By Sue Pascoe
Several Palisades High School neighbors tried to stop approval of the school’s charter renewal at the LAUSD School Board meeting on November 18, arguing that activity noise and evening light at the school is an illegal nuisance.
In a seven-page letter to the board, Pal- isadian attorney Roger Diamond and his son-in-law, Haverford resident Peter Rustin, charged:
“The noise has been so regular, and excessive, as to impair our use and enjoyment of the Property [on Haverford]. The noise has been generated by the regular band practice, which appears to be electronically amplified; the public address system in use for sporting events at the stadium and aquatic center; amplified music, speech and crowd noise generated from events that have been held at PCHS by third parties renting the facilities in exchange for money (including both the stadium and aquatic center.) The lights are left on, frequently for hours, and glare into the windows of the Property, disturbing our quiet and peaceable enjoyment of our property as well.”
At the board meeting, Principal Dr. Pamela Magee explained that the school has been addressing neighbors’ concerns. “We’re a large high school and have been in the area since 1961,” she said. “To some people the noise from a football stadium sounds like a lot of fun, and other people find it frustrating. We’re doing all we can. On our website we’ve posted what we’re doing.”
Roger Diamond was the next speaker. “I’m an attorney specializing in lawsuits against public entities,” he said. “I own property right near the school. What you heard from the principal is a total lie.” He then urged the board to hire a hearing officer to conduct an evidentiary hearing whether the school “is a total abomination and a nuisance.”
PaliHi Director of Operations David Riccardi spoke about the numerous steps the school has taken to appease neighbors. During his presentation, voices from the audience were heard shouting that Riccardi is a liar. This led LAUSD Board Executive Jefferson Crain, who was conducting the meeting, to say, “I’m going to ask you not to comment on speakers. We just don’t do that.”
Peter Rustin, the final speaker, said: “The school is violating California Civil Code 3479. It is a public nuisance . . . We have been plagued day and night by amplification not only by the high school band but the public address system.” (To view comments in their entirety go to http://lausd.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?clip_id=241 and click on Palisades High School in the left hand column.)
The board proceeded to vote 7-0 to grant PaliHi a five-year renewal of its charter, which was originally approved in 1993.
The next day, a Wednesday, a neighbor went onto the Palisades High football field during school hours while the 69-member marching band and the 11-color guard members were practicing, without first signing in at the office. (All visitors on campus must receive passes.) By the time band director Arwen Hernandez walked to the office to alert security, the person left.
That evening, while the band again practiced, a person was seen photographing the students through the fence. A second man, identified as Roger Diamond, went onto the field while the band was in formation and then later approached students to speak to them.
On Thursday, at a regularly scheduled PaliHi School Board meeting, neighbors, students, instructors and band and water polo team parents spoke about their disagreements.
Diamond was one of five neighbors who spoke, telling the audience he had been named Citizen of the Year for his leadership in the No Oil campaign in the Palisades. “My granddaughter, 18, is at home with migraines and this noise has to stop,” he said.
Band student Allison Wyant described her fear the previous night on the football field. “I’m not from the Palisades. I live in an area where you can’t walk around at night. I thought this was one place I’d like to live in,” she said. “Now, I feel uncomfortableable here after what happened.”
Parent Cristina Cameran said, “Coming to rehearsal and disrupting is not okay. It is not okay to talk to students during rehearsal time. Students have a right not to be afraid.”
Yet another parent, Gwen Victor said, “I’m bothered by the inappropriate behavior by neighbors. I’m galled by the person taking video. No one asked my permission to take my child’s likeness.”
Repeatedly, parents spoke about the high quality of the program (the band took first at the Southern California competition on November 22) and the academic achievements of students who participate.
Gihan Levine, a junior, pointed out, “Rather than gunshots or ambulances, we make beautiful music. We are not the people the community should object to.” This year’s marching band routine is Aaron Copland’s ballet Billy the Kid.
Neighbor Peter Rustin quoted Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb, about the results that happen after the fact, comparing it to the high school.
Another neighbor, Stuart Muller, pretended to be the canyon, explaining the history and the quiet that should be respected. He was joined by David Helgeson, who said, “Our homes have become impossible. We want our neighborhood back.”
Parent Daniela Rechter, who has a junior on the swim team, and who has seen practice and pool time decrease in an effort to placate neighbors, said: “Your stories about days long gone and the atomic bomb make me think you are giving lip service when you say you support public schools. The school has tried to accommodate your demands. I don’t think there’s any way of pleasing you.”
Another community meeting to address the situation will be held at 5 p.m. Thursday, December 4, in Gilbert Hall.