MHS Lighting Agreement Earns Coastal Commission Approval

The new parking lot at Malibu High School includes 150 spaces and will be illuminated following the agreed-upon lighting plan.

This story has been updated. Please see editor’s note below.

The long-awaited agreement between the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) and citizens group the Malibu Community Alliance (MCA) came to a final resolution on Friday, April 15, when the California Coastal Commission (CCC) granted unanimous approval of a plan they called a “win-win solution” for parking lot lights at the Malibu High School campus.

The agreement frees up the last $35 million of the Measure BB funds that have been frozen since 2013. The funds come from a $268 million bond measure approved in 2006 to be used for improvements to campuses in Santa Monica and Malibu. 

District Manager Steve Hudson, a CCC staffer who works out of the South Central Coast Office that serves Malibu and Ventura County, described the work that went into the plan.

“I am happy to say commission staff has been able to work with all the stakeholders in this case and develop what we think is a good, win-win solution that meets the needs of all parties while also ensuring consistency with the resource protection policies of [Malibu’s] LCP,” Hudson said. 

An LCP is a local coastal program, a set of guidelines used by coastal cities to “guide development in the coastal zone,” according to the CCC.

Hudson did acknowledge the agreement did not come easily — over two-and-a-half years of negotiations went into the final agreement. 

“This process has not been easy or short,” Hudson said. Negotiations, he added, were “long, and there were some twists and turns and they continued until this year.”

However, the two parties were able to come together in time to meet the deadline necessary to begin the project, which in addition to construction of a new parking lot located near the football field, also calls for rebuilding the administration building, library and some classrooms known to have high concentrations of PCBs.

The plans were detailed in a release provided by the SMMUSD after they came to a tentative agreement with the MCA in February 2016.

Under the plan, the lower portion of the new lot, Area One, will be lit every day until 10 p.m. and controlled by motion sensor switches. The lower area 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 portion — 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 lot. 

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

According to Hudson, the bond stipulated that “construction must be started no later than July 13 of this year; otherwise the state architects’ approval will expire and likely cause cancellation of the campus project.”

MCA and SMMUSD officials attended the CCC meeting in Santa Rosa, north of San Francisco, last week to thank Coastal staff and each other for working hard to come to a resolution.

“It’s great to be here, united with the district, to support the staff recommendation,” MCA President Cami Winikoff said. 

A previous version of this story incorrectly described the lighting plan. The story has been updated with corrections.