Stadium Opponents Plead With Council to Stop Project

Lake Forest residents ask the council to formally oppose a proposal to put in bleachers and lighting at El Toro High School football field.

Though it has no formal say over decisions made by the Saddleback Valley Unified school district, the Lake Forest City Council should nevertheless take a stand on the district's proposal to , residents argued Tuesday night.

The proposal—which would allow more athletes to compete and practice on a home field—has drawn ire from residents of neighborhoods near the high school, who fear an influx of fans will bring traffic and public safety repercussions.

Six residents spoke at the council's Tuesday evening meeting at against the SVUSD plans, pleading for the officials to advocate for them with the school district.

"Ultimately, everyone's going to point the finger back at you," warned Robert Clark, a 26-year Lake Forest resident, of the potential for backlash from the project.

Speakers said that the project's impact on Lake Forest residents means that council members should play an active role in determining how—or if—it is built.

The plans have , pitting some Lake Forest residents opposed to the expected increase in traffic and nighttime illumination against others who believe the impacts are worth the opportunity for Chargers to play home games on their own turf.

Residents  about the project.

Since then, supporters of the project have also reached out to city officials at recent council meetings, requesting they leverage their influence to push forward the project.

Three proponents spoke out at a July 17 council meeting in favor of turning the existing field into a competition-worthy space.

"The proposed improvements will benefit the student body and entire community and will remedy El Toro's persistant disadvantage of inadequate athletics facilities," said Ruth Kim, a 24-year Lake Forest resident. "El Toro's agreement of shared facilities with Trabuco Hills [High School] has become contentious, expensive and logistically impractical."

City officials have no official influence on the school district that runs Lake Forest's public schools, but have said that city staffers will comment on the reports issued by the district concerning the project.

Recently, the district released a draft Environmental Impact Report, which lays out methods to mitigate negative effects of the proposal. (Find the document on the SVUSD homepage, at the bottom of the right-hand side of the page.)

Issues noted in the report as having "potentially significant" impacts on the community include traffic, light and glare, parking and public safety.

Also included are direct effects of construction, such as a temporary increase in noise and emmissions from equipment.

The project will , according to a district estimate. SVUSD is planning to pay for it with redevelopment money earmarked for facilities improvements.

Saddleback Valley Unified School District trustees, who get the final say on the project, will consider the proposal at an upcoming board meeting.

Malcolm ball September 07, 2012 at 04:28 AM
The lights should be mentioned due to the over shadowing will not be an issue , will not even reach the middle of the street .check out Aliso niguel they have 6 light poles and still no over shadowing glare,impacting the 15 + or - homes that do face the field. There is plenty of room for parking as the daily use of the school does work and who says every home game says it will be a sell out. Remember we are talking about 4-7 home games a year . As big as this is all the students also really and the city of lake forest needs a school to be proud of for many years to come. Our son plays both football and lacrosse for the in need very proud school of El. Toro. Malcolm Ball
Al J. September 07, 2012 at 01:42 PM
I'm happy to read all the folks making comments about how ALL the citizens of Lake Forest feel about the stadium. Hopefully the City Council and some HOAs will take this in to account when they pick which side they would like to present to the school district. I'm sure they will as most cities and their respective school districts have good working relationships. I look forward to the opening ceremonies at the new and improved stadium at El Toro High!
Shelley Chretin September 07, 2012 at 03:43 PM
The Patch question was "should the City Council take a position on the school district's plans". The simple answer is, no, not as the City Council. Council members are of course able to have positions and opinions on a wide variety of subjects, but the City Council as a governmental body has no business taking a formal position on a matter that is not managed or affected by them. That being said, this is a matter that affects the residents of Lake Forest. If the Council was to take a position, it should be in favor of equity being created for the students of El Toro High School. The list of inequities for stadium users is long and has been covered previously. Now that school has started, there are 2 inequities that are overriding to me: 1) the amount of time that is taken away from the students because they must travel away for home events, and 2) the safety of the students not only as they travel, but as they travel to an often hostile environment. Let's face it, Trabuco doesn't want El Toro there. The cross-town rivalry is bad enough, but gets worse when El Toro is present on Trabuco's site. Please note that I did *not* specify which students are impacted. Yes, my son plays football (with his younger brother coming up next year), so I am vested in this for the long haul. It's important to note that it would be 4-7 home football games, but other activities and sports will benefit from this project - for time away from school, safety, and money spent. Build The Stadium!
Cindy Piel September 10, 2012 at 07:22 AM
I agree Shelley. I don't think the City Council should be involved either. Council members should voice their opinions as Lake Forest residents, but I don't believe they should take a formal stance on the issue. I am for this project for many reasons. As to the "negatives" that neighbors of ETHS are bringing up . . . I'm sorry, but most of you bought your homes after the school was already there. My husband and I seriously considered buying a home that backed up to the athletic fields at ETHS. We really liked the house, but decided we didn't want to deal with the issues that come with living right next to a high school (traffic, noise, etc.). My son plays lacrosse for ETHS. As a frosh/soph, then jv team member, he rarely even got to play at THHS. Their "home" field is at Serrano Intermediate where they can't practice or play if we have any measurable rain. Some people have argued that not having a field hasn't made a difference in our school pride & spirit. Our students do have a lot of both. However, when our lacrosse teams got to play on the field at ETHS this past season, you could see how happy it made them to be able to play on what is their true home field. Less driving time and more revenue opportunities are wonderful, but they don't hold a candle to the pride and happiness I saw that day from our athletes and families!
BubbieG September 14, 2012 at 11:56 PM
My husband and I have lived in Lake Forest since 1979. We have waited, and waited, for 33 years, for this Stadium. Our daughter who graduated in 1988, and her friends had to be driven to Mission Viejo for games. The sounds of a school, bands practicing, cheerleaders hollering, students laughing, are a wonderful part of our community. If you chose to purchase a home near a school, that was your decision. I want this stadium for our community, it is long over due, we should have had one long before now.


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