A block south of Menlo-Atherton High School, Allen Moench can hear the echoes of Friday night crowds gathered for football games and the announcers on loudspeakers at weekend swim meets.
Moench, a 30-year resident of the neighborhood, said noise from the events and fans is loud, and a plan to add permanent lights to the football field so there could be evening games would make things worse.
“I understand some parents are excited, but for those of us who are not parents, we’re not that excited,” the 73-year-old said.
Sequoia Union High School District is the second-largest high school district in San Mateo County, with roughly 8,700 students. Currently, only two fields, Sequoia and Woodside, can accommodate late games, district spokeswoman Bettylu Smith said.
The district is looking at ways to add stadium lights at two more of its seven campuses, Carlmont and Menlo-Atherton.
“The first step is to look at the cost associated with putting wiring in place to accommodate electricity,” Smith said. “We don’t know where it will go.”
Menlo-Atherton played a night game in October against Sacred Heart Cathedral Prep using rented equipment brought in for the occasion. A group of former and current parents of students organized behind the idea of installing permanent lights.
Noise from the evening event, however, drew complaints from nearby residents, Smith said.
Installation of a system with technology that directs light onto the playing field and lessens the amount that would be visible to neighbors could cost $300,000 or more per field. Renting similar equipment would cost $1,500 per night, according to district officials.
Generators for the lights rented in October contributed to the noise, Smith said. The district is considering wiring for light rentals to cut down on noise. The district does not have an estimate on how much the rewiring would cost.
School Trustee Gordon Lewin said Menlo-Atherton and Carlmont do not have lights because of zoning requirements in their respective cities. But a ruling in a lawsuit in Santa Cruz confirmed that school districts, which are state agencies, are exempt from those requirements, he said. Still, Lewin said the school board would need to consider other factors, including finances, before installing permanent lights.
“I think the decision is in the details,” he said. “If we’re going to just have it for four games each year during football season it doesn’t make sense, but if we want to use it everyday later than 6 p.m., maybe it’s worth the investment.”
Out of the dark
8,700 Students in Sequoia Union High School District
$300,000 Estimated cost per football field to add permanent lights
$1,500 Cost per night to rent lights for a football game
7 Schools in the district
2 Schools with football field lights
Source: Sequoia Union High School District