Residents Raise Alarms Over CVHS Field Improvements

Photo by Justin HAGER
CVHS neighbors who feel their concerns about proposed improvements to the CVHS athletic field are being ignored gathered on the property outside the high school.

By Justin HAGER

Nearly 20 residents of Altura Avenue and other nearby residential streets met in front of the home of Phil Moore on Saturday. Moore’s home sits near the end of the one-block cul-de-sac, just a few feet from the back of the endzone of the track and field used by Crescenta Valley High School for football, soccer, lacrosse, rugby and track.

Several weeks ago, CV Weekly reported on the approval of field improvements to the Crescenta Valley High School athletic complex. The proposed improvements include a 1,714-person capacity bleacher stand and upgrades to the field lighting and public address system, with lights and speakers extending as high as 100 feet into the air.

Following the story, a group of local community members who live on the streets immediately surrounding the high school voiced their concerns with the project. They expressed frustration that their voices were being “ignored” and their concerns were being overlooked about how the new field improvements would affect their quality of life.

Most of the people present at the gathering are lifelong or even multi-generational residents of La Crescenta. Among the group was Rosemary Johnston, a 23-year resident; Monica Pawlak, a 28-year resident; and Martha Puerto, a 35-year resident. They are among the more outspoken members of the group. Each have sent children through the school system, have watched their children play on the field near their homes and had hoped to live out the remainder of their lives in a community where they could enjoy a mostly quiet setting complemented by the occasional sounds of activities at the high school. Instead, they claim, they face an almost daily onslaught of traffic and activity that often begins early in the morning with band practice and ends at 10 p.m. or later when the final athletic event or field rental activity concludes.

They are concerned that, once the proposed improvements are completed, field rental will become even more common, push later into the nights and weekends, and be literally highlighted by massive lighting and sound installations.

“GUSD already rents out the field regularly and there is no reason to believe that would change after the upgrades are made,” said Johnston. “It’s just not reasonable to expect that type of amplified sound and lighting six nights a week.”

The draft environmental impact report reflects her concerns, stating that “Field lighting would be shielded and aimed to reduce light trespass to the greatest extent possible [to] minimize the impact; however, significant levels of light from the proposed project would still spill onto adjoining residential uses,” and “Construction of a sound wall and relocation of the PA speaker locations away from sensitive receptors would minimize the impact; however, short-term operational-generated noise levels would still cause substantial periodic increase above existing ambient noise levels.”

Other residents expressed concerns about traffic, parking, public safety and repeated damage to their property. In public meetings, GUSD has insisted that event attendees will be able to utilize the parking lot at the First Baptist Community Life Church but, as of press time, there were no specific guarantees in place to either make the church parking lot available or provide alternative parking accommodations – a detail that resident Talin Yeganian has not overlooked.

“I would like to see a letter of confirmation that people from Crescenta Valley can park at the church,” she said. “There is no place to build a parking structure. The site was initially a junior high. Now it’s the smallest high school site in the district.”

The group recognized that the project is almost certain to move forward but hoped that their voices could still help shape the project and preserve some of their quality of life moving forward. Their proposed solutions include permitted parking on residential streets, advance notice of when events or rentals are taking place – especially at night or on weekends – security for large events to protect their property from vandalism, sanitation and trash services to clean up their streets after large events, a limit on the number of days per week that the field is available for rent, and mitigation of sound and lighting systems.

Perhaps more than any other issue, however, the group simply wanted to be heard.

Both Johnston and Matt Tanaka sent emails expressing their concerns early on in the EIR process, emails they say went unanswered. They claim GUSD board members committed to keeping them informed on the process and promised to invite them to participate in public meetings where the issue would be considered, only to never hear from them again.

“They told us they wanted community input and would keep us in the loop,” said Tanaka, “but then never responded … they essentially said that they only wanted our input if we agreed with them.”