light pollution, but we got there and we should all be happy with the great result.”

This sentiment seemed exemplified in statements by America Unites leader Matt deNicola, who praised the MCA and Winikoff.

“What they’ve done for the lighting is very admirable,” deNicola said. “I think it’s great, it’s admirable, I think in 15, 20, 30 years from now what they’re doing today is going to make a difference.”

Whatever the cause of the stalemate, deNicola may be happy because action at the high school is finally cleared to begin.

“The district is moving forward on their BB plans, and those plans include remediating and or rebuilding certain classrooms, moving kids to portables, things that we all wish they would do,” Foster said, detailing some of the work that will begin. “Though from my point of view, it’s not everything and it’s not as fast as I would like, all of [those are] great steps forward for everything that we’re all working on.”

District CEO Jan Maez was quoted in a release provided by the SMMUSD detailing the project.

“We are pleased that this agreement will allow us to begin construction on the MHS campus improvements. Our students and the community deserve this campus modernization,” Maez said in the district’s release.

Maez also sent brief replies to questions posed to her via email regarding the current status of the project at MHS.

“Our start deadline is mid-summer. We must commence with the construction of the project prior to the deadline,” Maez wrote. “We will be able to start the project on time ahead of the deadline.”

The cost of the project, which was originally estimated years ago, will also need to be re-calcuated, though only small changes in the original project will occur.

“We will be constructing the primary project submitted to DSA with minor changes. In the next several months a new cost analysis will be done,” Maez wrote.

When it came to questions regarding whether the project held up possible PCB remediation at MHS, Maez held the party line regarding PCB cleanup that has been occurring slowly over the past year.

“All remediation required by the EPA at Malibu High School and Juan Cabrillo Elementary School has been completed. Any removal of PCB materials will be done as buildings are renovated and replaced,” Maez wrote in the email to The Malibu Times.