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Residents suing over high school stadium upgrade

Posted: 9:23 PM, Jun 24, 2016
Updated: 2016-06-25 00:23:54-04

An elderly widow is one of 17 people suing San Diego Unified School District over its plans to add stadium lighting and other upgrades to Point Loma High School.

Carol Simpson has lived on Voltaire Street for 58 years. The stadium bleachers tower over her backyard. Her bedroom overlooks the stadium bathrooms. Another home is just feet from the end zone.

"It's just been more of a nuisance, but this sounds overwhelming," said Simpson.

The neighbors are especially worried about the district's plan to rent the stadium to outside parties; such as adult athletic leagues. Their attorney said that's a violation of local zoning laws.

"The only reason they get an exemption from local land and zoning laws to put up lights and have loud noise, which you and I couldn't do in our neighborhood, is because they're a school district, but they get that exemption only for classroom and academic uses. They've done this all over the city, but these neighbors are fighting back and saying you can't bring outside users, " said attorney Bob Ottilie.

Ottilie said the district is looking to make money at the expense of the neighbors.

"They see this as a cash cow, but the cash doesn't come from the kids using it, the cash comes from outside groups," said Ottilie.

The suit also claims the district didn't look at other alternatives.

"These kids could have been playing Friday Night Lights for the last 20 years by using the school district's brand new stadium at Mission Bay High School, at Clairemont," said Ottiile who maintains the district is trying to blame the long time neighbors.

"The school district has convinced the families of this school and the students of this school that the only road block to them playing Friday Night Lights is these neighbors. These neighbors are not a road block."

Currently, the stadium is only lit up for homecoming night. Simpson said it brings a circus like atmosphere to the neighborhood.

"Like a carnival, with lights and noise, it's very busy," she said adding that parking becomes a nightmare.

"Huge traffic problem. This neighborhood not built for it. We're small streets," said Simpson.

Simpson's late husband was a beloved coach at the school. Her 3 children graduated high school from Point Loma High. She said she could live with Friday night games, but it's the outside use of the stadium that really worries her. She says suing was a last resort.

"It's not a happy feeling. I want to support the school and the students and I feel bad, " said Simpson.

A San Diego Unified Spokeswoman said the district cannot comment on litigation.