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Neighbors File Lawsuit Over Lights at School

September 14, 1989|KEN McALPINE

Angered by the construction of four 80-foot light towers interrupting their ocean view, some Ventura hillside residents this week said they will pursue their legal action against the Ventura School District until the lights come down.

Art Tidey, Paul Lortie and David Rykowski have sued the district for building the towers without an environmental impact report. District officials contend that the decaying poles at the Ventura High School athletic field represented an emergency situation and there was neither time nor need for a report.

A hearing on the matter is set for Oct. 30.

Neighbors criticized the action at a Ventura Unified School District board meeting Monday.

"It's a total disregard for the hillside property owners," Bruce Hooker said. "The reason we live on the hillside is our view. We put up with narrow streets, above ground utilities, small lots, all for that view."

District officials decided to replace the old lights, eight 65-foot poles located on the field, after studies found that the light poles were weak. One of the poles blew over in strong winds last March.

Rather than build the new lights on the field where they might pose a danger to athletes, engineers decided to move them off the field and make them higher.

Other Factors Involved

According to district officials, several other factors were also taken into consideration, including the effectiveness of the lighting and the lighting's effect on the surrounding neighborhood.

Tidey said his group does not object to the lights.

"We have never, ever opposed the lights," said Tidey. "We oppose the towers. We would like to see them returned to their original level."

However, one resident questioned the protest.

"The obligation of the greatest good has got to weigh into this equation someplace," Philip O'Rourke said. "If we have to give up a little bit of our view to ensure that the high school athletic program . . . is a good, solid safe program then I think we might have to give that up."

O'Rourke, president of Ventura High School's athletic booster association, also is running for one of three seats on the Ventura Unified School District's board this November.

Tidey said residents are willing to drop the suit the moment the district agrees to lower the towers. However Richard Welcher, district assistant superintendent of business services, sees little hope of that happening before the court date.

"Right now the lights are on, and they're going to stay on for the football season because of all the commitments everybody's made," said Welcher. "Any changes will be made after the football season is over."

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