2020, Monterey High School’s Dan Albert Stadium. (John Devine — Monterey Herald)
After two years of legal wrangling, the Monterey County Superior Court has ruled that an environmental review of Monterey Peninsula Unified’s high school stadium plan is complete and legally compliant.
However, despite the latest ruling in Peacekeeping v. Monterey Peninsula Unified School District, additional litigation remains stalling the project.
Peach Preservation and MPUSD Taxpayers have appealed the ruling, said Molly Erickson, an attorney representing both groups. “My client looks forward to the appellate decision on the merits.”
“Unfortunately, litigation regarding this issue continues to drag on… Therefore, MPUSD is looking forward to breaking ground on the stadium improvement project as soon as possible and with the expectation of providing significant benefits to MPUSD,” the school district said in a press release. We must continue to fight to protect.” The students and community that this project brings. ”
Renovations to the district’s Dan Albert Stadium were proposed in 2019. The project, with an estimated budget of $12 million, consists of the construction of a low-rise softball and multipurpose field, a multipurpose weight room, additional visitor bleachers, a new press box, and improved access. Seating and stadium lighting.
As with any project undertaken by a public agency, the California Environmental Quality Act requires school districts to identify and evaluate the potential impacts a project may have on the environment. For impacts deemed “significant,” meaning those that could cause “significant adverse effects on the physical environment,” school districts were required to provide methods or alternatives to mitigate the impact.
The district’s Board of Directors certified the 2,000-page final environmental impact report on July 27, 2021. The report included legally binding mitigation measures to address areas of concern for residents, including banning field use on Sundays and banning field lighting on Sundays. On weekends, stadium lights must be turned off by 8 p.m. (except for five nights a year), fields outside the district are prohibited from being used after 6 p.m., public address systems are limited to only necessary announcements, and lights are turned off by 8 p.m. Its use is limited to October to March.
However, despite the district’s proposed mitigation measures, a peacekeeping lawsuit (originally filed on August 27, 2021) alleges that the project violates CEQA and local laws and that the renovation work is illegal. The project was quickly halted after multiple lawsuits were filed, including: It can cause significant environmental damage, light pollution and disruption to residential areas.
In December, the court ruled in favor of the school district on four of the five causes of action, but the district must conduct additional CEQA analysis or review the project, which includes pedestrian safety, traffic, parking, and parking. It concluded that clear language needed to be prepared for the seven specific categories involved. sign.
In response, the district court filed a motion to clarify and reconsider seven categories that the court found insufficient.
In June, Monterey County Superior Court Judge Thomas Wills reversed previous rulings in five of the seven categories he had previously deemed insufficient. The only remaining issues were to clarify the conclusions of the environmental report regarding parking supply and demand, and to add to the verification process regarding the noise reduction measures adopted by the ward.
The district school board recertified the project’s environmental impact statement on July 25, addressing the remaining two issues and satisfying the court’s ruling.
The latest ruling confirms that the District complied with CEQA in its analysis of the potential impacts of the proposed project.
“The court’s latest decision is an important next step in allowing MPUSD to complete necessary improvements for the safety of our students,” said Monterey High School Principal Tom Newton. “Once Monterey High School’s soccer program is complete, practices and games will no longer have to be canceled due to darkness, girls’ softball will no longer have to travel to Jacks Park for practices and games, and students will be able to play in front of Jacks Park. “Instead of going off-campus to Monterey Peninsula University for a football game, you’re going to your home crowd. ”
But the district’s plans to break ground on the project continue to be delayed by the plaintiffs’ appeal and two other lawsuits related to the project. One of those cases is Taxpayers v. Department of State Architects, which seeks accountability for MPUSD. – Alleges that a California architect violated the law when approving plans for the project. A hearing in the case is scheduled for November 9th.
“We haven’t crossed the finish line yet, but we feel strongly that we did everything within the law,” said district Superintendent PK Diffenbaugh. “Plaintiffs have been successful in delaying the project and costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, but ultimately their attempts to stop the project will be in vain. Yes, but it seems like it will take some time.”
Diffenbaugh said the school district cannot recover legal costs from plaintiffs, and lawsuits against peacekeepers cost taxpayers “hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight these baseless claims.” He said that
“It’s disappointing to me that the neighbors can’t see the greater good and come to a compromise on behalf of the community,” Diffenbaugh said.
The district is also in the planning stages for a site project at Marina High School, and Diffenbaugh said the environmental impact review process is currently underway with the state architect’s department.