News - August 18, 2010

Atherton residents sue over football field lights at M-A

by Dave Boyce

A group of about a dozen Atherton residents whose homes are near the campus of Menlo-Atherton High School have filed a lawsuit over plans to install five temporary light towers so that the school can have night football games, an attorney for the group told The Almanac.

The Sequoia Union High School District has failed to comply with state regulations on environmental impacts and Atherton regulations on the lighting of athletic fields, height of structures and noise limits, said Anna Shimko, a San Francisco attorney who specializes in environmental and property law.

The light towers are 53 feet high and the zoning code restricts structures to 35 feet, Ms. Shimko said, adding that the school district has specified "absolutely no limits" as to the number of activities to be held at the field and the hours during which they would be held.

The state grants school districts broad exemptions from local zoning regulations.

The San Mateo County Counsel's Office, which represents the Sequoia district, did not respond to a request for comment.

The lights are temporary as the district investigates permanent lights. Olivia Martinez, president of the Sequoia board of trustees, in November called the matter "one of the more difficult topics we've taken on since I've been on the board."

The investigation will include an environmental analysis of noise, traffic, artificial light and safety impacts, then-assistant superintendent Jim Lianides told the board.


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