The “worst case scenario” for the proposed Corona del Mar High School sports field will be a “nightmare” for the neighbors, a group of Eastbluff residents said at a school board meeting this week.
Several residents voiced their concerns and complaints about the project during the Newport-Mesa Unified School District’s Board of Education meeting on Tuesday.
The total project cost is currently estimated at approximately $11 million, according to an NMUSD fact sheet. It includes an artificial turf field, field lighting, a public address system, a new track, restrooms, locker rooms, press box, snack bar, and bleachers with 1,000 seats.
An Environmental Impact Report is currently being developed, as required by the California Environmental Quality Act. The EIR will analyze the potential environmental impacts of the facility.
Several residents emphasized that they want the students to have a first-class sports facility, but they had concerns regarding parking, safety, lights, and noise.
“I thought we were all working together towards a facility that meets the needs of the school and students with as little disruption to the community as possible,” said Eastbluff resident Phil Milner. “I no longer believe this to be true.”
Milner, speaking for a group called Newport Citizens for Responsible Growth, thanked the district staff for hosting community meetings about the project, but noted that their concerns were not being properly considered.
The citizens group is “clearly outside of the process,” he said, and their input never played a significant role in the process.
More than half a dozen residents voiced their concerns about the project. Several expressed frustration that, despite residents working with staff and providing input, the facility plans have not changed since it was first presented a few years ago. It has taken too long, one local complained.
“That just speaks to how much we care about doing the right thing for that community,” responded NMUSD board member and clerk, Vicki Snell.
The board doesn’t necessarily agree on what exactly the “right thing” for the neighborhood is, but they’re trying to figure that out, she said. That is partly why it has taken so long, she admitted.
Most of the public speakers commented on the Friday night varsity football games mentioned in the EIR notice. The games are described in the document as the possible maximum use of the facility and the worst case condition that could potentially fill all 1,000 seats. These events would also include band performances, cheerleaders, and use of the PA system and would end by 10 p.m.
This shows little concern for the community, Milner remarked.
“Varsity football games are the worst case scenario for our neighborhood,” he said.
According to Milner, board members stated at previous meetings that there would not be varsity football games at CdM. But since there is no official NMUSD policy prohibiting them at the school, they will be considered and planned for in the EIR.
Milner and other residents believe that CEQA will find that these games are “not too big of a problem” and they’ll be played at the CdM facility.
But it’s really unknown at this point what CEQA will find, noted Deputy Superintendent and Chief Business Official Paul Reed.
This is just to study the possible impacts from a hypothetical worst case scenario, the actual uses of the facility have not yet been determined, he emphasized.
They have to ask, “If you build this, how might it be used?” Reed explained. Then, based on the answers to that question, the board will decide how the district should govern the use of the facility.
“You study the things that could happen there,” Reed said. “That’s not to say that the district is headed down a path that will guarantee that those things do happen there, but you do have to assess what could be done in a facility of that kind.”
Superintendent Fred Navarro added that the board is allowed to make changes after the report is completed. The findings from CEQA could be anything, that these types of events are not possible or possible, but that doesn’t dictate the school board’s final actions.
A few board members noted that even if CEQA ok’s the maximum use, it doesn’t mean the board will allow it.
“In the end, it will come back to the board and you make that determination,” Navarro confirmed to the board. “This is a hypothetical situation, the worst case scenario exploring what’s the worst thing that could happen. And you’re not bound by that, you’re still able to make all the decisions.”
A lot of the questions and concerns from residents will be addressed after the study, Reed added.
Corona del Mar alumni and Eastbluff resident Elizabeth Adams said that the school was never meant to have a stadium. The campus is too small and it doesn’t work with the neighborhood. The school is basically in the backyard of the nearby residents.
“It doesn’t take an EIR to know that it will be a horrible nightmare for all of us,” Adams said.
A scoping meeting about the project will be held at 6 p.m. on Feb. 22 in the CdMHS lecture hall. For more information, visit web.nmusd.us/cdmfield