Novato USD, Neighborhood Group Break Bread On Stadium Lights

Tray Ling

NOVATO, CA — A cease fire of sorts has been declared in Novato’s ongoing war over Friday Night Lights. A neighborhood group embroiled in an ongoing legal battle with the Novato Unified School District over the use of stadium lights has agreed to allow the San Marin high school football […]

NOVATO, CA — A cease fire of sorts has been declared in Novato’s ongoing war over Friday Night Lights.

A neighborhood group embroiled in an ongoing legal battle with the Novato Unified School District over the use of stadium lights has agreed to allow the San Marin high school football team at the center of the controversy to play its last scheduled home game under lights installed at the school in 2018.

San Marin will host Terra Linda in a Marin County League game Saturday at 7 p.m. Both teams are 2-1.

The NUSD in a statement described the agreement as a “demonstration of good will, mutual respect and trust building” amid the pandemic as the two sides work towards a long-term agreement.

The neighborhood group calls itself the “Coalition to San Marin High School,” but it is working to prevent the use of lights on athletic fields – the school itself is not under any known imminent threat of closure.

“This will totally alter the character of Northwest Novato. If San Marin H.S. gets lights, Novato H.S. will demand them too. Neither neighborhood was designed for this kind of evening activity,” the petition said.

The group has one a series of legal battles against the NUSD challenging an environmental impact review of the project according to the report. The group’s most recent court victory came in April of last year, when a three-judge panel rejected the district’s appeal.

Just one football game has been played under the lighting system that cost $1.6 million to install.
The use of stadium lights is critical at a time when multiple sports are being played simultaneously since coronavirus restrictions were lifted earlier this year, San Marin football coach Tony Franceschini told the news outlet.

NUSD Superintendent Kris Cosca said in a statement he’s hopeful the agreement allowing San Marin to play its last home game Saturday will give both sides something to build on.

“This is a great milestone in our relationship with the Coalition to Save San Marin. It is a sign of building good faith, good will, and trust between us. Further, it demonstrates both parties’ tremendous commitment to a negotiated settlement,” Cosca said.

“I thank the Coalition for their consideration of the San Marin students and their willingness to participate in negotiations and to give us the opportunity to celebrate our students and once again test the lighting and sound systems.”

Coalition to Save San Marin Chair Mike Joly said in a statement the agreement shows both sides “are committed to an ongoing settlement process based on mutual community benefit, respect and trust.”

“As neighbors, CSSM recognizes and empathizes with the sacrifices San Marin students and parents – particularly the Class of 2021 – have endured this past year during the COVID pandemic.,” Joly said.

“As a gesture of support to the students and San Marin High School, CSSM wishes them safe nighttime use of the stadium for their final home football game of the season on April 10, 2021. Although work remains to be completed before any definitive settlement agreement is reached, much progress has been made.”

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