Last Friday night, Glen and Shirley Wheeler sat in the house they've owned for 40 years next to LaSalle High School in Pasadena, closed all the windows and turned up the television.
A few dozens yards from their living room, the Catholic high school held its first night football game under new 80-foot-tall stadium lights.
As La Salle beat Fillmore High School in the first round of the California Interscholastic Federation playoffs, the Wheelers heard the band playing, air horns blaring and the announcer calling the game. Their son stood outside and heard Fillmore's coach cussing out his players.
The Wheelers expected light, but "the sound is what was unbelievable," Shirley Wheeler said. "We're going to have to invest money to soundproof our windows."
The Wheelers and their neighbors have sued the city and the school over the Friday-night lights, saying they have changed the neighborhood, south of Sierra Madre Boulevard and west of Michillinda Avenue.
Their suit claims the city did not make the school study the environmental impact of the lights. The suit also names Pasadena City Councilman Paul Little, whom they accuse of having a conflict of interest. Little, whose daughter attends La Salle, has donated money to the school and belongs to its parent association.
Little did not recuse himself from a vote on the stadium lights, said Robert Silverstein, the neighbors' attorney.
Instead, "he manipulated the entire proceeding. [He] ramrodded it through," Silverstein said. "We're entitled, under the law, to a neutral and uninvolved decision-maker."
Little said both the city attorney and state election officials in Sacramento told him he did not have a conflict of interest because he was not going to benefit financially from the decision.
"They have a pretty flimsy basis for the lawsuit," Little said. "It's sad that this is going to lead to nothing but these folks paying a lot of billable hours" to their lawyer.
Michele Bagneris, Pasadena's city attorney, said the city will defend the lawsuit and Little.
"When the impacts of a project can be mitigated to a level of insignificance, as appears to be the case in this instance, an EIR is not generally required," Bagneris said, referring to an environmental impact report.
But neighbors say that the effect of La Salle's Friday-night lights was anything but insignificant, and that the school pushed the project through the council without considering their concerns.
The school's president, Richard Gray, said La Salle held several meetings over two years soliciting community input.
"We feel we worked as hard as we could to keep the neighborhood informed," Gray said. "I can't understand what their concern is."
"They pretend to have included us," said Ellen Baum, who lives a few yards behind one of the goal posts and is president of Pasadena Residents for a Healthy Environment, which neighbors formed to oppose the school's lights. "They never answered any of our correspondence. They just keep charging ahead."
La Salle, today considered one of the area's best private schools, opened in northeast Pasadena in 1955 as a boys-only high school.
It began admitting girls in 1991 and expanded from 400 to 750 students, Gray said.
Yet, where other high schools are set far back from their neighbors, LaSalle's 10-acre campus abuts its neighbors' property lines.
For years, the school played its football games at Monrovia High School. That ended three years ago when Monrovia administrators decided their field couldn't support two teams, Gray said.
The team played Saturday afternoon games on its school field, until this year, when it was transformed into a regulation football field with artificial turf, he said.
This summer, the school asked the city for permission to install the stadium lights, so games could be played on Friday nights.
"Friday night football is a tradition in Southern California," Gray said. "Some schools will not play on a Saturday. We can't schedule competitive contests."
Also, night games are played when temperatures are cooler, he said.
But neighbors feared a flood of light and noise.
They were heartened in August, when the city's Board of Zoning Appeals required an environmental impact report for the new field.
The lights, noise and traffic were going to have a "very adverse impact" on the neighborhood, said Terry Tornek, a former city planning director who sits on the board. "I think the neighborhood is going to suffer."
But the City Council unanimously approved the school's proposal in October without an environmental impact report, allowing the school to use the lights up to 52 nights a year.
"The mayor congratulated the school for being such a great asset," Shirley Wheeler said. "There were about 20 of us, and he never said a word to us. It was as though we were invisible. We were invisible all the way."
The school began installing the lights Nov. 1. But it wasn't until Friday that neighbors realized the sound was worse than the light, they said.
"It was horrible," Baum said. "The air horns were terrible. Neighbors have lights into their living rooms and bedrooms."
Gray said the school was "happy to work on modifying the sound" and urged neighbors to attend the games, to which the school gives neighbors free tickets.
But neighbors say they're fed up with both the city and the school.
"I just don't think we can get a fair hearing in this city," Baum said. "No one in our neighborhood trusts La Salle."