In a town hall meeting Thursday evening, officials from the Sequoia Union High School District (SUHD) and (CHS) presented a plan to install field lights and make other enhancements to the CHS athletic stadium facility.
Along with school administrators, staff, project consultants, board members and architects, SUHD superintendent James Lianides gave an overview of the to a full house at the Carlmont Student Union.
Although Carlmont remains the , and there is much support surrounding the project, some community members who live in nearby neighborhoods expressed concern over the project. Following a PowerPoint presentation outlining the project, the public had an opportunity to address the presenters.
"Has anything been done with San Carlos? We couldn't get out of our driveways in November during a night game, and the P.A. systems are so loud now, how can we be sure it won't get worse?" asked Pam Davis, who lives on San Carlos Avenue.
Another neighbor asked why the school didn't follow city ordinances with regards to noise and traffic. Superintendent Lianides explained that as a state agency, schools are not subject to local ordinances.
Several city officials from Belmont attended the meeting, including city councilmembers Coralin Feierbach, Christine Wozniak, and David Braunstein. Braunstein is also a teacher at Carlmont High School.
Also in attendance was San Carlos mayor, and Carlmont High alumnus (Class of 2000), Andy Klein.
Klein takes the concerns of the residents seriously. "We have a tenuous relationship between the district and the neighbors adjacent to the school, and these are ongoing issues," he said.
"My staff will continue to work with neighbors, the police department, public works and the planning department to address these issues," Klein added.
In addition to adding four permanent field lights to the stadium, the project also calls for an additional 456-seat aluminum ADA-compliant bleacher on the visitor side of the field, 40 additional parking spaces adjacent to the tennis courts, an electrical upgrade and re-turfing of the synthetic athletic field.
The high-tech light bulbs atop 80-foot poles, Lianides explained, are designed to illuminate things vertically, thus avoiding "spillage" or light pollution to surrounding areas.
Lianides also spelled out a usage policy for the field, giving evening football games a time limit of 10:30 p.m.; during all other activities, such as special events, sports practices and community youth sports events, the lights will be turned of at 9 p.m.
"In addition to Friday night football," explained Lianides in his presentation, "there are other benefits to the school: school spirit, connecting students to campus, and evening games give parents an opportunity to attend."
One of the greatest benefits of extending the sports day by lighting field officials said, would be the ability to accommodate other sports that rely on the stadium for practices and competition. Soccer, lacrosse and track and field also use the stadium, but are limited in winter months by lack of daylight. Currently, practices and competitions must end by 5-5:30 p.m., which often means teams can't finish a game.
Carlmont parent Jeff Adams supports the project, "My son is plays on the frosh-soph soccer team, and our kids are embarrassed when other teams come to Carlmont to play, and they can't finish their game because it gets dark."
Michele Maia, who has lived on Hastings Drive in Belmont for 25 years also spoke out in favor of the lights. "I've seen changes in this school over the years and they've all been for the better."
Maia has two children at Carlmont. "My son plays soccer, and he's missing classes because he has to leave school early for games and practices."
Teacher and girls' varsity soccer coach, Tina Doss agrees, "This is a great opportunity for our kids not to have to cut their school day short to get to their game." Doss explained that lights would allow teams to utilize the whole field for longer stretches of time, instead of breaking the field into halves or thirds to share it with another team's practice.
"I would be able to have more time on the whole field, and I'd be happy to rotate my practice schedule with other coaches." added Doss. "I can practice 5:30-7:30 p.m. now, allowing someone else to use the field from 3:30-5:30. Students can come into my classroom before practice and get their homework done, or ask for help."
With regards to traffic, one of the consultants on the project explained that the results of a study done last fall (when the school had temporary lights brought in for a night game), indicated that there is adequate roadway capacity to accommodate the proposed changes.
"We will continue to work with the Belmont Police Department to improve traffic flow during these events," Lianides assured the attendees.
But that didn't adequately assuage the concerns of many residents of Cranfield Avenue who spoke out in opposition of the proposal. "This is a significant impact on the quality of life in our neighborhood, and this will effect thousands of people," said one resident.
Another resident who lives near the school asked what the school would do to mitigate the added traffic, noise, and lights. "We're tax payers too. The school should be a good neighbor," she said.
School officials noted that a CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) study, which includes a noise analysis, would be made available to the public. Superintendent Lianides agreed to notify the surrounding neighborhoods once the study was available for review. The initial study should be released by mid-February, and the public has 30 days to submit written comments. A downloadable version of the study will be available on the district's website, and a hard copy will be available at the Belmont Library.
The comments and responses to the study will be incorporated into the Initial Study and Mitigated Negative Declaration, which will be reviewed by the school district at its May 2 meeting.
If approved, the athletic field lights, new bleachers and additional parking will be ready for the 2012-13 football season. Construction will begin this summer and Lianides said the project should take about two months to complete, and there would be no encroachment upon private property or pubic right-of-ways.
Carlmont High School football player Nick Long, who will be a senior next year, spoke on behalf of his fellow athletes, "Playing under the lights at Carlmont will be a privilege," said Long. "Something you'll remember for the rest of your life."