Published Oct. 6, 2022
BY FLINT NACHBAR
Discourse between the Carmel Unified School District school board and community members continues after the Environmental Impact Report presentation that took place Sept. 6, with some local residents arguing the district needs to address safety and environmental issues before the installation of stadium lights at Carmel High School.
Anti-lights advocate Robert Kahn has been vocal about his concerns with the plans to install lights on the CHS athletic field.
“This isn’t an issue about whether to create a night sports complex,” Kahn says. “This is about if this is the best plan moving forward, from an environmental standpoint and from a community standpoint.”
Kahn is a homeowner in Carmel with a house in Carmel Views, a neighborhood that he says has a clear view of the school’s field and would be prone to the light pollution stadium lights would give off.
“The superintendent, Ted Knight, has framed it in a way where it is either lights or no light,” Kahn says. “It really gets down to how we can support the students and the board in a way that provides all of this, but in a way that is sensitive to the environment and the character of Carmel.”
According to Carmel Municipal code, Carmel-by-the-Sea has laws set in place to prevent street lights, giving the town clear night skies unpolluted by city skylines, causing some residents to feel that stadium lights are violating this long-standing rule.
Community member Charlie Wahle voices his concerns with both the environmental impact the stadium lights would have, as well as the recent environmental impact report that was presented last month. The report presented Sept. 6 is the second, after community members found flaws in the original report and asked for a revision.
“The first report was sloppy and full of mistakes, and it just did not look like they took it seriously,” Wahle says. “So we criticized it.”
Both Kahn and Wahle have vocalized issues that they see in the most recent EIR, saying even though it is slicker and more professional-looking, it is biased in favor of installing lights.
“It is biased towards the outcome the district is seeking,” Wahle says. “And although it is not uncommon in EIRs, it’s not the right thing to do.”
Wahle, who has worked with ocean conservation in science and policy for nearly 30 years, incorporating science into policy-making, says that the report raises some red flags, pushing the decision towards a pro-light outcome.
“The report somehow managed to include some really bad pictures of the scenery that are to provide a baseline of whether this is going to be a problem or not,” Wahle says. “The pictures were blurry, they were from strange locations, and some of them were taken when it was foggy. The views were really obscure so when you superimpose lights on top of that it doesn’t really look like much of a problem.”
Members of the anti-lights group have asked for another report to be completed.
Plans for stadium lights indicate the prospect of more home sports events, which has led resident Fran Dillard, who lives in a home that neighbors the high school, to also raise concerns over safety.
“The school’s number one priority is to make sure that the campus is safe for students,” Dillard says, “and if it’s safe for students, why haven’t we seen a copy of the emergency access route?”
This has raised some concerns for Dillard, as the safety route was not included in the EIR or the original proposal for the lights. And with small parking lots that parallel Highway 1, she claims that evacuation by vehicle could cause chaos.
Apart from safety concerns, Dillard and many other anti-stadium light advocates express that the CHS campus is not the right location for lights and are pushing to have the lights installed at Carmel Middle School instead. Dillard notes the abundance of space available at CMS, which, at 62 acres, is more than three times the 20-acre high school campus.
Even with strong support from Superintendent Ted Knight, it is unclear what the future of the stadium lights will look like. The discussion around the lights will continue during the next CUSD board meeting, which is set for Oct. 19, with the board planning to vote on the issue Nov. 29.