Tempers flared during a Newport-Mesa Unified School District meeting this week as a group of outspoken Corona del Mar residents voiced their concerns and opposition to proposed sports field improvements at Corona del Mar High School.
Though it was designed to be an informational meeting to share details of the revised draft Environmental Impact Report on sports field improvements and not a public hearing, tensions from local residents who attended the meeting were evident. Administrators often struggled to keep audience questions brief or civil during the hour that was allotted.
An update of the sports field has been the goal of the district for some time, although the most recent effort began in January 2016. Since then, several meetings with concerned residents, engineers, and officials have taken place. Just in 2017, the project has already been dramatically altered based on resident feedback to the original draft EIR released in February.
The original design has been modified into option A, which is essentially upgrading one field with artificial turf and track, a press box, restrooms, public access (PA) system, lighting, concessions, and ticket building. Other changes to the original plan include limiting seating capacity to 664 seats, eliminating visitor bleacher seats, and specifying that not a single varsity football game be played at its home field.
Even with the modifications, very few people supported the one-field option, so a two-field option, known as option B, was created.
Corona del Mar High School Principal Kathy Scott acknowledged that many people, particularly neighbors to the school, are against the proposed updates. Still, the athletic facilities pale in comparison to what other schools have, she explained.
“There’s a real desire that Corona del Mar have equal facilities, like all across Orange County, with all of our competition,” Scott told the audience.
The student athletes are in favor of a new sports field.
“We know they want it,” Scott said, “and we think they need it.”
Ara Zareczny, Director of Facilities Development, Planning, and Design for the school district gave an overview of the proposed updates.
“We think we’ve done a good job of incorporating all of the comments that we’ve received to date and responding to those issues and concerns,” Zareczny stated.
She said that the district made policy changes to ensure that seating was limited and that no additional activities would be scheduled to further inconvenience local residents.
Dwayne Mears from the engineering firm PlaceWorks presented results from various studies done on both field options. In addition to traffic studies and 21 noise measurements from around the school area, Mears presented an in-depth lighting study from multiple vantage points.
He assured Eastbluff residents that state-of-the-art stadium lighting would be incorporated, directed only at the field.
“You want good lighting, so kids can see the ball,” Mears reminded the audience.
Questions from the audience, which ranged from noise concerns to complaints about parents’ parking skills on Mar Vista Drive, reflected the current frustration that homeowners have with events at the school.
School officials instructed the audience to put their opinions in writing to the district, but that didn’t stop people from asking anger-filled questions. Many merely demanded solutions to existing problems related to traffic and noise.
Some audience members argued the study results with presenters. One said the proposed schedule of practices would not limit traffic, as the study concluded, but that it would create more trips to and from the school.
“We’re not here to debate you,” Assistantt Superintendent Tim Holcomb replied.
Scott said that no option would eliminate transportation issues completely.
“You’re still going to see traffic, because we’re a public high school and a lot goes on,” Scott reminded the crowd.
G.W. Mix, coach of the boys varsity lacrosse team, said that his team is one that has to come back at another time of day, because he, like other coaches, has a day job.
Kids would be leaving and returning to the campus, but most would be coming at non-busy times, like 6 p.m. Traffic wouldn’t be greatly impacted, he said, and an updated sports field is still necessary.
“There’s just not enough room,” he remarked. As for their concerns as neighbors, he said he understood.
“We’re all pretty passionate about this place,” he said, “we’re all pretty passionate about the kids who go to school here. We’re passionate about representing our community.”
Holcomb admitted that competing in youth sports is a challenge on many levels.
“Sports is like an escalating arms race,” he said, “to get better and better facilities. Wonderful for our kids. It’s expensive, but that’s what our world expect. What all of our communities expect.”
The revised draft EIR is available in hard copy form to review at both the Newport-Mesa Unified School District Education Center and the Corona del Mar Administrative Office. The 484-page document can also be downloaded at
Residents are encouraged to submit their feedback, questions, and comments to the district in writing. All written comments, Holcomb said, will be responded to and taken into consideration.
Comments may be mailed to the district office or emailed to [email protected] Be sure to include the name of the project in the subject heading.
Written feedback must be received by the district no later than Sept. 25, which is when the comment period of the revised draft EIR ends.
A public hearing will be held at the District Education Center, 2985 Bear Street, Building A Roderick H. MacMillian Board Room, in Costa Mesa, on Oct. 24 at 6 p.m.