In the first year after field lights went up at Clairemont High School, the field was lit up and sound system amplified for hundreds of nights. The VAVi Sports and Social Club, a for-profit play-and-drink business for young adults based in Pacific Beach, was among the most frequent renters. VAVi counts Miller Lite beer and iTan tanning salons among its most important sponsors, neither of which seem like healthy messages for young adults, much less for a high-school field-game business.
But hey, redeveloping football fields is about making money, and water and nighttime sunscreen don’t sell as well. Imagine, for 91 years, PLHS has promoted good health and good sportsmanship without lights or commercial revenue.
In 2015, the School District made more than $250,000 by renting out San Diego High School’s lighted field, according to the Union-Tribune. Earlier, Point Loma’s then-School Trustee Scott Barnett predicted that lights and a new P.A. system would turn PLHS into the District’s most lucrative field rental business.
While opening up a high school field for neighborly family use is a really nice amenity – as the PLHS fields and courts were available for decades when not in use by students – the School District increasingly has been renting out school athletic facilities to generate revenue, and otherwise locking out the neighbors after school and on weekends. Now, the new EIR warns to expect lighted, amplified nighttime use – weekend and holiday use during the school year, and summertime day and night use – “any day of the year.”
Want to rent the PLHS field? That’ll be $1,186 tonight for a commercial four-hour minimum, plus $40 an hour for a custodian, $65 an hour for a campus police officer. If VAVi, Albion Soccer and the Rock Church rent PLHS’ field just half of the year, that’s $216,445 in base rent to the District, still not often enough to reach Scott Barnett’s goal, (presuming the Rock Church doesn’t get a discount for being a nonprofit, a church or private school. (Hint: A nonprofit doing business is commerce, too.)
Incidentally, the teacher-friendly California Legislature revised the portion of the California Education Code known as the Civic Center Act in 2012, allowing school districts to charge more for renting out athletic facilities in order to better “recover” capital costs and maintenance. So now, not only has the School District financed athletic-field construction with public funds in the first place (though an appellate court specifically ordered the San Diego Unified School District not to use Propositions S or Z bonds for Hoover High School’s field lights) but the School District also has been encouraged by the Legislature to use athletic-field improvements to attract the public’s wallet again.
Sadly, outside of organized student use and paying sports-league use, the PLHS athletic field gate has been locked in recent years, unavailable to neighbors, young children, alumni or even current students during off hours. That’s very un-neighborly compared to how PLHS athletic fields were run for decades.
Go figure. The Civic Center Act’s stated purpose is to assure that schools provide “needed space for recreational activities and … to protect and preserve public school facilities and grounds for the safety and enjoyment of the pupils and community members who use the school facilities or grounds.”
In San Diego, that means community members (usually from outside the neighborhood lately) who pay, and pay more than ever, to use the athletic fields, neighbors be damned.